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Developmental Delay

Dear Debi,
I recently identified a child in my care as having a speech delay. I was able to refer her parents to the local regional center for help. But are there any other developmental delays that I should be looking for and how can I detect them?
Cindy, Pomona, CA
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
  • Talk with the parents.
  • Guide parents to a local regional center.
Expert Advice
Ann Barbour
Ann Barbour
Family Support Services Director
There are typical delays which parents and child care providers can look out for. Sometimes it's difficult to tell with a very young child - particularly a child under 3, but language delays are sometimes common. Physical delays also have high incidences.

If you suspect a child has a developmental delay, the first thing to do is to talk to the parents. This is often the hardest thing to do as a provider, but it’s very important to inform parents about your concerns and to support and guide them to contact their local regional center. Many parents go into denial about their child possibly having a delay, or they try the “wait and see” approach which we don’t recommend.

It is important to get an evaluation of a child as soon as possible because there are services and support that a child can receive that can make a difference in his life. The earlier a disability or delay is identified the better, so that intervention services will be as effective as possible for the child.

It’s important to explain to parents that the assessment and the services rendered by the regional center are completely free of charge. The good thing is that if the child is assessed and he doesn’t have delays, the parents will be informed of that. But if there is a delay, then services will be made available for them free of charge.

For children from birth to 3 years old, the only intervention service available to them is through the local regional center. But even if the child is up to 5 years old, the first call that parents should make is to the local regional center to get their child assessed. The local regional center will have professional experts in development, medicine and social-emotional development to assess the child and screen them for any delays. Parents will be notified whether or not there is a delay.

If a delay is detected, a service coordinator will be assigned to the child. This coordinator will work with the family to identify the child’s strengths and weaknesses. The coordinator will also help identify community resources to help the child and his family. This information is really important for parents to know for their children, because some resources may include specialized therapies or even respite care.
Child Care provider Comments
Family child care provider for 5 years
The very first child I started taking care of came to my care when he was 9 months old. From very early on, I noticed abnormalities in his babbling and I mentioned to the family that this could be an indication of a language delay. I found that working with the parents was really important. I did research to help them find the right resources for their son. Today, he’s 7 years old and has been getting great care and is progressing wonderfully. I feel the key to helping him was early intervention.
Family child care provider for 2 years
We keep files for all our kids and we observe and document their progress and development. If I notice a child is not hitting certain developmental marks, then I try to document what I am seeing. When I have enough information, I approach the child’s parents and we are able to address the issue together.
Provider for 10 years
For me, the most important part is parental involvement. It’s such a touchy issue to address with parents but it is absolutely necessary if you suspect a child has a delay. Once the parents and the provider are in agreement the child can start getting support from both of them and also start getting assistance through early intervention, which is fundamental.

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Developmental Delay
Topic: Special Needs
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