Child Neurology

What is epilepsy?

Epilepsy is a chronic disorder that causes unprovoked, recurrent seizures. A seizure is a sudden rush of electrical activity in the brain.

There are two main types of seizures. Generalized seizures affect the whole brain. Focal, or partial seizures, affect just one part of the brain.

A mild seizure may be difficult to recognize. It can last a few seconds during which you lack awareness.

Stronger seizures can cause spasms and uncontrollable muscle twitches, and can last a few seconds to several minutes. During a stronger seizure, some people become confused or lose consciousness. Afterward you may have no memory of it happening.

There are several reasons you might have a seizure. These include:

high fever
head trauma
very low blood sugar
alcohol withdrawal


Epilepsy is a fairly common neurological disorder that affects 65 million people around the world. In the United States, it affects about 3 million people.

Anyone can develop epilepsy, but it’s more common in young children and older adults. It occurs slightly more in males than in females.

There’s no cure for epilepsy, but the disorder can be managed with medications and other strategies.

Seizures are the main symptom of epilepsy. Symptoms differ from person to person and according to the type of seizure.

Focal (partial) seizures
A simple partial seizure doesn’t involve loss of consciousness. Symptoms include:

alterations to sense of taste, smell, sight, hearing, or touch
dizziness
tingling and twitching of limbs
Complex partial seizures involve loss of awareness or consciousness. Other symptoms include:

staring blankly
unresponsiveness
performing repetitive movements
Generalized seizures
Generalized seizures involve the whole brain. There are six types:

Absence seizures, which used to be called “petit mal seizures,” cause a blank stare. This type of seizure may also cause repetitive movements like lip smacking or blinking. There’s also usually a short loss of awareness.

Tonic seizures cause muscle stiffness.

Atonic seizures lead to loss of muscle control and can make you fall down suddenly.

Clonic seizures are characterized by repeated, jerky muscle movements of the face, neck, and arms.

Myoclonic seizures cause spontaneous quick twitching of the arms and legs.

Tonic-clonic seizures used to be called “grand mal seizures.” Symptoms include:

stiffening of the body
shaking
loss of bladder or bowel control
biting of the tongue
loss of consciousness
Following a seizure, you may not remember having one, or you might feel slightly ill for a few hours.

Some people are able to identify things or situations that can trigger seizures.

A few of the most commonly reported triggers are:

  • lack of sleep
  • illness or fever
  • stress
  • bright lights, flashing lights, or patterns
  • caffeine, alcohol, medicines, or drugs
  • skipping meals, overeating, or specific food ingredients

Identifying triggers isn’t always easy. A single incident doesn’t always mean something is a trigger. It’s often a combination of factors that trigger a seizure.

A good way to find your triggers is to keep a seizure journal. After each seizure, note the following:

  • day and time
  • what activity you were involved in
  • what was happening around you
  • unusual sights, smells, or sounds
  • unusual stressors
  • what you were eating or how long it had been since you’d eaten
  • your level of fatigue and how well you slept the night before

You can also use your seizure journal to determine if your medications are working. Note how you felt just before and just after your seizure, and any side effects.

Bring the journal with you when you visit the doctor. It may be useful in adjusting your medications or exploring other treatments.

There may be as many as 500 genes that relate to epilepsy. Genetics may also provide you with a natural “seizure threshold.” If you inherit a low seizure threshold, you’re more vulnerable to seizure triggers. A higher threshold means you’re less likely to have seizures.

Epilepsy sometimes runs in families. Still, the risk of inheriting the condition is fairly low. Most parents with epilepsy don’t have children with epilepsy.

In general, the risk of developing epilepsy by age 20 is about 1 percent, or 1 in every 100 people. If you have a parent with epilepsy due to a genetic cause, your risk rises to somewhere between 2 to 5 percent.

If your parent has epilepsy due to another cause, such as stroke or brain injury, it doesn’t affect your chances of developing epilepsy.

Certain rare conditions, such as tuberous sclerosis and neurofibromatosis, can cause seizures. These are conditions that can run in families.

Epilepsy doesn’t affect your ability to have children. But some epilepsy medications can affect your unborn baby. Don’t stop taking your medications, but do talk to your doctor before becoming pregnant or as soon as you learn you are pregnant.

If you have epilepsy and are concerned about starting a family, consider arranging a consultation with a genetic counselor.

For 6 out of 10 people with epilepsy, the cause can’t be determined. A variety of things can lead to seizures.

Possible causes include:

  • traumatic brain injury
  • scarring on the brain after a brain injury (post-traumatic epilepsy)
  • serious illness or very high fever
  • stroke, which is a leading cause of epilepsy in people over age 35
  • other vascular diseases
  • lack of oxygen to the brain
  • brain tumor or cyst
  • dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
  • maternal drug use, prenatal injury, brain malformation, or lack of oxygen at birth
  • infectious diseases such as AIDS and meningitis
  • genetic or developmental disorders or neurological diseases

Heredity plays a role in some types of epilepsy. In the general population, there’s a 1 percent chance of developing epilepsy before 20 years of age. If you have a parent whose epilepsy is linked to genetics, that increases your risk to 2 to 5 percent.

Genetics may also make some people more susceptible to seizures from environmental triggers.

Epilepsy can develop at any age. Diagnosis usually occurs in early childhood or after age 60.

If you suspect you’ve had a seizure, see your doctor as soon as possible. A seizure can be a symptom of a serious medical issue.

Your medical history and symptoms will help your doctor decide which tests will be helpful. You’ll probably have a neurological examination to test your motor abilities and mental functioning.

In order to diagnose epilepsy, other conditions that cause seizures should be ruled out. Your doctor will probably order a complete blood count and chemistry of the blood.

Blood tests may be used to look for:

  • signs of infectious diseases
  • liver and kidney function
  • blood glucose levels

Electroencephalogram (EEG) is the most common test used in diagnosing epilepsy. First, electrodes are attached to your scalp with a paste. It’s a noninvasive, painless test. You may be asked to perform a specific task. In some cases, the test is performed during sleep. The electrodes will record the electrical activity of your brain. Whether you’re having a seizure or not, changes in normal brain wave patterns are common in epilepsy.

Imaging tests can reveal tumors and other abnormalities that can cause seizures. These tests might include:

  • CT scan
  • MRI
  • positron emission tomography (PET)
  • single-photon emission computerized tomography

Epilepsy is usually diagnosed if you have seizures for no apparent or reversible reason.

Most people can manage epilepsy. Your treatment plan will be based on severity of symptoms, your health, and how well you respond to therapy.

Some treatment options include:

  • Anti-epileptic (anticonvulsant, antiseizure) drugs: These medications can reduce the number of seizures you have. In some people, they eliminate seizures. To be effective, the medication must be taken exactly as prescribed.
  • Vagus nerve stimulator: This device is surgically placed under the skin on the chest and electrically stimulates the nerve that runs through your neck. This can help prevent seizures.
  • Ketogenic diet: More than half of people who don’t respond to medication benefit from this high fat, low carbohydrate diet.
  • Brain surgery: The area of the brain that causes seizure activity can be removed or altered.

Research into new treatments is ongoing. One treatment that may be available in the future is deep brain stimulation. It’s a procedure in which electrodes are implanted into your brain. Then a generator is implanted in your chest. The generator sends electrical impulses to the brain to help decrease seizures.

Another avenue of research involves a pacemaker-like device. It would check the pattern of brain activity and send an electrical charge or drug to stop a seizure.

Minimally invasive surgeries and radiosurgery are also being investigated.

The first-line treatment for epilepsy is antiseizure medication. These drugs help reduce the frequency and severity of seizures. They can’t stop a seizure that’s already in progress, nor is it a cure for epilepsy.

The medication is absorbed by the stomach. Then it travels the bloodstream to the brain. It affects neurotransmitters in a way that reduces the electrical activity that leads to seizures.

Antiseizure medications pass through the digestive tract and leave the body through urine.

There are many antiseizure drugs on the market. Your doctor can prescribe a single drug or a combination of drugs, depending on the type of seizures you have.

Common epilepsy medications include:

  • levetiracetam (Keppra)
  • lamotrigine (Lamictal)
  • topiramate (Topamax)
  • valproic acid (Depakote)
  • carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • ethosuximide (Zarontin)

These medications are generally available in tablet, liquid, or injectable forms and are taken once or twice a day. You’ll start with the lowest possible dose, which can be adjusted until it starts to work. These medications must be taken consistently and as prescribed.

Some potential side effects may include:

  • fatigue
  • dizziness
  • skin rash
  • poor coordination
  • memory problems

Rare, but serious side effects include depression and inflammation of the liver or other organs.

Epilepsy is different for everybody, but most people improve with antiseizure medication. Some children with epilepsy stop having seizures and can stop taking medication.

What is cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy (CP) refers to a group of disorders that affect muscle movement and coordination. In many cases, vision, hearing, and sensation are also affected.

The word “cerebral” means having to do with the brain. The word “palsy” means weakness or problems with body movement.

CP is the most common cause of motor disabilities in childhood. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, it affects at least 1.5 to 4 out of every 1,000 children worldwide.

The symptoms of CP vary from person-to-person and range from mild to severe. Some people with CP may have difficulty walking and sitting. Other people with CP can have trouble grasping objects.

The symptoms can become more severe or less severe over time. They also vary depending on the part of the brain that was affected.

Some of the more common signs include:

  • delays in reaching motor skill milestones, such as rolling over, sitting up alone, or crawling
  • variations in muscle tone, such as being too floppy or too stiff
  • delays in speech development and difficulty speaking
  • spasticity, or stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes
  • ataxia, or a lack of muscle coordination
  • tremors or involuntary movements
  • excessive drooling and problems with swallowing
  • difficulty walking
  • favoring one side of the body, such as reaching with one hand
  • neurological problems, such as seizures, intellectual disabilities, and blindness

Most children are born with CP, but they may not show signs of a disorder until months or years later. Symptoms usually appear before a child reaches age 3 or 4.

Call your doctor if you suspect your child has CP. Early diagnosis and treatment are very important.

Abnormal brain development or injury to the developing brain can cause CP. The damage affects the part of the brain that controls body movement, coordination, and posture.

The brain damage usually occurs before birth, but it can also happen during birth or the first years of life. In most cases, the exact cause of CP isn’t known. Some of the possible causes include:

  • asphyxia neonatorum, or a lack of oxygen to the brain during labor and delivery
  • gene mutations that result in abnormal brain development
  • severe jaundice in the infant
  • maternal infections, such German measles and herpes simplex
  • brain infections, such as encephalitis and meningitis
  • intracranial hemorrhage, or bleeding into the brain
  • head injuries as a result of a car accident, a fall, or child abuse

Certain factors put babies at an increased risk for CP. These include:

  • premature birth
  • low birth weight
  • being a twin or triplet
  • a low Apgar score, which is used to assess the physical health of babies at birth
  • breech birth, which occurs when your baby’s buttocks or feet come out first
  • Rh incompatibility, which occurs when a mother’s blood Rh type is incompatible with her baby’s blood Rh type
  • maternal exposure to toxic substances, such as methylmercury, while pregnant

There are different types of CP that affect various parts of the brain. Each type causes specific movement disorders. The types of CP are:

Spastic cerebral palsy

Spastic CP is the most common type of CP, affecting approximately 80 percentTrusted Source of people with CP. It causes stiff muscles and exaggerated reflexes, making it difficult to walk.

Many people with spastic CP have walking abnormalities, such as crossing their knees or making scissorlike movements with their legs while walking. Muscle weakness and paralysis may also be present.

The symptoms can affect the entire body or just one side of the body.

Dyskinetic cerebral palsy

People with dyskinetic CP have trouble controlling their body movements. The disorder causes involuntary, abnormal movements in the arms, legs, and hands.

In some cases, the face and tongue are also affected. The movements can be slow and writhing or rapid and jerky. They can make it difficult for the affected person to walk, sit, swallow, or talk.

Hypotonic cerebral palsy

Hypotonic CP causes diminished muscle tone and overly relaxed muscles. The arms and legs move very easily and appear floppy, like a rag doll.

Babies with this type of CP have little control over their head and may have trouble breathing. As they grow older, they may struggle to sit up straight as a result of their weakened muscles. They can also have difficulty speaking, poor reflexes, and walking abnormalities.

Ataxic cerebral palsy

Ataxic CP is the least common type of CP. Ataxic CP is characterized by voluntary muscle movements that often appear disorganized, clumsy, or jerky.

People with this form of CP usually have problems with balance and coordination. They may have difficulty walking and performing fine motor functions, such as grasping objects and writing.

Mixed cerebral palsy

Some people have a combination of symptoms from the different types of CP. This is called mixed CP.

In most cases of mixed CP, people experience a mix of spastic and dyskinetic CP.

Cerebral palsy is classified according to the Gross Motor Function Classification System (GMFCS). The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Surveillance of Cerebral Palsy in Europe developed the GMFCS as a universal standard for determining the physical capabilities of people with CP.

The system focuses on:

  • the ability to sit
  • the capability for movement and mobility
  • charting independence
  • the use of adaptive technology

The five levels of the GMFCS increase with decreasing mobility:

Level 1 cerebral palsy

Level 1 CP is characterized by being able to walk without limitations.

Level 2 cerebral palsy

A person with level 2 CP can walk long distances without limitations, but they can’t run or jump.

They may need assistive devices, such as leg and arm braces, when first learning to walk. They also may need to use a wheelchair to get around outside of their home.

Level 3 cerebral palsy

A person with level 3 CP can sit with little support and stand without any support.

They need handheld assistive devices, such as a walker or cane, while walking indoors. They also need a wheelchair to get around outside of the home.

Level 4 cerebral palsy

A person with level 4 CP can walk with the use of assistive devices.

They’re able to move independently in a wheelchair, and they need some support when they’re sitting.

Level 5 cerebral palsy

A person with level 5 CP needs support to maintain their head and neck position.

They need support to sit and stand, and they may be able to control a motorized wheelchair.

A doctor will diagnose CP by taking a complete medical history, performing a physical exam that includes a detailed neurological exam, and evaluating the symptoms. Additional testing can also be performed:

  • An electroencephalogram (EEG) is used to evaluate the electrical activity in the brain. It may be ordered when someone is showing signs of epilepsy, which causes seizures.
  • An MRI scan uses powerful magnets and radio waves to produce detailed images of the brain. It can identify any abnormalities or injuries in the brain.
  • A CT scan creates clear, cross-sectional images of the brain. It can also reveal any brain damage.
  • A cranial ultrasound is a relatively quick and inexpensive method of using high-frequency sound waves to get basic images of the brain in young infants.
  • A sample of blood may be taken and tested to rule out other possible conditions, such as bleeding disorders.

If your doctor confirms CP, they may refer you to a specialist who can test for neurological problems that are often associated with the disorder. These tests may detect:

  • vision loss and impairment, such as blurred vision in one or both eyes
  • deafness
  • speech delays
  • intellectual disabilities
  • movement disorders

People with CP may have other problems, such as:

  • communication difficulties, including speech and language disorders
  • drooling
  • spinal deformity such as scoliosis (curvature), lordosis (saddle back) and kyphosis (humpback)
  • osteoarthritis
  • contractures, which occur when the muscles get locked in painful positions
  • incontinence
  • osteopenia, or poor bone density that can make bones easily breakable
  • dental problems

The goal of treatment is to improve limitations and prevent complications. Treatment may include assistive aids, medications, and surgery.

Assistive aids

Assistive aids include:

  • eyeglasses
  • hearing aids
  • walking aids
  • body braces
  • wheelchairs

Medications

Oral anticonvulsants and muscle relaxants are commonly used as first-line treatments for CP. Your doctor might prescribe:

  • diazepam (Valium)
  • dantrolene (Dantrium)
  • baclofen
  • tizanidine (Zanaflex)

Your doctor might also suggest local injections of botulinum toxin type A (Botox) or intrathecal baclofen therapy, where the drug is delivered by an implantable pump.

Surgery

Orthopedic surgery may be used to relieve pain and improve mobility. It may also be needed to release tight muscles or to correct bone abnormalities caused by spasticity.

Selective dorsal rhizotomy (SDR) might be recommended as a last resort to reduce chronic pain or spasticity. It involves cutting nerves near the base of the spinal column.

Other treatment

Other types of treatment for CP include:

  • speech therapy
  • physical therapy
  • occupational therapy
  • recreational therapy
  • counseling or psychotherapy
  • social services consultations

Although stem cell therapy is being explored as a potential treatment for CP, research is still in the early stages.

What is autism?

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a broad term used to describe a group of neurodevelopmental disorders.

These disorders are characterized by problems with communication and social interaction. People with ASD often demonstrate restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped interests or patterns of behavior.

ASD is found in individuals around the world, regardless of race, culture, or economic background. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, autism does occur more often in boys than in girls, with a 4 to 1 male-to-female ratio.

The CDC estimated in 2014 that nearly 1 in 59 children have been identified with ASD.

There are indications that instances of ASD are on the rise. Some attribute this increase to environmental factors. However, experts debate whether there’s an actual increase in cases or just more frequent diagnoses.

The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and is used by clinicians to diagnose a variety of psychiatric disorders.

The fifth and most recent edition of the DSM was released in 2013. The DSM-5 currently recognizes five different ASD subtypes, or specifiers. They are:

  • with or without accompanying intellectual impairment
  • with or without accompanying language impairment
  • associated with a known medical or genetic condition or environmental factor
  • associated with another neurodevelopmental, mental, or behavioral disorder
  • with catatonia

Someone can be diagnosed with one or more specifiers.

Prior to the DSM-5, people on the autism spectrum may have been diagnosed with one of the following disorders:

  • autistic disorder
  • Asperger’s syndrome
  • pervasive development disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS)
  • childhood disintegrative disorder

It’s important to note that a person who received one of these earlier diagnoses hasn’t lost their diagnosis and won’t need to be reevaluated.

According to the DSM-5, the broader diagnosis of ASD encompasses disorders such as Asperger’s syndrome.

Autism symptoms typically become clearly evident during early childhood, between 12 and 24 months of age. However, symptoms may also appear earlier or later.

Early symptoms may include a marked delay in language or social development.

The DSM-5 divides symptoms of autism into two categories: problems with communication and social interaction, and restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior or activities.

Problems with communication and social interaction include:

  • issues with communication, including difficulties sharing emotions, sharing interests, or maintaining a back-and-forth conversation
  • issues with nonverbal communication, such as trouble maintaining eye contact or reading body language
  • difficulties developing and maintaining relationships

Restricted or repetitive patterns of behavior or activities include:

  • repetitive movements, motions, or speech patterns
  • rigid adherence to specific routines or behaviors
  • an increase or decrease in sensitivity to specific sensory information from their surroundings, such as a negative reaction to a specific sound
  • fixated interests or preoccupations

Individuals are evaluated within each category and the severity of their symptoms is noted.

In order to receive an ASD diagnosis, a person must display all three symptoms in the first category and at least two symptoms in the second category.

The exact cause of ASD is unknown. The most current research demonstrates that there’s no single cause.

Some of the suspected risk factors for autism include:

  • having an immediate family member with autism
  • genetic mutations
  • fragile X syndrome and other genetic disorders
  • being born to older parents
  • low birth weight
  • metabolic imbalances
  • exposure to heavy metals and environmental toxins
  • a history of viral infections
  • fetal exposure to the medications valproic acid (Depakene) or thalidomide (Thalomid)

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), both genetics and environment may determine whether a person develops autism.

Multiple sources, old and newTrusted Source, have concluded that the disorder isn’t caused by vaccines, however.

A controversial 1998 study proposed a link between autism and the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine. However, that study has been debunked by other research and was eventually retracted in 2010.

An ASD diagnosis involves several different screenings, genetic tests, and evaluations.

Developmental screenings

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children undergo screening for ASD at the ages of 18 and 24 months.

Screening can help with early identification of children who could have ASD. These children may benefit from early diagnosis and intervention.

The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) is a common screening tool used by many pediatric offices. This 23-question survey is filled out by parents. Pediatricians can then use the responses provided to identify children that may be at risk of having ASD.

It’s important to note that screening isn’t a diagnosis. Children who screen positively for ASD don’t necessarily have the disorder. Additionally, screenings sometimes don’t detect every child that has ASD.

Other screenings and tests

Your child’s physician may recommend a combination of tests for autism, including:

  • DNA testing for genetic diseases
  • behavioral evaluation
  • visual and audio tests to rule out any issues with vision and hearing that aren’t related to autism
  • occupational therapy screening
  • developmental questionnaires, such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS)

Diagnoses are typically made by a team of specialists. This team may include child psychologists, occupational therapists, or speech and language pathologists.

Learn more about the tests used to diagnose autism.

There are no “cures” for autism, but therapies and other treatment considerations can help people feel better or alleviate their symptoms.

Many treatment approaches involve therapies such as:

  • behavioral therapy
  • play therapy
  • occupational therapy
  • physical therapy
  • speech therapy

Massages, weighted blankets and clothing, and meditation techniques may also induce relaxing effects. However, treatment results will vary.

Some people on the spectrum may respond well to certain approaches, while others may not.

Shop for weighted blankets here.

Alternative treatments

Alternative treatments for managing autism may include:

  • high-dose vitamins
  • chelation therapy, which involves flushing metals from the body
  • hyperbaric oxygen therapy
  • melatonin to address sleep issues

Research on alternative treatments is mixed, and some of these treatments can be dangerous.

Before investing in any of them, parents and caregivers should weigh the research and financial costs against any possible benefits.

Developmental Delay

Children reach developmental milestones at their own pace. Minor, temporary delays are usually no cause for alarm, but an ongoing delay or multiple delays in reaching milestones can be a sign there may be challenges later in life.

Delay in reaching language, thinking, and motor skills milestones is called developmental delay.

Developmental delay may be caused by a variety of factors, including heredity, problems with pregnancy, and premature birth. The cause isn’t always known.

If you suspect your child has developmental delay, speak with their pediatrician.

Developmental delay sometimes indicates an underlying condition that only doctors can diagnose. Early intervention will help your child’s progress and development into adulthood.

Fine motor skills include small movements like holding a toy or using a crayon. Gross motor skills require larger movements, like jumping, climbing stairs, or throwing a ball.

Children progress at different rates, but most children can lift their head by 3 months oldTrusted Source, sit with some support by 6 monthsTrusted Source, and walk well before their second birthdayTrusted Source. By age 5Trusted Source, most children can stand on one foot for 10 seconds or longer and can use a fork and spoon.

Exhibiting some of the following signs can mean that your child has delays in developing certain fine or gross motor functions:

  • floppy or loose trunk and limbs
  • stiff arms and legs
  • limited movement in arms and legs
  • inability to sit without support by 9 months old
  • dominance of involuntary reflexes over voluntary movements
  • inability to bear weight on legs and stand up by about 1 year old

Falling outside the normal range isn’t always cause for concern, but if your child is unable to perform tasks within the expected time frame, speak to your doctor.

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), the most active time for learning speech and language is the first three years of life, as the brain develops and matures.

The language learning process begins when an infant communicates hunger by crying. By 6 months oldTrusted Source, most infants can recognize the sounds of basic language. At 12 to 15 months oldTrusted Source, infants should be able to say two or three simple words, even if they aren’t clear.

Most toddlers can say several words by the time they are 18 months oldTrusted Source. When they reach the age of 3Trusted Source, most children can speak in brief sentences.

Speech and language delay aren’t the same. Speaking requires the muscle coordination of the vocal tract, tongue, lips, and jaw to make sounds.

A speech delay occurs when children aren’t saying as many words as would be expected for their age.

A language delay occurs when children have difficulty understanding what other people say or can’t express their own thoughts. Language includes speaking, gesturing, signing, and writing.

It can be hard to distinguish between speech and language delay in young children. A child who understands things and can express their needs (maybe by pointing or signing) but isn’t speaking as many words as they should may have an isolated speech delay.

Poor hearing can cause speech and language delay, so your doctor will usually include a hearing test during diagnosis. Children with speech and language delay are often referred to a speech-language pathologist. Early intervention can be a big help.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source, about 15 percent of children between the ages of 3 and 17 have one or more developmental disability.

Most developmental disabilities occur before a child is born, but some can occur after birth due to infection, injury, or other factors.

Causes of developmental delay can be difficult to pinpoint, and a variety of things can contribute to it. Some conditions are genetic in origin, such as Down syndrome. Infection or other problems during pregnancy and childbirth, as well as premature birth, can also cause developmental delay.

Developmental delay can also be a symptom of other underlying medical conditions, including:

  • autism spectrum disorders (ASDs)
  • cerebral palsy
  • fetal alcohol spectrum disorders
  • Landau Kleffner syndrome
  • myopathies, including muscular dystrophies
  • genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome and fragile X syndrome

Remember that children develop at different rates. However, if you think your child is developmentally delayed, talk to your doctor.

If your school-age child is diagnosed with developmental delay, you may be eligible for special services. Specialized services vary according to need and location.

Check with your physician and your school district to find out what services are available. Specialized education, especially when started early, can help your child progress and achieve more in school.

Treatments for developmental delays vary according to the specific delay. Some treatments include physical therapy for help in motor skill delays, and behavioral and educational therapy for help with ASD and other delays.

In some cases, medications may be prescribed. An evaluation and diagnosis from a pediatrician is crucial to come up with a treatment plan specially designed for your child.

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