your child is showing a developmental delay

What to Do if Your Child is Showing a Developmental Delay

Hey Mommies!… As a follow up from my post on When to Be Concerned With Your Child’s Development, I wanted to now share what to do if your child is showing a developmental delay. (This is geared toward people living in the United States)

Since I work in early intervention as an occupational therapist, child development and therapy services are part of my everyday life. I often assume that parents will know about the resources available to them if their child is showing a delay, or that their doctors will inform them. However, often this is not the case.

Just the other week, I was talking to a parent whose friend had no idea what services were available to help with the concerns she was having for her child. Luckily, the parent was able to educate her friend!

Hopefully, by the end of this post, you will better understand what resources are out there and how to go about getting the help you need if your child is showing a delay.

First, you need to be sure that your child is showing a true delay. If there is a true concern, there are a few main options to get the support and assistance you need.

If your child is 0-3 years old, every state offers an early intervention program. Here is a list of all the early intervention programs for each state. You can contact the state program, and they can help you get in touch with a local office.

Early intervention is government funded and often little to no cost for families. Sometimes your doctor will refer you, but you do not need to have a referral from your doctor to contact the early intervention program. You can contact the program on your own and let them know your concerns. Typically, they will set up a time to do an evaluation to see if your child will qualify for services.

Every early intervention program will have guidelines for qualifying for services. Typically, it’s a certain percentage delayed. For example, here in Missouri, a child must have a 50% delay in one of the areas assessed in order to qualify for services.

If your child qualifies, a plan will be set up and they will begin receiving therapy services. All services and support typically occurs in your home or a natural environment for your child (grandma’s, daycare, etc).

If your child is 3-5 years old, and showing a delay, they can qualify to receive services through the school district. This is often known as early childhood special education. Again, there will be an evaluation and specific guidelines for qualifying. If your child qualifies, they will be able to receive services through the school.

At 5 years until your child graduates, they would also be able to receive services through the school district if they qualify.

Another option to get services, is to go through a local therapy clinic or private provider. This would go through your insurance or be private pay. There would be a similar process of an evaluation and insurance approval/authorization for services if you chose to use your insurance instead of paying privately. Often services like this are provided at a clinic, but could possibly be provided in the home too.

You can also choose to seek out a clinic or private provider if your child demonstrates a delay but it is not significant enough to qualify for early intervention or school services. For example, in Missouri, if a child had a 40% delay, they would not qualify for the Missouri early intervention program, but they could likely still get services through insurance because this is still a fairly significant delay.

If you would like to find a local therapy clinic or private provider, you can find some in your area just by doing a Google search. You can try phrases like “pediatric therapy clinic in (fill in your location)” or “pediatric occupational therapist in (fill in your location),” or other similar phrases. You can even try searching on Facebook for local clinics or providers.

Some parents choose to seek out and receive therapy from early intervention or school and clinics or private providers depending on the level of delay or need that their child has.

There are some other options and ways out there to get services, but these are the main ways and should definitely help get you started if your child is showing a developmental delay.

Best of luck to you! It is always a challenging and overwhelming time when you realize your child may need some extra help, but I can tell you from working in the field that the earlier you start, the better the outcome in the long run.

I hope this helps give you some understanding of what’s out there and where to start!

By: Emily Bettis, MOT/L


Emily Bettis, MOT/L is a pediatric occupational therapist and mother. She has been working with children birth-5 since 2008 and has been a mother since 2013. Emily is the founder and author