Disabled Children in America

The U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children & Families estimates that 1 in 4 children (neonate to age 5 yrs.) is at risk for developmental delay or disability. "Early identification allows communities to intervene earlier, leading to more effective and cheaper treatment during the preschool years, rather than expensive special education services in later childhood."

Regular developmental and behavioral screenings are central to assure that every child is progressing through the developmental milestones. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services U.S. Department of Education encourages the use of BIRTH TO 5: WATCH ME THRIVE! Developmental Screening Passport to monitor the development of all children. The screening passport is a record of professional screenings across time.

These screenings involve the use of validated tools that score: play, learning, speach, behavior and movement. The appropriate tool may be administered by the family, physician, teacher, child care provider, or other professional. The review of this record should be a part of a thorough nursing assessment. Parents should be made aware of the value of such a record and encouraged to present it to all professionals providing services to the child.

CDC - Developmental Disabilities

"Most developmental disabilities are thought to be caused by a complex mix of factors. These factors include genetics; parental health and behaviors (such as smoking and drinking) during pregnancy; complications during birth; infections the mother might have during pregnancy or the baby might have very early in life; and exposure of the mother or child to high levels of environmental toxins, such as lead. For some developmental disabilities, such as fetal alcohol syndrome, which is caused by drinking alcohol during pregnancy, we know the cause. But for most, we don’t."

  • At least 25% of hearing loss among babies is due to maternal infections during pregnancy, such as cytomegalovirus (CMV) infection; complications after birth; and head trauma.
  • Some of the most common known causes of intellectual disability include fetal alcohol syndrome; genetic and chromosomal conditions, such as Down syndrome and fragile X syndrome; and certain infections during pregnancy, such as toxoplasmosis.
  • Children who have a sibling are at a higher risk of also having an autism spectrum disorder.
  • Low birthweight, premature birth, multiple birth, and infections during pregnancy are associated with an increased risk for many developmental disabilities.
  • Untreated newborn jaundice (high levels of bilirubin in the blood during the first few days after birth) can cause a type of brain damage known as kernicterus. Children with kernicterus are more likely to have cerebral palsy, hearing and vision problems, and problems with their teeth. Early detection and treatment of newborn jaundice can prevent kernicterus.

In the United States about one in six, or about 15%, of children aged 3 through 17 years have a one or more developmental disabilities, such as:

  • ADHD,
  • autism spectrum disorders,
  • cerebral palsy,
  • hearing loss,
  • intellectual disability ,
  • learning disability,
  • vision impairment ,