About 17 percent of children under the age of 18 are affected by a
developmental, behavioral, or learning disability.1 According to the Centers for Disease Control, the incidence rate for autism spectrum disorders is now as high as 1 in 110,
including 1 in 70 boys.2
This represents a 600 percent increase in the past 20 years. Autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder in the U.S.
Still, only 2.59% of children under age three are being
served through the federally-funded Early Intervention program, which is designed
to mitigate developmental delays and disorders.3
With proper intervention, a child can overcome a wide range of developmental,
behavioral, and learning
problems. Intensive, well designed and timely intervention can improve the prospects—and
the quality of life—for many children who are considered at risk for cognitive,
social, or emotional impairment. In some cases, effective intervention can improve
conditions once thought to be virtually untreatable, such as autism. Well-implemented
programs can brighten a child’s future and the impact a developmental disorder
has on the family. It can lead a child to greater independence, enable that child
to be included in his/her community, and offer him/her a more productive and
Unfortunately, many physicians fail to identify a developmental delay at an age
when the child should be receiving early intervention services. Birth to three
is a critical time in a child’s development, so a delayed diagnosis may compromise
his/her chances for success.
The high (and growing) incidence of developmental disabilities demands greater
awareness and improved early identification. Too few physicians refer young children
to early intervention, primarily, because (1) physicians may not know what critical
signs to look for in a child during each stage; (2) physicians may not be familiar
with early intervention; (3) insurance companies allow physicians limited time
for office visits; and (4) some pediatricians believe a child’s severe developmental
disability will not be affected by early intervention, while others would rather
not alarm the parents unnecessarily in case the child is able to overcome the
Boyle CA, Decoufle P, and Yeargin-Allsopp M., (1994). Prevalence and health impact of developmental disabilities in US children.
Pediatrics. 9, 399-403.
Developmental Disabilities Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA
Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders-Autism and Developmental
Disabilities Monitoring Network, United States, 2006. Morbidity
and Mortality Weekly Report. December 18, 2009; 58 (SS-10).
National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities,
3. According to
Twenty-fourth Annual Report to Congress on the Implementation of The Individuals
with Disabilities Education Act by the U.S. Department of
Education (2002), the number of students served under IDEA has increased
58.87% for children between 0-2 over the past 10 years.