Anyone considering starting a family, expecting a child currently, or just watching their current children grow will at some point worry about any possible developmental disabilities present in their child.

But just what are developmental disabilities? This is particularly confusing when they are often compared to congenital disabilities (birth defects) and mental illnesses.

A developmental disability is a mental or physical disorder that becomes apparent during a child’s development from conception to early adulthood. The condition may be genetic, physical, or even psychological. It is not always clear what causes these disorders, but they generally result from complex factors.

Developmental disabilities result from trauma to the brain and nervous system during a child’s developmental stages. The brain and the nervous system develop soon after conception and continue in most individuals into adulthood. Many kinds of trauma can interfere with the normal development of the brain and nervous system both in pregnancy and early childhood. It is not always possible to define the damage’s exact cause(s).

Many specific agents are known to cause developmental disabilities or to be associated with an increased risk of developing a disability, including:

  • Genetic or chromosomal traits
  • Parental health both before and during pregnancy
  • Parental lifestyle choices, such as nicotine/tobacco and alcohol use
  • Non-prescription drug usage
  • Infections during pregnancy
  • Exposure to environmental toxins

Some links are easily caught, such as fetal alcohol syndrome and infant drug dependency. Other causes are harder to see, but maternal infections during pregnancy, complications after birth, and head trauma cause over one-fourth of hearing loss cases in babies. It is also known that unless treated early, jaundice in newborn children can cause a type of brain damage known as kernicterus. Children suffering from kernicterus are more likely to have hearing and vision problems, cerebral palsy, and dental abnormalities.

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Most of these disorders are present at birth. A pediatrician can readily identify jaundice, down syndrome, or fetal alcohol syndrome at birth. Other conditions may emerge or become evident later in a child’s development, such as poor physical coordination, vision, hearing, speech, and learning difficulties.

How are developmental disorders detected?

Every child develops at their own pace; their progress is shown through both their actual physical growth (weight and height) as well as the skills and abilities they acquire as they age. If a child’s results differ significantly from the norm for their age, doctors will look for probable causes. Skills and abilities that are typically monitored to indicate if a child usually is progressing include:

  • Physical
  • Cognitive
  • Language
  • Social
  • Emotional

In each category, developmental milestones mark the age by which most children will have reached a certain level of capability. Milestones include taking their first steps, intentionally smiling for the first time, and waving bye are all examples of developmental milestones. See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for a comprehensive list of developmental milestones for children aged two months to five years.

Parents and caregivers all want to ensure that a child develops in a healthy manner. Developmental milestone checklists and parental observation are vital factors in the early identification of possible disorders. But they are not a substitute for the standardized and validated developmental screening tools accessible through the Well Child program. It is essential to keep all well-child appointments. Age-related development is screened at each visit.

Affordable Care Act-compliant health insurance plans, which you can find through marketplaces, such as TrueCoverage, cover scheduled well-child pediatrician visits and required screenings.

Finally, there is no substitute for a solid parent-child bond, good nutrition, adequate sleep, and a safe, nurturing environment at home and school. The resulting security helps ensure that children have the best chance at developing as they should.

Considering pregnancy soon? Already pregnant? In either case, you should consult your primary care physician as early as possible. You are naturally concerned to ensure that your baby has the best chance of avoiding the risks of any developmental disabilities.

Does your infant already show symptoms of a developmental disorder? In that case, Healthline provides a list of resources to help you locate and contact health professionals, specialists, and possible sources of financial assistance. Some means of financial assistance available include:

  • Medical specialist services
  • Rehabilitative services
  • Educational services
  • Medicaid
  • Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
  • Private foundations
  • Resource hubs for access to local/state providers, services, and assistance

Finally, remember that an addition to your family, whether via pregnancy or adoption, allows you to take advantage of the ACA’s Special Enrollment Period (SEP). The SEP is your opportunity to review your health insurance needs, considering your changed circumstances. You have 60 days to amend your existing cover or sign up for a new plan after a qualifying event, such as having a baby. Visit the TrueCoverage health insurance marketplace to compare plans and see how much of a tax subsidy you qualify for through the ACA. Seventy percent of TrueCoverage applicants typically qualify for $0 (FREE!) health insurance premiums, and the rest typically qualify for BIG premium discounts.

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Using the easy-to-use TrueCoverage search engine, you can see if your preferred providers, including pedestrians and gynecologists, are in-network doctors on your perspective plan.

Uninsured? You likely qualify for cheap and often even FREE health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA)! During the Special Enrollment Period (SEP), TrueCoverage can connect you with quality ACA health insurance if you have had a qualifying life-changing event recently, such as losing your health insurance, moving, getting married/pregnant, having a baby, and more.

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