What Are the Different Types of Treatment for Developmental Delay?

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  • Written By: Patti Kate
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 09 November 2019
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The treatment for developmental delay will depend upon several factors. A person's age and the cause of the developmental delay might determine what treatment would work best. Speech and language therapy is one type of treatment for global developmental delay in children. Occupational therapy may help people with developmental delay due to various types of medical conditions or birth defects. People with motor skill delay caused by cerebral palsy or neurological issues may be treated with neurological physiotherapy.

Developmental disorders may occur in infants, children, and adults. Physical therapists and other experts who are experienced in treating developmental delay will generally run a series of tests or evaluations to determine the best treatment to benefit their patients. Treatment for developmental delay in children who have difficulty maintaining mobility may include exercise therapy. This may also include balancing exercises to improve coordination and reflexes. The exercises may be done at a rehabilitation center and continued at home.

Children who are confined to wheelchairs may receive special training designed to promote independence. Children or adults who require the use of orthotic devices to correct foot abnormalities may receive therapy to improve walking. As part of the treatment for developmental delay, patients will be instructed on how to properly use these devices.


People with developmental delay due to rigid muscles causing immobility may benefit from hydrotherapy. This is a procedure performed in water, often taking place in a spa or hot tub. When therapy takes place in a whirlpool, the entire body may benefit, as all muscle groups often become relaxed and more flexible.

Causes of developmental delay in young children may be environmental or physical. Children who were born prematurely or with a low birth weight may have delayed language and speaking skills. Treatment for developmental delay in speech will typically involve therapy sessions with a trained audiologist and speech language pathologist. In some cases, special education classes at school may be recommended for the child who is significantly delayed in language skills.

Adults and children with Down syndrome, which may cause mild to moderate mental retardation, will often undergo treatment for developmental delay. An additional copy of chromosome 21 can lead to brain abnormalities commonly seen in people with Down syndrome. Speech and occupational therapy may help the person with Down syndrome learn to develop or improve motor and language skills. Hearing and vision correction may also be necessary in treating individuals with this condition.


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