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What is Developmental Delay in Adults?

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  • 0:05 Developmental Milestones
  • 1:09 Global Developmental Delay
  • 2:05 Effects on Adults
  • 3:13 Need for Transition Plan
  • 4:05 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Justine Fritzel

Justine has been a Registered Nurse for 10 years and has a Bachelor's of Science in Nursing degree.

As children grow, they develop the skills they need to become functioning adults, but sometimes, there are delays in development. In this lesson, we'll learn how developmental delay affects adults.

Developmental Milestones

Life is an amazing process! Starting at conception, an embryo begins growing and forming into a baby. A human baby grows, learns, and develops skills at an unbelievable rate - most of which we just take for granted. After birth, this constant development continues, but will stop after a certain point.

Every child is different, but there are still developmental milestones that children reach by a certain age. These developmental milestones, along with at what age they should be reached, were developed by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). There are five groups of skills that children develop:

  • Gross motor skills involve the use of bigger muscle groups needed for crawling, walking, or running.
  • Fine motor skills involve smaller muscle coordination needed for skills like drawing and writing.
  • Language skills include speaking and understanding.
  • Cognitive skills are related to learning, reasoning, and remembering.
  • Social skills include developing relationships and interacting with others.

Global Developmental Delay

Not all children progress at the same rate, but they should generally meet these developmental milestones near the associated age range. Global developmental delay is not a specific disorder, but a broad spectrum of disorders that includes developmental delays in all five groups of skills. Those affected don't fail to develop, they just develop at a slower rate.

Although not always possible to determine, identifying an underlying cause of the delay can help to determine the treatment needed and prognosis for a child's developmental abilities. Underlying causes of a global developmental delay can include autism or cerebral palsy.

Early detection is key. If your child is lagging behind in his or her development, a specific treatment plan can help him or her learn the skills needed. Many children will progress in their development, but the effects of delayed development sometimes carry into adulthood.

Effects on Adults

Some adults with global developmental delay are fairly independent, while others require much more assistance. If the delay has an underlying cause, like autism or cerebral palsy, it can greatly impact the degree of their disability.

If the underlying cause is autism, those effected will likely have social and cognitive impairments as an adult. Delayed adults may be able to live fairly independently in a group home setting, prepare simple meals, and handle their own basic care needs. However, they may need assistance with financial management, reminders to do certain tasks, and general oversight.

If the underlying cause is cerebral palsy, it may still significantly impair gross and fine motor skills in adulthood. Children may not be able to walk or perform basic care needs once they reach adulthood. They will likely require full-time caregivers, whether in a home setting or in a nursing home.

An adult who was developmentally delayed with no apparent underlying cause may be fairly independent but still require special provisions on the job to help them perform adequately. They may also need subsidized housing to be able to live independently.

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