Is it a Developmental Delay? What to Look for & Where to Find Support

Could it be a Developmental Delay?

West Michigan is teeming with medical professionals who are ready to support you and your kid. They are here for you when things are going well and especially when they’re not.

So who can you call when your gut tells you something is off? You’re not sure what it is, exactly, but your child has missed a few key milestones.

Maybe your kid is behind on walking, talking, or something else, and you wonder – is this developmental delay or possibly a disability emerging? The unknown, the questioning, the wondering, and the work to uncover what is going on can be very overwhelming.

When you’re in that boat, you call one of the professionals in this guide.

That’s what I did when my son was diagnosed with autism at age seven.

At first I didn’t know where to start.

But once the shock of the diagnosis wore off, the first thing I did was track down local resources and community support groups for parents of children with disabilities.

Hopefully this guide will also help you find the resources and support you need as you navigate this time.


What is a Developmental Delay?

A developmental delay occurs when a child does not reach the same developmental milestones as their peers.

Delays can be when a child’s development slows, stops, or even reverses.

These milestones are based on what a majority of children reach by a certain age and include cognitive, speech, motor (gross and fine), social and emotional skills.

Examples are a child babbling by 6 months old, being able to jump on two feet by age 2, and counting to ten by age 5.

How are Developmental Delays Diagnosed?

Doctors and nurses screen children for developmental delays and will refer you to a specialist if a delay is suspected.

Screening helps them determine if a child is learning basic skills comparable to their peers. Sometimes children are just slightly slower to learn a skill and will accomplish the goal on their own.

At other times, children benefit from seeing a physical, mental or occupational therapist, or other specialist.

Expect doctors to ask you questions about your family’s medical history, do a physical exam on your child, and interact/play with them to assess their skills.

If a delay is suspected, you and your child will be referred to a specialist for assessment.

Assessment specialists include neuropsychologists or developmental behavior doctors.

Can Developmental Delays be Corrected?

Sometimes a child outgrows a developmental delay. Other times, extra help is needed.

The key is early intervention, which is shown to significantly reduce the impact these delays have.

And even if a child could overcome their delay on their own, many parents enjoy using therapists to help their child along. Common therapy and support options for developmental delays include:

Physical Therapy
Occupational Therapy
Speech and Language Therapy
Behavioral Therapy
Special Education

Are Developmental Delays and Developmental Disabilities the Same Thing?

No, they are not the same. A developmental delay is temporary, and a child usually outgrows or overcomes it through therapy.

Developmental disabilities are lifelong. These children also benefit from therapy, which will give them tools to be their best self.

What is a Developmental Disability?

Developmental disabilities impact a child’s day-to-day functioning in areas of physical, cognitive, speech or behavior skills.

These disabilities are present in infancy or childhood and are with a person for life.

Conditions that start in the teen years or adulthood are not considered developmental disabilities.

Is Autism a Developmental Disability?

Yes, autism falls under the umbrella of developmental disability.

What do I do if I Think My Child has a Developmental Disability?

Talk with your child’s doctor if you think there could be a problem.

You may be referred to a developmental-behavioral pediatrician or other pediatric specialists for further evaluation.

School aged children with developmental delays or disabilities could also qualify for a 504 plan or IEP to help them with their education.

These local therapists and resource centers are dedicated to helping children with developmental delays or disabilities.

Therapeutic Riding in Caledonia

Karin's Horse Connection at Legacy Stables

8001 Patterson Ave SE, Caledonia, MI 49316

Everyone - all ages, physical, mental, and social (dis)abilities - are welcome at Karin’s Horse Connection!

Our experienced and certified staff works with 25 well trained, happy horses/ponies to meet a variety of needs. No matter if you want to nurture your mental health, build muscle and balance, healthy confidence, or to raise your quality of life, we can pick YOU up where YOU are individually.

In addition to traditional saddles, we use unique equipment which offers more security through big handles and a wider range of motion for the rider. You can also safely experience the different movements of the horse (slower/faster).

Horses are beneficial for your health and FUN!

Our goal is to connect you to the healing power of horses and bring a smile to your face.

“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of man.” -Winston Churchill

“Karin’s Horses have been a life-enhancing experience for my nephew over the last 13 years. Through riding/vaulting he has improved strength, confidence, balance, self-worth, and quality of life.” -Pat

Counseling, Dance / Movement Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Sensory Therapy, Speech Therapy in Grand Rapids - SE

Comprehensive Therapy Center

2505 Ardmore St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506-4915

Established in 1982, Comprehensive Therapy Center’s mission is to meet the therapeutic and educational needs of adults and children with disabilities who are at-risk or disadvantaged, through skill building, academic enhancement, and social-emotional support.

We help adults keep or increase their independence. We help children to walk, talk, learn and play.

"You’re only going to gain from this, you’re going to learn a lot about your kid and what they are capable of."- 2021 CTC Parent

Speech Therapy in Grand Rapids - SE

Duncan Lake Speech Therapy, LLC

2450 44th St. SE, Suite 201, Kentwood, MI 49512

Duncan Lake Speech Therapy, LLC is a small, private speech-language pathology clinic based in Grand Rapids.

Our goal is to provide client-centered, collaborative services, and to live into the values of representation, diversity, inclusion, and cultural responsiveness.

Our services include treatment for articulation/phonological disorders, apraxia of speech, expressive/receptive language disorders, stuttering, early language delays, orofacial myofuncational disorders, AAC, and speech disorders related ASD, Down Syndrome, ADHD, and Cerebral Palsy.

We also offer gender-affirming voice modification for folks of all ages.

Contact us today for more information about how we can serve you and your family.

We have loved our experience with Duncan Lake Speech Therapy! Tamiko and her team have always been super flexible, especially during the uncertainty of a global pandemic.

Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy in Grandville

Exemplary Speech Services

2880 Wilson Ave SW, Grandville, MI 49418

We are a team of licensed, certified and compassionate therapists who specialize in pediatric evaluation and treatment of speech, language, social, feeding, myofunctional, and occupational therapy services.

Our approach is holistic, relationship-based, child-led, and evidence-based. This means ensuring clients feel safe, calm, connected, and motivated to reach their goals.

We love seeing our clients grow and develop critical skills like:
Speaking with clarity
Socializing with confidence
Making and maintaining strong social connections
Establishing healthy breathing and swallowing patterns
Addressing picky eating
Fine, gross, and visual motor
Sensory and reflex integration

Exemplary Speech Services not only improved our daughter’s speech, but also improved her self esteem. She really enjoyed the individualized sessions that were formatted to her specific needs.

Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy in Grand Rapids - SE

Family Tree Therapies

2251 East Paris Ave, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

570 East Division NE, Rockford, MI 49341

Family Tree Therapies is a private speech and occupational therapy clinic that has been providing child and family centered therapies in West Michigan for over fifteen years.

We partner with BCBS, Priority Health, Aetna, Cigna and Cofinity.

Our unique approach combines evidenced-based practices within the context of relationships, regulation and fun.

We identify underlying challenges, help families and clients understand their impact and empower them with strategies to reach their greatest potential.

We work together as a team to understand your child’s sensory system and communication skills.

My kids love going to therapy and have tremendously developed and improved because of their work with their therapists. I wish I knew how to put into words how grateful we are.

Occupational Therapy, Parental Support, Physical Therapy, School, Speech Therapy, Financial in Grand Rapids - SE

Conductive Learning Center of North America

2401 Camelot Court SE Suite J, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

The Conductive Learning Center of North America (CLC), now in its 25th year of advancing independence, serves individuals with motor challenges related to cerebral palsy, spina bifida, complications of prematurity, or other brain injury to achieve optimal physical, cognitive, and social independence through the education-based rehabilitation method of conductive education.

At CLC, students work on physical-motor, social-emotional, and communication skills through task series and activities of daily living. Learning is achieved in a peer-group setting to emphasize motivation and self-esteem. Conductive education is a family-centric method and is built on a whole-child learning model.

"Everly has grown leaps and bounds thanks to CLC! She loves attending, and it was the very first time she was able to interact with other peers!" Hayley, Everly's Mother

Applied Behavior Analysis in Grand Rapids - SE

Acorn Health ABA Therapy

1000 E. Paris SE, Suite 160, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

5943 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, MI 49009

Acorn Health helps children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnosis gain the tools they need to live meaningful and independent lives.

As a member of The Council of Autism Service Providers (CASP) and an accredited Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE), Acorn Health is committed to providing industry-leading autism therapy.

Founded in 2018 with just a few locations, today the primarily women-led organization is a national provider of center-based and in-home applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy in more than 75 locations throughout seven states.

Acorn Health typically serves individuals with ASD between 18 months and 21 years of age.

“My daughter's been going to Acorn for almost a year. She's picked up on a lot of new words, responds to her name now, and has learned new skills!" -Emily/Michigan

Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Plagiocephaly (flat head) in Grand Rapids - Downtown

Cranial Technologies

555 Mid Towne St Ste. 302, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

For over 35 years, Cranial Technologies has been dedicated to reshaping children's lives through clinically-backed helmet therapy for plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome).

Early detection is key when it comes to treatment and prevention. That's why It's our mission is to ensure that every family is equipped with the knowledge and resources necessary to ensure their little ones are on the best path for good outcomes.

We offer free head shape consultations for families in need at over 100 clinic locations nationwide. We proudly serve the Grand Rapids area — located in Midtown along the Medical Mile.

* We are not a physical therapy location. We offer guidance and education for certain techniques, including for babies with torticollis, but we are specialized for treating and preventing flat spots.

"They are amazing! Honest about everything in the process...I tell everyone that if they were a pediatrician's office, we'd continue to go because we loved the staff that much."

Applied Behavior Analysis in Grand Rapids - SE

Centria Autism

625 Kenmoor Ave SE, Suite 111, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

4211 Division Avenue NE Suite 100, 200, Comstock Park, MI 49321

Our mission is to help more children with autism to develop, pursue and achieve their own goals and dreams through high-quality ABA therapy and support.

School, Tutoring in Grand Rapids - SE

Lake Michigan Academy

2428 Burton St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Lake Michigan Academy is a private day school that transforms the lives of children with learning differences.

We empower students and focus on their strengths, not their weaknesses. An emphasis is placed on meeting the needs of the whole child, including social-emotional development, self-advocacy, and critical problem-solving.

Students leave Lake Michigan Academy with renewed self-esteem and tools for success.

Our students develop social skills and self-awareness techniques as they become valuable individuals in our society.

Lake Michigan Academy gave our son so much more than a great education. LMA made him a happier child, and we will always be grateful.

Counseling, Parental Support in Kentwood

Wedgwood Christian Services

3300 36th Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49512

12930 James Street - Suite 120, Holland, MI 49424

The struggle is real.

It’s no secret that kids, teens, adults, and families are dealing with a lot. Life changes, anxiety & depression, or challenging behaviors and relationships can impact anyone. But there is hope.

Our therapists provide a variety of counseling services to fit your needs – with genuine care and compassion.

Counseling at Wedgwood is open to anyone – all ages, all beliefs.

Wherever life finds you, Wedgwood is here to help.

"I've seen my daughter grow tremendously in her time with Wedgwood. They have helped her gain an understanding of herself, her skills, and her ability to communicate her emotions."

Applied Behavior Analysis, Counseling in Kentwood

Wedgwood's Autism Center for Child Development

1260 Ekhart St NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Wedgwood's Autism Center for Child Development provides individualized, center-based comprehensive early intensive behavioral intervention for young children and focused skills support for school-aged children in a fun, engaging environment.

“This program was life-changing for our family! I thank God for blessing us with this fabulous program right here in Grand Rapids.” – Mother of Wedgwood’s Autism Center for Child Development client

Applied Behavior Analysis, Counseling, Diagnostic Testing, Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy in Grand Rapids - NE


3292 North Evergreen Drive NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

2900 East Beltline Avenue NE, Suite F, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

At BRAINS, we strive to change lives by identifying each individual's unique strengths and potential for growth and incorporating these traits into attainable goals.

BRAINS is an assessment and treatment center offering a variety of services to help children and families navigate the journey to better mental and physical health.

Our team of professionals offer expertise in psychological and neuropsychological assessments, counseling, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and applied behavior analysis.

Our multidisciplinary approach ensures a comprehensive and customized treatment plan.

Speech Therapy in Grand Rapids - NE

Building Blocks Therapy Services

2922 Fuller Ave NE, Suite 107, Grand Rapids, MI 49505

Building Blocks Therapy Services mission is to provide professional speech, language and feeding services from infancy through adulthood for a variety of disorders.

We are dedicated to offering the highest quality, research based treatment plans for speech, language and feeding that are individualized to each client.

Every therapist at Building Blocks is passionate about providing knowledge and skills that will enhance the daily lives of the clients and families.

Applied Behavior Analysis, Diagnostic Testing, Speech Therapy in Jenison

Lighthouse Autism Center

8413 Cottonwood Drive, Jenison, MI 49428

Lighthouse Autism Center offers the highest-quality autism therapy in a beautiful, play-based environment.

Children are immersed in imaginary spaces where they can naturally explore their interests, engage in sensory experiences, and practice language.

Lighthouse provides ABA and speech therapy as well as autism evaluations at all locations.

Physical Therapy, Speech Therapy in Grandville

Apogee Therapy Center

3010 Wilson Ave. SW, Grandville, MI 49418

Apogee Therapy offers speech therapy services from infancy through adulthood.

Our pediatric services include treatment for delayed speech development, receptive/expressive language disorders, articulation and phonological disorders, stuttering, augmentative/alternative communication, social language, and picky eating.

We work with children diagnosed with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, cognitive impairments, and traumatic brain injuries.

Mood Disorders, Anxiety & Depression

Mental health encompasses a wide range of conditions. The most common are anxiety and depression, but they are also many other mood disorders out there, such as bipolar disorder or seasonal affective disorder.

Mental health issues can affect any child at any age.

They can be hard to pinpoint – after all, growing up is all about learning to handle your emotions and all children experience emotional extremes. You might be wondering, could these sudden outbursts be normal, or a sign of something else going on?

If you’re wondering, “does my kid need counseling?” take notes of what you’re seeing and ask your pediatrician. And once you’re doing down this road, learn how using a child therapist works so you’re ready if you get that referral.


ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is one of the most common neurodevelopmental disorders of childhood.

And contrary to popular belief, you don’t outgrow ADHD. It lasts into adulthood.

Kids with ADHD often have trouble focusing, are easily distracted and struggle with organization. Many of these children are also impulsive.

Even though it’s common, living with ADHD is a struggle. It’s hard for kids (and adults!) to sit still and focus and they often feel misunderstood because they don’t operate in the world like society expects.

If you suspect your child has ADHD, these local pros offer ADHD testing and can connect you with therapists if your child has ADHD.

Often, ADHD is inherited, which means that you might also have it. Don’t overlook the signs that you might have ADHD as an adult. Because there is help for you, too!

Language and Speech Delays

Language and speech delays cover both struggles with communicating and/or understanding language.

Does your child have no issue speaking, but do they don’t seem to understand instructions you give them? Perhaps they know what you’re saying, but struggle to form words to respond.

These delays can have physical causes like hearing issues, a cleft palate or a tongue tie. Other times, the delays stem from neurological delays or disabilities.

Kids with these delays are easily frustrated and can seem very irritable. But it’s only because they want to communicate and can’t!

Connecting your kid with a speech therapist is imperative to helping a child with a speech or language delay, and these specialists work wonders.

Cognitive Delays

Cognitive delays describe children who are behind their peers in learning and solving problems.

Does your child take longer to grasp concepts that other kids their age have mastered? Do they not seem to have an awareness appropriate for their age or lack curiosity?

These delays (which can sometimes become lifelong, and therefore disabilities) could be genetic or caused by illness or injury.

Getting help for kids with cognitive delays greatly enhances their chances at success – both at school and in life.

Many professionals can help kids with these delays. You might be referred to a speech therapist, behavior therapist, physical therapist or occupational therapist.

Autism Spectrum Disorder

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurological developmental disability.

People with ASD often struggle with social cues and interaction and become obsessive with repetitive behaviors or interests. They usually learn and move differently than other children.

It used to be that kids with neurological disorders were often criticized by society – both at home and at school. Parents would be frustrated with their children and their children had no clue why they were misunderstood.

Nowadays we understand that kids with neurological disorders just navigate the world differently than us. Parents now have resources available to both help them understand their neurodivergent kid and for the child to understand how their brain works.

This comprehensive list of autism services helps kids and families in West Michigan thrive.

autism services in west mi


Dyslexia is a disability that prevents children (and adults) from understanding written words and processing sounds. They can even struggle with spoken words.

Because it drastically affects academic performance, dyslexia is considered a learning disability.

Being unable to process written instruction makes it increasingly difficult to keep up in class, even if they have the cognition to learn.

If your child struggles to read, ask if their school can test them for dyslexia. Schools often have reading specialists available or other resources to help these kids.

Depending on the severity of the diagnosis, speech or language therapists could also be helpful.

Motor Delays

Motor delays happen when children are behind their peers in either gross motor or fine motor skills.

They might struggle to jump on two feet, hold and use a crayon, or brush their teeth.

Pediatricians regularly screen patients for these delays, and early intervention can really help.

Children with motor delays benefit from occupational therapists and/or sensory-processing therapy.

About The Author

1 thought on “Is it a Developmental Delay? What to Look for & Where to Find Support”

  1. Hello Pediatric Therapy in Byron Center offers physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech language pathology. Their clinicians are top notch and a joy to work with.

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