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

Could it be a Developmental Delay?

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 they’re 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 my son was diagnosed with autism at age seven, I didn’t know where to start.

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.

That’s where this guide comes in – hopefully, it will 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 detection, 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.

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

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 Kentwood

Duncan Lake Speech Therapy, LLC

2180 44th. St. SE Suite 103, Kentwood, MI 49508

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.

Applied Behavior Analysis, Parental Support in Grand Rapids

Family Nest ABA Therapy

Creating Individualized Support So Families Can Soar

When parents learn that their child has autism or other developmental or behavioral challenges, they look to their community for support and resources.

Family Nest ABA Therapy was created with these parents in mind and out of a passion for using the science of ABA to change behavior for the better. Our mission is to make families lives easier, help children experience success, and to create lasting change.

Family Nest ABA Therapy also offers parent training for families to create change when their child may not have a diagnosis.

Occupational Therapy, Parental Support, Physical Therapy in Grand Rapids

Conductive Learning Center

2401 Camelot Court Ste. J, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

The Conductive Learning Center of North America (CLC) provides opportunities for 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.

Students work on physical-motor, social-emotional, and communication skills, as well as activities of daily living in a group-oriented, family-centric setting that emphasizes motivation, self-esteem, and is delivered by conductor teachers.

CLC operates in partnership with Aquinas College, both located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and has served over 900 children in its almost 25-year history.

"CLC has empowered me to live the most independent, optimistic, productive, and happiest life I can."

- Sarah, former CLC student

Counseling, Parental Support in Grand Rapids

Arbor Circle

1115 Ball Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505

At Arbor Circle, we are proud to be one of West Michigan’s most comprehensive providers of mental health counseling, substance use treatment, and family services.

Our Early Childhood services partner with parents to build their skills, help them bond with their children, and assist children in meeting developmental milestones.

Services include in-home infant mental health counseling and case management; community-based groups focused on parent education and family support; and specialized support for childcare providers, teachers, and parents when a child is facing difficulty in a childcare or preschool setting.

“I’m a new mom, and it scared me not understanding development and needs at different stages. It helps to have someone let you know where they are at.”

School, Tutoring in Grand Rapids

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.

Speech Therapy in Grand Rapids

Building Blocks Therapy Services, LLC

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

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

We are dedicated to offering the highest quality, research based, speech and language treatment plans 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 their families.

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


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.

Counseling in Grand Rapids

Wedgwood Christian Services

3300 36th Street SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49512

When life gets difficult, Wedgwood can help.

We offer a unique continuum of grace-filled counseling services for children, teens, adults, and families.
Whether you are dealing with life changes, mood or anxiety issues, or other difficulties with behaviors or relationships, our experienced clinicians can offer the understanding, support, and practical guidance you need.

Wedgwood's therapists have the skills, experience, and compassion to help you creating meaningful and lasting change.

"I have 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."

Counseling in Grand Rapids

Wedgwood's Autism Center for Child Development

1260 Ekhart St NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503

Wedgwood’s Autism Center for Child Development provides comprehensive early intensive behavioral intervention services for young children with autism spectrum disorders.

Wedgwood’s exceptional team provides high-quality support and care that is individualized for each child and family’s specific needs and goals.

Through center-based therapy offered in a fun, engaging environment, Wedgwood helps kids and families develop the skills they need to build brighter futures.

“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

Financial in Lansing


P.O. Box 30462, Lansing, MI 48909-7962

MiABLE is a savings and investment program offered by the state of Michigan that empowers people with disabilities and their families to save money without losing access to benefits such as SSI, SSDI and Medicaid.

Sign up for a MiABLE account at

Speech Therapy in Grandville

Mitten Speech Therapy

3181 Prairie St SW, Suite 110, Grandville, MI 49418

We specialize in the treatment of pediatric speech sound disorder, language disorder, and literacy skills for children ages 2-18 throughout Michigan.

Our therapists are ASHA-certified Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) who have the knowledge and expertise to help your child reach milestones and increase their confidence.

Applied Behavior Analysis, Speech Therapy in Walker

Behavior Analysts of West Michigan

2787 Wilson Ave NW, Walker, MI 49534

We provide ABA therapy for clients with the medical diagnosis of autism.

Our therapy is scheduled to simulate a school day for our clients to allow them to obtain the skills necessary to be successful in a school setting.

We also provide speech therapy for the same clientele.

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.

Occupational Therapy, Speech Therapy in Grand Rapids

Family Tree Therapies

2251 East Paris Ave, Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Family Tree Therapies is a private clinic that specializes in occupational and speech therapy.

Our unique approach combines the best of all current research-based therapy techniques and individualize a program for your child.

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

Occupational Therapy, Parental Support, Sensory Therapy in Grand Rapids

CAYA Therapies

2922 Fuller Ave NE, Suite 105, Grand Rapids, MI 49505

CAYA Therapies provides occupational therapy services to children, youth, and young adults in West Michigan.

We use fun, meaningful activities to promote development and function. We prioritize the social-emotional experience, ensuring patients feel safe and secure as they explore and grow.

Services are always trauma-responsive, relationship-based, sensory-informed, and client-centered.

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 neurologically different 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.

Screening Programs for Kids

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

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