Developmental Disabilities Incidence

Developmental disabilities are the physical and associated mental disorders of the developing nervous system that manifest during infancy or childhood as developmental delay or as limitations of function in one or multiple domains, including motor performance, cognition, hearing and speech, vision, and behavior. Because of the diverse nature, extent, and timing of the physical and mental disorders in the developing nervous system their clinical expression varies enormously from one individual to another, both in severity and in relative effect on the different areas of body function.

As the developmental and neurological disabilities are a composite of a large number of different health disorders, primary and secondary prevention strategies vary for each of the component conditions, whereas tertiary prevention strategies, which address later effects on capacities in broad areas of function, are largely shared across health disorders. These kinds of disabilities are likely to continue indefinitely and to result in considerable limitations on many life activities, such as affected individuals' ability to care for their own self, express and receive language, be mobile, learn, and live independent and economically self-sufficient lives.

The various developmental and neurological disabilities and their prevention have not had much standing on the public health care program in developing countries over the past three or four decades. Steady shifts in the patterns of morbidity and mortality over this period are now beginning to challenge these traditional public health care priorities. In developing countries the issues on serious developmental disabilities represent only a proportion of the poor developmental outcomes of children and young adults. The developmental and neurological deficits that have their primary origin in adverse environmental and social conditions, such as poor nutrition, poverty, and social deprivation, during the critical years of early brain growth and development usually present later in childhood as cognitive impairments and poor performance at school.

This group of at-risk children and even infants is likely to exceed by many times the number of children with readily considerable developmental disabilities. Because the contribution of this group of people to the burden of developmental disabilities is difficult to measure and the involvements are more closely linked to broad community development and poverty alleviation strategies, they will not be considered, except in passing, in this chapter. This issue in no way implies that the society have any less a priority in policies and programs that address developmental disabilities in low-income countries.

Infants start out in life with eager to learn everything. When they start to go to school, they enjoy learning and competing with their courtiers. When these children realize that they are not able to keep up with their friends, they naturally try to compensate for their problem. When the problem becomes too much for them to master, they usually give up and resort to a change in character. At this condition, not understanding what to do, the parents sometimes resort to punishment of some type or medication. This incident can only enhance the problem of developmental disabilities. Because of the early onset of developmental disabilities, and lifelong requirement for support and care, people should never impose enormous social and economic burdens on affected individuals, their families, and their communities.