Developmental Delay


Developmental delay refers only to children between the ages of 0 and 8 years. It is a primary area of exceptionality when the cause of a child’s developmental lag is unknown.

Developmental delay is defined as a condition which represents a significant delay in the process of development. It does not refer to a condition in which the child is slightly or momentarily lagging in development. The presence of developmental delay is an indication that the process of development is significantly affected, and that without special intervention it is likely that the child’s ability to attain normal developmental milestones and educational performance at school would be jeopardized. Normal development falls within a range and children whose maturation falls outside this range could be provided with special education supports. More precisely these children have skills deficits including specific delays in language, perception, meta-cognition, and social, emotional and/or motor development.

This definition is designed to promote prevention and early intervention services during the primary years. Early identification and intense interventions are the keys to eliminating developmental delay as a primary need. Where the developmental delay persists beyond 8 years of age, the reason(s) is usually known.

(Adapted from Division for Early Childhood. Concept Paper on Developmental Delay, Council for Exceptional Children, November 2001)

Assessments which may be useful in determining the student’s learning profile include documentation of classroom performance using such tools as:

  • Reading Records (Kindergarten to Grade 3)
  • Literacy Profiles
  • Grade 1 Observation Survey
  • Other checklists such as:
    • Wechsler Fundamentals Academic Skills
    • Process Assessment of the Learner (PAL)
    • Conner’s Rating Scales
    • Vineland Adaptive Behaviour Scales – Second Edition
    • Adaptive Behaviour Assessment System – Second Edition

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Students receiving service under Developmental Delay are not to be removed from the prescribed curriculum.

They may receive:

  • accommodations
  • alternate programs

They may not receive:

  • modifed prescribed courses
  • alternate courses
  • alternate (functional) curriculum

In general, modified prescribed and alternate courses are reserved for students with a cognitive disorder or a gifted and talented exceptionality. Regardless of the student’s age, in order to access modified prescribed or alternate courses/curriculum, a comprehensive assessment is required to determine eligibility and inform programming.

Note: This exceptionality is currently under review.

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