Early Warning Signs for Four Types of Disability in Small Children

Every parent dreams of what his or her child will grow up to be. Will my child become an NFL player, a concert pianist, or perhaps win the Nobel Prize? No parent ever wishes that his or her child would be born with a disability, even though the parent knows that dreams may not become reality. Yet parents every day hear the bad news that their beloved child has a disability. With the growing rates of some disabilities like autism, even more parents will have to learn to cope and care for a child with special needs. As each disability is unique, so are the early warning signs of various types of disabilities. Parents, know your children and what to watch for. Here are warning signs for four types of disabilities.


Hearing Impairments

David L. Hill, MD, author of Dad to Dad: Parenting Like a Pro,1 assures parents that a baby’s hearing is well developed as soon as the infant is born. Even in the womb, a baby can hear and therefore later recognize his mother’s voice, and even voices of other family members. It is becoming regular practice for the hospital to screen infants for hearing problems, for early intervention. Parents should continue to monitor their children and make sure that they are appropriately responding to loud noises and auditory stimuli. 

Joshua B. Evans, MD reports, “Any lack of response to sound or delay in a baby’s development of communication skills could be a concern. While delayed speech doesn’t always indicate a hearing issue, it’s the first factor a doctor will check.”

Cerebral Palsy 

Cerebral palsy (CP) is a broad term used to describe disorders that impair control of movement, due to damage to the developing brain. The child may have trouble with muscle control, speech and vision. In a mild case, these problems may not become apparent until the child is 2 or 3 years of age

Intellectual Disorder

According to the CDC, more than one out of every 100 school children in the United States has some form of intellectual disorder.  The early warning signs for Intellectual Disorder are that the child does not meet milestones The child may walk late or not dress and feed himself. The child could even seem forgetful. Sometimes this diagnosis is not made until the child is two or three years old. 

On the other hand, children that have Down Syndrome have physical as well as intellectual symptoms, which makes the disability obvious from birth


A recent study has proven that early detection of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) has been shown to “improve IQ, language ability, and social interaction.” A child could receive a diagnosis of ASD even in infancy. This condition mainly affects a child’s ability to communicate verbally and socially. Some children will begin showing signs from ages 12 to 24 months or will show regression after developing language. If your child suddenly stops using words she used before, an immediate evaluation is imperative to ensure proper development of your child. 

This can be as easy as listening for the baby to babble and giggle. Will the child respond when his name is called? Does she ever make eye contact, for example during feeding times? Will your baby play and engage with you? Parents are the best and first people to recognize indicators, as they know their children best. 

Most babies with autism are considered “good babies,” as they do not cry very much when compared with neuro-typical infants, and are undemanding. The simplest way to look for autism in infancy is whether the child is missing a “normal behavior,” not the presence of “abnormal behaviors” that are typically associated with older children with autism. The missing milestones show abnormal development.

What to Do

If any of these signs sound like your child, do not hesitate to ask your pediatrician for an evaluation. Many programs cannot help until the official diagnosis is made. 

The earlier a child is diagnosed with a disability the more pliable the brain. Children who receive early treatments see more success. Parents, watch for the absence of normal behaviors in your infant. Monitor your infant’s natural growth for normal development to do what is best for your child. 



Because of the generality of the information on this site, it may not apply to a given place, time, or set of facts. It is not intended to be legal advice, and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations