Child development professionals agree. Many children are suffering from developmental problems. They also agree that all the problems that parents and teachers see in these children are related to the developmental process being blocked or stuck.

That is what the diagnoses of Developmental Disability and Developmental Delay really means. It is what Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) and Global Developmental Disorder (GDD) means. This is the basis for Autism (HFA & LFA), Asperger's, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD/ADHD), Dyslexia, Learning Disability (LD), Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD/APD), and many other diagnoses that we talk about as developmental difficulties. All of these problems are based in the developmental process being stuck.

The Mystery

One of the great present-day mysteries is that many children are not developing appropriately. They are not following the classic developmental process. They are not moving through the normal developmental stages. Not all children are having developmental problems, but the percentage of those with problems is high.

Professionals estimate that as many as 25%-30% of children (in the USA) are suffering from some developmental problem. Maybe not all of them have enough symptoms to obtain a diagnosis. The American Pediatric Association (APA) tells us that one of every six children in the USA receives a diagnosis for some developmental problem.

The associations for each of the different developmental diagnostic groups publish estimates of the percentage of children that should have a diagnosis for their diagnostic group. They tell us there is a lot of overlap between one diagnostic label and another (for instance, many ADHD children also have LD and/or Dyslexia). Even assuming there is a lot of overlap, there are still around 17% of children who have enough symptoms that they receive a diagnosis. This matches the APA estimate.

Those associations estimate that only about half of those who qualify for a diagnosis actually go and get that diagnosis. If these estimates hold up, this means that (in the USA) there are between 20 and 25 million children who are not moving through their developmental stages appropriately.


Humans are good at studying and categorizing. Academics and researchers have studied and categorized all of the different ways that children are not moving through their natural developmental process. From this, they have developed long lists of symptoms which are organized into diagnostic groups. You know these groups as those diagnostic labels listed before.

Researchers are putting their focus on getting more precise in the diagnostic methods. They are getting better and better at knowing precisely which diagnosis to apply for a specific set of symptoms. All of these diagnostic labels are used to encompass different sets of symptoms. All of these symptom sets (labels) have two things in common:

1) There is no cure and
2) The developmental process is stuck

What is the treatment?

Parents are usually left on their own to create a treatment plan. They usually have to start a trial-and-error process of exploring various treatment/training options to find what works for their child. Because of the slow processes of the different programs, it may take years to discover if a program is working for a child.

In some cases, doctors might offer medications. This is also a trial-and-error process until they find some medication which helps some. Most of this 'help' from the medications is for the parents and teachers to moderate the behavior of the child to a tolerable level. In some cases, the medications help the child focus and attend, but they do not get the developmental process back on track. Many children complain that when taking their medications they become "zombies" or they stop eating or have some other unpleasant side-effect.

Other types of treatment include psychologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, special education, and the list goes on. These treatments are designed to deal with the child's symptoms. None of these professionals are trained to put the developmental process back on track.

"There is no cure."

This statement is the most difficult part to understand and it is an important cornerstone in each of the definitions of all the different developmental difficulty diagnoses. Professionals in the field know that there is no cure. People in the field are resolved to provide the best services possible, but this knowledge is a weight being carried by everyone. People try to put on a happy face. People want these children to have the best life possible. But, because there is no cure, there is little hope for improvement, and that is a heavy burden everyone carries when working with children with developmental problems.

The statement is that there is no cure. This is a present-tense statement that at the current time, there is no (known) cure. It is not a statement about the future or the past. It is simply a statement that no one has developed a cure, researched that cure to prove that it works, and published that cure to the world so that others can provide that cure for their children.

Over many years, with hundreds (maybe thousands) of clinicians, academics, and researchers working with many different modalities, no one has found the magic bullet. No one has found the cure for these developmental difficulties. The field has become compartmentalized so that researchers are rarely searching for something to re-start the developmental process. They are only working on the symptoms of hyperactivity or autism or learning disability. Because of this compartmentalization, they cannot see that all the different diagnoses are all based on the same problem: the developmental process is stuck and needs to be re-started.

People in the field have distorted the present-tense phrase, there is no cure, to mean that there never was a cure (past), there is no cure now (present), and there never will be a cure (future). This paradigm, that cure does not exist and is not possible, is crippling any research into the cure for these developmental problems. There is little funding for finding, developing, or delivering a cure for these developmental problems. One of the problems of any paradigm is that it defines the limits of possibility. In this case, if the prevailing paradigm is that there is no cure, a possible cure will never be found because it is not possible in the minds of the people in the field. As a paradigm in this field of developmental difficulties, there is no cure, is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Teach as much as possible to an un-teachable child

There is little or no service available to solve your children's developmental problem. Almost all services are designed to teach as much as possible to an un-teachable child. Because there is no cure, there is little work being done in research to find the solution.

Floor Time is the most promising concept in the field. This is an attempt to reach the child at their developmentally stuck place and work with the developmental tasks that are blocked. It is a good idea, because it tries to go beyond the symptoms and get to the processes at that developmentally stuck place. It falls short because it is not addressing what caused the developmental blockage and it is not working on the brain circuits needed for a smooth developmental process (after the blockage is removed).

ABA therapy is one of the more popular therapy/training services available. Many children make some behavioral improvements using ABA. This is one of those approaches which is deeply seated in the paradigm that there is no cure. ABA Therapy has no concept of a person using ABA to become age-appropriate; their students/patients will continue being developmentally disabled after working with them. ABA does nothing to re-start the developmental process.


Normally, when we have a medical or psychological problem we get a diagnosis and then some treatment. For developmental problems there is strong emphasis in the diagnosis, and little to offer for treatment.

The basic problem for all developmental difficulties is that the developmental process is stuck. None of the programs commonly in use in this field are focused on, or are successful at, getting a child's developmental process back on track. The normal programs and services for children with developmental difficulties are designed to teach the children how to become an adult with developmental problems.

The paradigm of there is no cure, is so strong that you are not encouraged to have hope for your child to have a normal life. The future for your child, based on the common paradigm, is to learn as many behaviors as possible to survive as an adult with developmental problems. Special education and ABA and most other programs are designed to prepare your child for transition into adulthood with these problems, but not for transition away from developmental difficulties.

These programs and services for children with developmental problems need to evolve into something which prepares their students/patients for a normal life.

Author's Bio: 

Rodger C Bailey has degrees in Social Science/Anthropology and Educational Counseling. His international consulting program (in English and Spanish), is the only program which targets the developmental process and consistently gets it back on track. You can read more articles on this subject on his Blog.