The Difference Between Developmental Delays and Autism

Sep 06, 2023
The Difference Between Developmental Delays and Autism
Is your child experiencing challenges in development, communication, or social interaction? Understanding the difference between developmental delays and autism is crucial for early intervention and proper care. Here’s what you need to know. 

As children grow, they develop new skills and abilities, and parents often keep a close eye on this progression. But what happens when your child seems to be falling behind their peers or exhibiting behaviors out of the ordinary? 

At The Center for Advanced Pediatrics in Darien and Norwalk, Connecticut, our pediatricians specialize in identifying and treating issues that cause those symptoms, like developmental delays and autism

Early diagnosis and intervention are key, so here’s a look at these common issues and how to tell the difference between them and what to do if you’re worried.    

Understanding developmental delays

Developmental delays refer to when a child doesn’t reach specific milestones at the expected age range in one or more areas, such as speech, motor skills, cognitive skills, or social and emotional development. 

These delays may be temporary, and the child might catch up over time with the right support. Sometimes, developmental delays signify a more serious underlying condition, so talking with us about your child’s symptoms is essential. 

Common signs of developmental delays include:

  • Difficulty in speaking or understanding speech
  • Trouble with motor skills like crawling, walking, or using hands
  • Struggling with social interactions and emotional responses

If you’ve noticed these signs, be sure to talk to our team at The Center for Advanced Pediatrics, as early intervention leads to the best outcomes.    

Understanding autism

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a complex neurological disorder that affects social interaction, communication, interests, and behavior. Unlike developmental delays, autism is a lifelong condition. 

It’s called a spectrum disorder because symptoms and severity can vary widely. Here are a few of the most common characteristics associated with ASD:

  • Difficulty in communicating and understanding social cues
  • Repetitive behaviors or intense focus on specific interests
  • Sensory sensitivities to sounds, lights, or textures
  • Challenges with developing and maintaining relationships

ASD can be challenging to diagnose, so don’t delay in speaking with our pediatricians if you’re at all concerned. 

Identifying the difference between developmental delays and ASD

Though some symptoms may overlap, developmental delays and autism are different conditions. Differentiating these conditions without professional guidance can be difficult and may delay vital interventions.

You know your child best, so if you’re worried something is “off,” it’s best to seek our professional evaluation so we can accurately diagnose the condition and recommend appropriate treatment. 

Whether your child is facing developmental delays or autism, early intervention by a pediatrician at the Center for Advanced Pediatrics can make a world of difference. Depending on the diagnosis, we may recommend a variety of therapies, including but not limited to:

  • Psychotherapy (talk therapy) to help your child understand and express feelings and learn social skills
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help children with autism cope with anxiety and improve emotional regulation
  • Medications (depending on symptoms) to help manage some aspects of autism, such as hyperactivity or anxiety
  • Collaboration with school and other care providers to ensure everyone involved in your child's care is on the same page, maximizing the effectiveness of support

Our team also offers parental support and can put you in touch with other resources to ensure you and your child get the best care and guidance possible. 

Contact us at The Center for Advanced Pediatrics by reaching out online or over the phone to discuss your child’s needs and learn how we can support your family.