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Developmental Disabilities


For many developmental disabilities, there are no actions to recommend for prevention. However, some developmental disabilities can be prevented or lessened by preventing harmful exposures and detecting and treating developmental problems early.

Prevention Tips

Following are some general tips for preventing several developmental disabilities.

  • Avoid workplace hazards if you are pregnant.
  • Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol if you are pregnant.
  • Learn about safe fish eating recommendations for women who might become pregnant, pregnant women, nursing mothers, and young children.
  • Remove or prevent contact with household sources of lead, such as lead based paint and lead contaminated dust. More prevention tips are here.
  • Make sure your child gets all the regular childhood vaccines.
  • Keep your child away from high noise levels, such as very loud toys. Visit the National Institutes of Health's website to learn more about preventing noise-induced hearing loss.

Read more about having a healthy pregnancy. Read more about protecting children from environmental risks.

Monitor Child Development

From birth throughout childhood, children are constantly learning and growing. One way to support positive development is to monitor your child's developmental milestones - how they play, learn, speak and act. A delay in any of these areas could be a sign of a developmental problem. Recognizing and treating a problem early can help a child reach his or her full potential. Talk with your doctor or nurse if you notice that your child is not reaching common milestones. Read more about developmental milestones and positive parenting tips.

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National Children's Study

In the future, results from the National Children's Study, should provide some insight and guidance for developing other prevention strategies. The study will examine the effects of the environment on the growth, development and health of children across the United States.

The study will examine such factors as air, water, diet, sound, family dynamics, community and cultural influences, and genetics— on the growth, development, and health of children across the United States, following them from before birth until age 21. The goal of the study is to improve the health and well-being of children and contribute to understanding the effects of various factors on health and disease.

Data from the study may inform research into many conditions such as

  • asthma;
  • behavior, learning, and mental health disorders;
  • birth defects and pregnancy-related problems;
  • diabetes;
  • injuries; and
  • obesity.

Researchers will analyze how environmental factors interact with each other and what helpful and/or harmful effects they might have on the health of children and adults.

Congress authorized the National Children's Study with the Children's Health Act of 2000. The study is led by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other federal government partners. Study partners include the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the NIH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

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