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Developmental delay versus developmental impairment
  1. A Bosley
  1. North Devon Healthcare Trust, North Devon District Hospital, Raleigh Park, Barnstaple EX31 4JB, UK; alan.bosleyndevon.swest.nhs.uk

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    The use of the term delay should be replaced by impairment because of parental perception of the meaning of delay as applied to development.

    I would like to draw attention to my experience of parents’ perception of the language we use in describing children and their ability.

    It is common practice to refer to children who are detected to be significantly behind in achieving developmental milestones to be developmentally delayed. In talking to prospective adoptive parents I have become aware of how misleading this phrase is in describing to prospective adopters what we mean.

    The general population has a perception of delay to mean something that will get there in the end, rather like a train being delayed, but reaching its destination eventually. It has taught me to use the term impairment rather than delay so that I do transmit to prospective adopters the true meaning of what I am trying to describe.

    I wonder if as a profession we would consider examining our use of this term delay and possibly re-educating our profession to use the term impairment because it does not suggest that the child will be normal eventually.

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