What is a Developmental Therapist?

It’s a little easy to play the “comparison game” with other parents and kids now thanks to the growth of social media. Parents often see other parents posting the big milestones their child just took, and you are wondering if your child is on schedule. If you are debating that a lot, someone may recommend a developmental therapist. You can’t help but wonder, “What is a developmental therapist?”

There are times when your child may seem like they aren’t developing ‘on time’ yet. Sometimes though, you can’t put a finger on what exactly it is. You know your kid is not where any of the kids around you are, but you are not sure exactly where the issues may lay. Or even if there are any issues. Their skills and/or behaviors are close to where they should be, yet, they are not quite there yet. When there are skills or behaviors that aren’t quite where there should be for their developmental age, that is when you turn to a Developmental Therapist. They can either address the issues that your child may need help in, or they can advise you whether or not to worry about your child being on target.

What is Developmental Therapy?

Developmental Therapy looks at how your child develops GLOBALLY instead of focusing on one specific skill or behavior. This is something that helps many parents understand how their children are growing and if intervention is needed. Sometimes it is hard to tell if your child is just taking their time, or if there needs to be some type of intervention to improve those milestones.

What does GLOBALLY mean?

GLOBALLY means that your child is assessed for their cognitive skills, social-emotional behavior and skills, gross and fine motor skills, and self-help skills along with their language and communication skills. In other words, your child is assessed as a whole instead of on one specific skill or behavior.  To assess a child GLOBALLY  is important to determine if your child needs more time to develop naturally, or if they need more specific intervention.

This is extremely helpful for a parent that can’t seem to put their finger on what the issue may be. To assess a child GLOBALLY will help squash those fears of where your child is currently.

What Is a Developmental Therapist and What Does One Do?

Professional Developmental Therapists work with children from birth to five years of age who need to expand their developmental skills. They evaluate all aspects of development and identify the areas in which your child has specific needs or excels at. The main goal of a Developmental Therapist is to give your child the needed tools to help them excel in their skills and behaviors and thus successfully navigating their world.

What Happens After the Evaluation?

Once your child’s needs are identified, the Therapist will then come up with play-based activities that will build upon the skills your child has to help them overcome their struggles.  Your child’s Developmental therapy is based on how your children learn new or difficult skills in natural play settings.

How Do Play Based Activities Help?

Children learn best through play. Using play-based activities provides a comfortable environment to help your child build upon the skills they already have. Plus, it also provides just the right amount of challenge that will help your child gain confidence in their expanding skills in all of their developmental areas.

Developmental Areas


Cognitive skills are the mental skills and abilities that help them to learn, understand, and use the knowledge in an appropriate manner as they grow older.


Social-Emotional skills are the skills they use when they manage their emotions, set goals, make decisions and even build and maintain healthy relationships.

Motor Skills

Motor skills are the ability to make a predetermined move happen. As their motor skills develop they gain confidence in their movements. Plus, it takes less energy to perform those movements. While this skill focuses on movements, it is important to note that not all movements are considered motor skills.

Fine Motor

Fine motor skills (or dexterity) use the coordination of small muscles to make movements. Typically, these movements coordinate between the hands and eyes. Things like picking food up using with their thumb and pointer finger (pincer grasp), using chopsticks, all the way up to knitting or crocheting are all considered fine motor skills.

Gross Motor

Gross motor skills use large muscle groups to make movements. Some of these movements include: walking, running, moving or swinging arms, sitting upright, lifting something or throwing a ball.

Language and Communication


Developing language skills allow them to listen, speak, read and write appropriately for their age. This is a skill that is constantly changing and expanding as they grow and learn. It may include sign language, English, or another language that he or she writes or speaks in the home.

Keep in mind that in many cases when sign language is used with children who have a goal of speaking, it is not to replace spoken language. Multiple studies have proven that sign language at a young age can enhance spoken communication skills instead of hindering language skills.


Communication is a skill we use that allows us to be able to interact with other individuals effectively.  This includes helping the child understand the language most often used around them, but also includes inflection, tone, and mannerisms.

Self-Help Skills

Self-help skills are important because these are the skills that allow them to develop and grow their independence. This takes all of the other skills that they have built separately and combines them together allowing them to function. Also, it will help the child interact at a level that is age appropriate.

If you are ever uncertain about your child’s developmental skill level please reach out for an evaluation. A Developmental Therapist is an amazing resource to have and will provide you and your child with the tools needed to extend and enhance their developmental needs.


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