Exploring Developmental Delays with Dr. Erin Michaud

Are you worried about developmental delays in your infant? Or maybe you are seeing signs of developmental delay and wondering if it could be autism?

In this episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Erin Michaud, an expert in autism research, who shared her journey and insights into early detection and intervention for autism.

Dr. Michaud explained the significance of identifying early markers, such as eye contact and cooing, especially in high-risk infants with autistic siblings.

We discussed the critical role of parent training in fostering developmental milestones. Her research aims to offer effective interventions and improve outcomes for children showing early signs of autism or developmental delays. 

Tune in to learn practical advice and support for parents navigating this developmental delay journey. Take action by monitoring your child’s development and seeking early intervention if needed.


  • What is a developmental delay? 
  • How to help a child with a developmental delay to catch up. 
  • Developmental delay vs. autism- the signs you need to know
  • How to implement early intervention for developmental delays. 
  • How to help a child with a developmental delay. 

What is a Developmental Delay? 

A developmental delay is when a child is not reaching the expected developmental milestones. For example, the CDC states that children, by 18 months of age, should be saying 3 or more words. If they are not, they may be developmentally delayed. 

Dr. Michaud discusses with us her research related to infant developmental milestones such as cooing.  In her research, she looks for this interaction starting as early as one to two months old. When cooing is absent, it can be an early sign of developmental delays or autism. 

Developmental delay in toddlers. What is a developmental delay
A developmental delay can happen in one or more areas of development. Always be sure to follow the developmental milestones.

Can a Child with Developmental Delays Catch up?

Yes, it can be possible. 

Catching up a child with developmental delays involves a multifaceted approach that prioritizes early intervention and consistent support.  Some parents within my online courses, for example, have seen major changes and success in all areas of development within 6 months of using my techniques.

Dr. Michaud highlighted the importance of recognizing early markers, such as eye contact, cooing, and joint attention, to identify potential delays.

Once identified, tailored strategies, including speech and language therapy, behavioral interventions, and parent training, are implemented to address these delays.

Dr. Michaud explains how parents are guided on how to create an engaging and supportive environment at home, utilizing techniques that encourage interaction and communication.

Regular assessments, like my digital assessment,  help track progress and adjust interventions as needed. This proactive approach not only helps developmentally delayed children reach their developmental milestones but also empowers parents with the tools and confidence to support their child’s growth effectively.

Developmental Delay vs. Autism

Understanding the differences between developmental delay and autism is crucial for appropriate intervention and support. Dr. Michaud outlined several key distinctions and I also discuss this in my popular video blog on speech delay vs. autism:

  • Social Engagement: Children with developmental delays typically maintain strong social engagement, displaying frequent eye contact and joint attention. In contrast, children with autism may struggle with social interactions and may not seek out eye contact or engage in shared attention.
  • Receptive Abilities: Developmentally delayed children often have better receptive language skills, such as following simple instructions like “touch your head” or “go get your shoes.” Children with autism might have difficulties with both expressive and receptive language and may not follow directions as readily. 
  • Gestures and Pointing: While children with developmental delays might use gestures like pointing or bringing objects to show interest, children with autism may lack these social gestures and might not follow a point or show shared interest.
  • Imitation Skills: Children with developmental delays usually exhibit imitation skills, whereas children with autism may not imitate others’ actions or sounds as readily.
  • Interest and Focus: Children with autism may fixate on certain objects or activities and show less interest in social interactions compared to children with developmental delays, who are more likely to engage in a variety of activities and social play.

Recognizing these differences can guide parents and professionals in seeking the appropriate evaluations and interventions to support each child’s unique needs.

However, regardless of if the diagnosis is “just” a speech delay, developmental delay or autism, starting early intervention and learning how to support a child is very important. 

Autism Sibling Studies

developmental delay. autism siblings.
Families who already have a child with autism, are 20 % more likely to have another child with autism or developmental delays.

Noticing a developmental delay, or autism early, can be life changing. This is why there are autism sibling studies that are available to those who may have an autism sibling so that any developmental concerns can be targeted earlier. 

Dr. Michaud’s sibling study focuses on identifying early markers of autism in infants who have an older sibling diagnosed with the condition. Given that these infants are at a higher risk, the study meticulously tracks developmental milestones from birth to 18 months, assessing behaviors every two weeks.

By observing indicators such as eye contact, cooing, and reciprocal interactions, Dr. Michaud’s team aims to detect early signs of autism much sooner than traditional methods. The study employs the Early Markers of Autism (EMA) assessment, a tool specifically designed for this purpose.

Through this intensive monitoring, the research not only seeks to pinpoint the onset of autism-related behaviors but also provides immediate interventions to support developmental progress. This pioneering approach aims to enhance early detection and treatment, ultimately improving outcomes for high-risk infants.

If you are concerned about your child and want a quick starting place. You can take my quick 10-minute online digital assessment.

How to Help a Child with a Developmental Delay? 

Helping a child with developmental delays involves a comprehensive approach that includes early detection, tailored interventions, and continuous support. The earlier this support is provided, the better. 

Dr. Michaud emphasizes the importance of engaging both parents and professionals in this process to create an environment that promotes the child’s growth and development. Without parents supporting their kids outside of therapy, progress will not be as quick. 

  • Early Detection of Developmental Delays:

  • Tailored Interventions:

  • Parent Training and Support:

    • Educate parents on how to create a supportive and stimulating home environment.
    • Teach techniques to encourage eye contact, cooing, and joint attention.
    • Provide resources and guidance on activities that promote developmental progress, such as interactive play and structured routines.
  • Regular Assessment and Adjustment:

    • Conduct frequent assessments to monitor the child’s progress.
    • Adjust intervention strategies based on the child’s evolving needs and responses.
    • Maintain open communication between parents, therapists, and educators to ensure cohesive and adaptive support.

By following these steps, parents and professionals can work together to help children with developmental delays reach their full potential.

Key Takeaways for Developmental Delay Early Intervention

  1. Early Detection is Crucial:

    • Identifying developmental delays and early signs of autism as soon as possible can significantly improve outcomes for children.
    • Key markers to watch for include eye contact, cooing, joint attention, and reciprocal interactions. Being overly focused on objects over people, is concerning. 
  2. Higher Risk in Siblings:

    • Infants with an older sibling diagnosed with autism have a 20% higher likelihood of developing autism themselves.
    • Sibling studies, like Dr. Michaud’s, focus on these high-risk groups to track early markers and intervene promptly. If you have another child, consider seeking an autism sibling study.
  3. Importance of Parent Training:

    • Teaching parents how to engage with their children effectively is vital for fostering developmental milestones. It is why I created online courses! 
    • Techniques such as creating distraction-free environments and encouraging interactive play can support the child’s progress. For example, try engaging with your child away from ceiling fans or bright stimulating lights. 
  4. Tailored Interventions:

    • Interventions should be customized to address specific areas of delay, including speech and language therapy, behavioral therapy, and occupational therapy.
    • Early intervention programs (EI) are essential resources for accessing these tailored services.
  5. Continuous Monitoring and Support:

    • Regular assessments and adjustments to intervention strategies are necessary to meet the child’s evolving needs.
    • Ongoing communication between parents, therapists, and educators ensures cohesive and effective support for the child.
  6. Holistic Approach:

    • Addressing all aspects of a child’s development, including social, emotional, and cognitive skills, is crucial for comprehensive support.
    • Parents should be proactive in seeking resources and support to help their child thrive. There is no evidence in waiting and seeing, so even if your doctor is not being proactive, use my courses to help support your child.