It has not been determined whether severity of handicap or other associated factors are more important in determining the age of presentation for developmental disabilities. The relationship between age at presentation and referral source, presenting complaint, diagnosis, and associated factors (medical illness, motor signs, or behavioral disturbances) was examined in 738 consecutive children referred for developmental evaluation during 1982-1983. The nature of the complaint or diagnosis (motor, language, behavioral, or educational) was a far better predictor of age of presentation than the severity of the disorder. The degree of mental retardation did not affect age of presentation. Behavior problems did not affect the age of presentation for school failure or learning disability, but were associated with later presentation for motor delay, language delay, communication disorder, and within all IQ groups. The association of topography of handicap rather than severity with age of presentation should be considered when establishing or evaluating efforts at early identification of developmental disability.