What is Developmental Delay in Children?

From the moment your child is born, they start moving towards developmental milestones as they learn new skills and how to do things independently. These milestones can range from learning to hold objects to emotional development. There are many guidelines regarding when you can expect your child to reach certain milestones. That said, no two children are the same; each child develops at their own rate. 

Sometimes, a child may experience difficulties or develop slowly in certain areas. This can happen at any stage of childhood, and early diagnosis and treatment ensure that they get the support they need. In this post, we will explore developmental delays in children and how to support your child best if they have it.  

What is a developmental delay in children? 

A developmental delay is when your child is slower to reach one or more developmental milestones than their peers. As your child starts growing physically, they will also develop cognitive, motor, emotional, speech, and social skills.  

Your child will reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, act, and move throughout their childhood. Some developmental milestones include: 

  • Smiling
  • Rolling over
  • Crawling
  • Standing up
  • Saying their first words
  • Taking their first steps

It is important to remember that all kids develop at different rates, so a child not speaking or crawling when others her age are doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s anything to worry about. However, if you notice that your child is continually behind in developing one or more skills by a certain age, then your child may have a developmental delay.  

Developmental Delay in Children

Types of developmental delays 

Different types of developmental delays can impact children at various ages, such as: 

Cognitive skills: How your child learns, thinks, and understands information. If there are any delays in this category, they could experience challenges following directions, solving problems, or remembering information.

Social and emotional skills: These include understanding social cues, expressing feelings, and the ability to communicate needs. Any delays in this area can cause issues when it comes to developing relationships and dealing with change.

Speech and language skills: These skills help kids use and understand language. Delays in this area can make it difficult for children to say words or make sense of what other people are saying. 

Fine and gross motor skills: This involves using muscles and limbs to move and interact with the environment. Minor motor skills include holding a toy or using a crayon, while gross motor skills involve more significant movements such as jumping, climbing stairs, or throwing a ball. Delays in these areas can be a cause of frustration for the child.  

What causes developmental delays in children? 

Numerous factors impact whether a child has a developmental delay. These include: 

  • Being born prematurely or having low birth weight
  • Infections or complications during pregnancy
  • Genetic conditions such as Down syndrome
  • Malnutrition 
  • Physical abuse or neglect 
  • Exposure to toxins such as lead
  • Alcohol or tobacco usage during pregnancy
  • Health conditions such as chronic ear infections.

Developmental delays can also be a symptom of other conditions, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD), cerebral palsy, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. However, in some cases, there may not be any apparent cause, or it might just be that your child develops more slowly than other kids and will catch up later in life. In all cases, if you have any concerns, book an appointment with your doctor for a checkup.  

How are developmental delays treated?  

The first thing to do is contact your doctor to arrange a checkup and a developmental screening, where your healthcare specialist will ask questions about your child’s development and any challenges they are facing. If any issues are identified, your experienced pediatrician will conduct further tests or refer your child to a developmental specialist.  

The good news is that many developmental delays will often resolve by themselves or get better with early intervention. Depending on the type of developmental delay, your child may benefit from: 

  • Physical therapy to help develop gross motor skills
  • Occupational therapy to develop fine motor skills and sensory processing
  • Speech and language therapy to help with communication
  • Behavioral therapy to develop social and emotional skills

Call us today if you are worried about your child’s development or wish to talk with one of our friendly board-certified pediatricians.