What are the types of developmental delays?
Parents often look forward to watching their children reach new milestones. Developmental milestones cover different skill areas such as walking, talking, and critical thinking. When these skills seem to be delayed in your child, it can be alarming. Many times, delays can be overcome through early intervention, but delayed milestones can also serve as warning signs to underlying problems.
Children may experience delays in their physical, emotional, and mental growth. In the event of delayed development, early detection and treatment is key to helping your child grow properly. The different developmental delays you may notice in your child might include problems in:
- Speech or language
- Movement or motor skills
- Emotional and social skills
- Cognitive skills
Developmental delays are often most noticeable between infancy up to the age of two.
What are the causes of developmental delays?
Children meet their milestones at different rates and may experience delays due to varying reasons. Children with genetic conditions like muscular dystrophy and Down syndrome are more likely to experience developmental delays.
Delayed developmental growth may also arise from malnutrition. Most breastfed infants don’t experience malnutrition, but once you start weaning them, the risk of nutritional imbalances rises.
Here are a few early warning signs if you’re worried about your child’s development.
Speech or Language Developmental Delays
Speech covers the verbal expression and forming of words, while language is much broader and refers to the system of receiving and expressing information. Language delays aren’t unusual. They rank as one of the most common types of developmental delays.
By three to four months, most children can babble and respond to loud noises. By 12 to 17 months, toddlers can typically:
- Copy simple words
- Imitate sounds
- Say two-word phrases or short sentences
- Early childhood neglect or abuse
- Neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy
- Cleft lip and palate
- Conditions such as autism
Assessing your child’s hearing, expressive language (how they communicate), and receptive language (how they understand language) is key to determining the cause of speech or language delay. Speech therapy sessions can then help manage symptoms.
Motor Developmental Delays
Delays in motor development may arise from problems in gross motor skills or fine motor skills. Gross motor skills involve the movement of large groups of muscles such as arms, and legs, while fine motor skills involve the movement of small groups of muscles such as the wrist, hands, and toes.
Most children can hold items, bring items towards their mouths, and support their heads by three to four months. By 12 months, most children can walk.
Signs of a motor development delay include not being able to walk by 18 months or not developing a heel-to-toe walking pattern.
To improve gross motor skills, your child’s doctor may encourage more physical activities or physical therapy if they are diagnosed with motor delays. Through active play, children get to practice and improve on their large body movements.
Occupational therapy involving tasks like playing with clay, using scissors, or doing puzzles can help improve your child’s fine motor skills.
Emotional and Social Developmental Delays
As they get older, children gradually develop more complex emotional and social skills. By one year, toddlers typically:
- Enjoy playing peek-a-boo
- Get shy or nervous around strangers
- Show affection towards parents
- Become distressed when separated from parents
Children may experience problems interacting with other children or adults. These problems may arise from cognitive delays, neglect, or attachment issues.
The earliest sign of delayed social development is the lack of a social smile by three months. Babies with social development delays may also get easily scared by new faces and may not show affection to caregivers.
For children with social development delays, play therapy helps by improving the immediate relationship between child and parent. Your child can then continue learning to develop meaningful relationships with people around them.
Cognitive Developmental Delays
Cognitive skills involve how children think, explore, and solve problems. They allow children to understand the world around them. By one year, most children can respond to their names. By two years, children should:
- Know the use of everyday items like spoons, toothbrushes, and hairbrushes
- Start to copy words and actions
- Follow simple instructions
Delays in cognitive skills may arise from:
Early detection makes a big difference in the progress your child makes. The use of behavioral therapy, play therapy, and educational intervention can help your child develop specific cognitive skills.
Seeking professional help
Normally, developmental delays are not serious, and most children eventually catch up. There are, however, cases like autism spectrum disorders, fetal alcohol syndrome, and genetic defects where serious developmental delays may be persistent.
As a concerned parent, it’s natural to worry. If you notice signs of lagging development in your child, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice and assistance. Your child’s pediatrician will provide extra guidance on the best course of action depending on the underlying cause.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Clinic Epidemiology and Global Health: "Effects of malnutrition on child development: Evidence from a backward district of India."
Department of Seniors, Disability Services and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Partnerships: "Physical and Cognitive Development Milestones."
Emirates Research Publishing: "Role of Child Abuse and Neglect in Children's Speech and Language Problems."
eXtension Alliance for Better Child Care: "Play Activities to Encourage Motor Development in Child Care."
Healthy Children: "Developmental Milestones: 2 Year Olds," "Language Delays in Toddlers: Information for Parents."
NCBI: "Effect of Early Neglect on Child Development."
Merck Manuals Professional Version: "Childhood Development."
Open Access Scientific Reports: "Nutritional Status of Ethiopian Weaning and Complementary Foods: A Review."
Reading Rockets: "Speech and Language Developmental Milestones."
St Jude Children's Research Hospital: "Improving fine motor skills."
The Warren Center: "What Are Cognitive Development Delays," "What are Social and Emotional Development Delays?"
Top When Should I Worry About My Child’s Development Related Articles
At What Age Does Gender Identity Develop?Research shows that children recognize their own gender and gender in others starting as early as two or three years old.
Baby's First Year: Milestones Month by MonthWhen do babies learn to crawl? Start teething? Learn about major milestones in your baby's first months. Get tips on how to help baby learn, grow, and develop into a healthy toddler.
Baby's 1st Yr SlideshowWhat developmental milestones can you expect to see during baby's first year? Find out when babies learn to smile, laugh, crawl, and talk.
How Do I Choose a Developmentally Appropriate Toy for My Child?Most parents are worried about keeping their toddler or preschooler occupied in a way that will have a positive effect on their development. To choose a developmentally appropriate toy for your child choose open-ended toys, steer clear of electronics, stay away from educational toys and pick toys that will grow with your child and encourage them to be active.
Developmental ScreeningDevelopmental screening helps doctors and nurses to know if a child is learning basic skills at the right time or if the child might have a problem. Behavioral and developmental disabilities include autism, intellectual disability (also known as mental retardation), and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Early intervention and detection of delays can help a child to reach his/her full potential.
Differences: Autism and Pervasive DevelopmentPervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) are a set of behavioral disorders that are present since early childhood. Although there is an overlap in the features of autism and PDDs, PDDs typically do not meet “all” the criteria for classical autism or Asperger’s syndrome. Both PDDs and autism cause a “socially awkward child.”
What Are Good Chores for a Young Child (5 to 8 Years)?Giving your children chores has benefits that will last a lifetime. Good chores for a child between 5 and 8 years of age include making their bed, picking out their clothes, putting dirty clothes in the hamper, and other activities.
How Can I Help My 5-Month-Old Baby’s Development?Babies at five months of age are developing rapidly. Parents can help their five-month-old baby's development by talking and reading to their baby. Teaching, cuddling and entertaining your baby are important, too.
How Do You Identify Developmental Delays?According to the CDC, about one in six children in the United States has one or another kind of developmental delay or developmental disability. Possible signs of developmental delay include a baby not being able to hold their head up by 4 months of age; can't sit well by 10 months of age; doesn't move their arms or legs; has an unusual cry; doesn't want to stand up and other signs.
How Much Screen Time Should Kids Have? Age by Age GuidePediatricians and child psychologists have recommended setting screen time limits for children. The limits generally vary based on the age group of the children.
Pervasive Development DisordersPervasive development disorders (PPDs) are conditions involving developmental delays in children. There are five types of PDDs: autism, Asperger's syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, Rett's syndrome, and pervasive development disorders not otherwise specified (PDDNOS).
What Is Typical Development for a 15-Year-Old Daughter?At age 15, your daughter is smack dab in the middle of adolescence. Here’s what to expect from your 15-year-old daughter during this challenging age.
What Are the 5 Stages of Child Development?Children undergo various changes in terms of physical, speech, intellectual and cognitive development gradually until adolescence. The five stages of child development include the newborn, infant, toddler, preschool and school-age stages.
What Are the 6 Stages of Brain Development?The 6 stages of brain development that happen in the first three years of your life have lasting impacts.
What Is a Toddler's Development?Toddler’s development includes the physical, emotional, behavioral and mental growth of children from ages one to three years old. The various factors that influence the toddler’s development include the family's culture, environment, socioeconomic status and genetics.