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Developmental Delays in Children

What is a Developmental Delay?

A developmental delay refers to a child who has not gained the developmental skills expected compared to others of the same age. Developmental delays are impairments in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. Children develop at their own pace but it is important to hit certain milestones at certain ages in childhood. Early detection is important for your child to reach their full potential. 

Causes of Developmental Delay

Most developmental delays are thought to be caused by a mix of factors. They can begin anytime during the developmental period of a child's life. Factors that can contribute commonly occur before a child is born, during the birth process, and after birth. These factors could include:

  • Genetic or hereditary conditions like down syndrome
  • Metabolic disorders like phenylketonuria (PKU)
  • Trauma to the brain, such as shaken baby syndrome
  • Severe psychosocial trauma, such as post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Exposure to certain toxic substances like prenatal alcohol exposure or lead poisoning
  • Some very serious infections
  • Deprivation of food or environment

Signs and Symptoms of Developmental Delay

Developmental delays look similar in most children who experience them. Some symptoms may be noticeable in infancy, but in other cases they may not be noticeable until your child reaches school age. Here are a few things you can look for:

  • Difficulties talking or talking late
  • Having problems remembering things
  • Inability to connect actions with consequences
  • Difficulty with problem-solving or logical thinking
  • Rolling over, sitting up, crawling, or walking much later than developmentally appropriate

Treatment and Therapies

There is no cure for a developmental delay but there are therapies directed to help with the specific area of delay. These types of therapies may include:

  • Physical Therapy- helpful for children with delays in gross motor skills.
  • Occupational Therapy- addressing fine motor skills, sensory processing and self-help issues.
  • Speech and Language Therapy- addressing  problems in the areas of understanding and producing language and speech sounds.
  • Early Childhood Special Education- provides stimulation for early developmental skills, including play skills.
  • Behavioral therapy- addressing behavioral difficulties that affect socially appropriate behaviors.

If you think your child might have a developmental delay or you think there could be a problem with the way your child plays, learns, speaks, or acts, contact your child’s doctor, and share your concerns.