Developmental delays can affect a child's physical development, as well as their social and emotional development, communication skills, and learning abilities. As you watch your child grow and anticipate milestones, it's natural to wonder (and even worry about) whether their development is on track. Chances are that they'll develop just fine, on their own timeline. But if your child does have a delay, you'll want to catch it early so they can get a diagnosis and begin treatment.
Children develop at different rates, but most follow a general timeline. Most of the time, babies reach each developmental milestone (like rolling over, sitting, walking, and talking) right around the expected age, and if not, they catch up soon. If your child doesn't seem to be meeting milestones within several weeks of the average, ask their doctor about it.
Keep in mind that if your child was born prematurely, they might sometimes need a bit more time than other kids their age to reach the various developmental stages. Doctors may track a premature baby's development using their due date rather than their actual birth date until age 2 or 3.
As a general rule, trust your instincts. If something seems odd or wrong to you about the way your baby or child moves or acts, ask about it. After all, you know your little one best.
Signs of a development delay in babies, toddlers, and kids
The following are possible warning signs of a problem:
By 2 months
- Doesn't respond to loud sounds
- Doesn't watch things as they move
- Can't hold their head up when on their tummy
- Doesn't smile at people
- Doesn't bring hands to mouth
By 4 months
- Doesn't watch things as they move
- Doesn't smile at people
- Can't hold head steady
- Doesn't coo or make sounds
- Doesn't bring things to mouth
- Doesn't push down with legs when feet are placed on a hard surface
- Has trouble moving one or both eyes in all directions
By 6 months
- Doesn't try to grasp things within reach
- Shows no affection for caregivers
- Doesn't respond to sounds around them
- Has trouble bringing things to mouth
- Doesn't make vowel sounds
- Doesn't roll over in either direction (back to front or front to back)
- Doesn't laugh or squeal
- Seems very stiff, with tight muscles
- Seems very floppy, like a rag doll
By 9 months
- Doesn't bear weight on legs when supported
- Doesn't sit with help
- Doesn't babble
- Doesn't play games involving back-and-forth play
- Doesn't respond to own name
- Doesn't seem to recognize familiar people
- Doesn't look where you point
- Doesn't transfer toys from one hand to the other
By 12 months
- Doesn't crawl
- Can't stand with support
- Doesn't say single words like "mama" or "dada"
- Doesn't use gestures such as waving or shaking their head
- Doesn't point to things
- Doesn't search for things that they see you hide
- Loses skills they once had
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By 18 months
- Doesn't point to show things to others
- Can't walk
- Doesn't know what familiar things are for
- Doesn't copy others
- Doesn't gain new words
- Doesn't have at least 6 words
- Doesn't notice or mind when a caregiver leaves or returns
- Loses skills they once had
By 2 years
- Doesn't use 2-word phrases (such as "drink milk")
- Doesn't know what to do with common items, like a brush or fork
- Doesn't copy actions and words
- Doesn't follow simple instructions
- Doesn't walk steadily
- Loses skills they once had
By 3 years
- Falls down a lot or has trouble with stairs
- Drools or has very unclear speech
- Can't manipulate simple toys
- Doesn't speak in sentences
- Doesn't understand simple instructions
- Doesn't play pretend or make-believe
- Doesn't want to play with other children or with toys
- Doesn't make eye contact
- Loses skills they once had
By 4 years
- Can't jump in place
- Has trouble scribbling
- Shows no interest in interactive games or make-believe
- Ignores other children or doesn't respond to people outside the family
- Resists dressing, sleeping, and using the bathroom
- Can't retell a favorite story
- Doesn't follow 3-part instructions
- Doesn't understand "same" and "different"
- Doesn't use "me" and "you" correctly
- Speaks unclearly
- Loses skills they once had
By 5 years
- Doesn't show a wide range of emotions
- Shows extreme behavior (unusually fearful, aggressive, shy, or sad)
- Unusually withdrawn and not active
- Is easily distracted, has trouble focusing on one activity for more than 5 minutes
- Doesn't respond to people, or responds only superficially
- Doesn't play a variety of games and activities
- Can't give first and last name
- Doesn't use plurals or past tense properly
- Doesn't talk about daily activities or experiences
- Doesn't draw pictures
- Can't brush teeth, wash and dry hands, or get undressed without help
- Loses skills they once had
What does "developmental delay" mean?
Doctors use this term when a child doesn't reach developmental milestones within the broad range of what's considered normal. The delay might be in one or more areas: Gross motor skills such as sitting up and fine motor skills such as grasping and manipulating objects, communication and language skills (both understanding language and speaking), self-help skills (like toilet training and dressing), and social skills (such as making eye contact and playing with others).
What are the chances that my child has a developmental delay?
Various studies have reported that 10 to 15 percent of children under the age of 3 had a developmental delay, such as difficulty learning, communicating, playing, or performing physical activities or practical skills.
Early intervention can make a huge difference for many children with developmental delays, yet one study found that only about 3 percent of kids were getting appropriate attention. That's why it's important for you to speak up if you suspect your child has a developmental delay.
Some delays disappear by the time a child heads to school, while other problems won't be identified until later. About 14 percent of children under the age of 17 have issues such as speech and language impairments, an intellectual disability, learning disabilities, or emotional and behavioral problems.
Among children with developmental delays, about 40 percent have more than one developmental issue, and less than 2 percent have three or more.
If my child does have a delay, what could be causing it?
Sometimes delayed development has a medical cause, such as complications of a premature birth or a genetic condition like Down syndrome. Or it could be the result of a serious illness or accident.
Speech and language delay might stem from a hearing impairment or a problem with the larynx, throat, or nasal or oral cavity. Difficulties with communication might be related to a problem with the central nervous system.
Most often, though, no specific medical cause can be found to explain developmental delays.
Will my child's doctor check for developmental delays?
Yes, they should. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies and children be informally screened during visits for any potential delays and be given a formal, structured developmental screening at 9, 18, and 24 or 30 months. Plus, screenings can be done whenever a parent or provider has a concern.
The AAP also recommends that children be screened for autism at 18 and 24 months.
Your child's doctor should ask you about any concerns you have. Using standard developmental assessment tests, the doctor will look for specific motor skills, communication and language skills, and cognitive ability.
If they find anything of concern, they may do a more detailed test or refer you to a specialist in developmental issues. Your child will then have a developmental evaluation, which is a more in-depth assessment of their skills. Or, if your child seems to have a language or communication delay, the doctor may send them to a speech pathologist for an evaluation.
Vision and hearing problems – which may affect development in other areas – can be hard to spot unless you're a professional. Eye and ear checkups should also be part of every checkup for your child, beginning with their first doctor visits as a newborn. If your child's doctor suspects a problem, they may recommend more thorough hearing or vision tests.
If you're worried about your child's development between regular well-child visits, don't wait until the next one. Call the doctor and explain your concern. They may be able to calm your fears quickly, or they may want to schedule an appointment for a developmental screening right away.
If your child has been evaluated by their doctor and you're still concerned, don't hesitate to get another opinion. (It's a good idea to keep your child's primary care provider informed about visits to other doctors and their findings.)
Look for a specialist in developmental issues, or consult a speech pathologist if you're concerned about your child's language delay. In addition, most communities have early intervention programs that provide free developmental evaluations and screenings to those who qualify.
- Delays in rolling over, sitting up, crawling and walking.
- Trouble with fine motor skills.
- Problems understanding what others say.
- Trouble with problem-solving.
- Issues with social skills.
- Problems talking or talking late.
- Difficulty remembering things.
- Inability to connect actions with consequences.
Language and Speech Developmental Delays. These are not unusual delays in toddlers. Language and speech problems are the most common type of developmental delays.What is an example of developmental delay in toddlers? ›
It is common for children with developmental delays to have difficulty with social and emotional skills. For example, they may have trouble understanding social cues, initiating communication with others, or carrying on two-way conversations. They may also have difficulty dealing with frustration or coping with change.What are the 5 categories of developmental delays? ›
There are four major types of developmental delays. They are cognitive; sensorimotor; speech and language; and socioemotional delays.What are red flags in child development? ›
Months Is not gazing at objects; does not tune out repetitive sounds; does not move eyes to follow sound Does not respond to loud sounds Does not coo or make sounds When lying on back: keeps hands fisted and lacks arm movements; is not bringing hands to mouth; lacks symmetrical arm movements; does not turn head to ...How do you detect developmental delay? ›
Assessment for developmental delay in primary care settings should include a general and systemic examination, including plotting growth centiles, hearing and vision assessment, baseline blood tests if deemed necessary, referral to a developmental paediatrician, and counselling the parents.What are 4 causes of developmental delay? ›
- 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.
To put it simply, a developmental delay is when your child does not reach their developmental milestones at the expected times, whilst Autism refers to a group of complex neurodevelopmental disorders, present from early childhood which is characterised by the difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with ...What are the behaviors of developmental delays? ›
Learning disorders such as dyslexia, writing difficulties, and math disorders. Attention and behavioral disorders including ADHD, depression, anxiety, conduct problems and discipline difficulties. Developmental disabilities including cerebral palsy and spina bifida. Tics, Tourette syndrome, and other habit disorders.How do I know if my baby is behind developmentally? ›
Exhibiting some of the following signs can mean that your child has delays in developing certain fine or gross motor functions: floppy or loose trunk and limbs. stiff arms and legs. limited movement in arms and legs.
Signs of developmental delay
But as a general guide, you might be concerned about developmental delay if you notice that, over several months, your child isn't developing motor, social or language skills at the same rate as other children the same age.
Developmental disabilities are lifelong, though people can still make progress and thrive. Conditions that can cause developmental disabilities include Down syndrome, autism, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), and brain injuries. Sometimes it's hard to determine if a young child has a delay or a disability.What is the most common cause of developmental delay? ›
These factors include genetics; parental health and behaviors (such as smoking and drinking) during pregnancy; complications during birth; infections the mother might have during pregnancy or the baby might have very early in life; and exposure of the mother or child to high levels of environmental toxins, such as lead ...What causes slow development in a child? ›
What causes developmental delay? Prematurity, medical problems (ranging from stroke to chronic ear infection), lead poisoning, and trauma all have the potential to cause developmental delay, but sometimes the cause is unknown.What are the top 5 developmental disabilities? ›
- Autism spectrum disorder. ...
- Cerebral palsy. ...
- Down syndrome. ...
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. ...
- Intellectual disabilities.
- Lines up toys or other objects and gets upset when order is changed.
- Repeats words or phrases over and over (called echolalia)
- Plays with toys the same way every time.
- Is focused on parts of objects (for example, wheels)
- Gets upset by minor changes.
- Has obsessive interests.
If your child is not meeting the milestones for his or her age, or if you think there could be a problem with the way your child plays, learns, speaks, acts, and moves talk to your child's doctor and share your concerns. Don't wait. Acting early can make a real difference!What are red flags of autism? ›
Children with autism may exhibit rigidity, inflexibility and certain types of repetitive behavior such as: Insistence on following a specific routine. Having difficulty accepting changes in the schedule. A strong preoccupation with a particular interest.When do developmental delays show up? ›
Some types of developmental delays, such as speech, gross motor, and fine motor delays, may be apparent during infancy or in the toddler years. Other types, such as high-level cognitive, sensory processing, social and emotional delays, may only become obvious when a child begins school.How do I know if my baby is slow? ›
- Delayed rolling over, sitting, or walking.
- Poor head and neck control.
- Muscle stiffness or floppiness.
- Speech delay.
- Swallowing difficulty.
- Body posture that is limp or awkward.
- Muscle spasms.
Services include hearing and vision tests; speech therapy; physical and occupational therapy; and family education and counseling. The goal is to help babies and toddlers attain key developmental milestones, such as walking, talking, and interacting with others, before they begin school.Can developmental delays be normal? ›
Most developmental delays are not serious and usually correct themselves. And for some, there is no known cause. However, if your child does have some form of developmental delay, there are things that you can do to address it.Is ADHD a developmental delay? ›
The Americans with Disabilities Act recognizes Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a developmental disability. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , developmental disabilities are conditions that affect learning, language, physical, or behavioral areas.How can I help my child with developmental delay? ›
Incorporating visual supports, such as physically modeling a task, labels, or boundary markers on a floor helps a child with a developmental delay children better understand what is expected of them so they are less likely to engage in problematic behavior.Can a child be developmentally delayed but not autistic? ›
Children with autism usually experience developmental delays in one or more areas, but not every child who experiences a delay in their development has autism.Is developmental delay a mental health issue? ›
However, mental illness and developmental disabilities are not the same, although many people with developmental disabilities often experience co-occurring mental disorders. When someone with a developmental disorder also has a mental illness, it's known as a dual diagnosis.Is developmental delay a learning disability? ›
By the age of 5 years, a developmental delay is more likely to be described as a long term learning difficulty/disability or intellectual disability (these terms are sometimes used interchangeably). Your child may need some additional support in school or even an Education Health Care Plan.What is mental developmental delay? ›
Intellectual disability is a term used when a person has certain limitations in mental functioning and in skills such as communicating, taking care of him or herself, and social skills. These limitations will cause a child to learn and develop more slowly than a typical child.How do I know if my baby has learning disability? ›
- Problems reading and/or writing.
- Problems with math.
- Poor memory.
- Problems paying attention.
- Trouble following directions.
- Trouble telling time.
- Problems staying organized.
High-functioning pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) have only recently been widely recognised; they are diagnosed mainly in children. Key features are impaired social cognition and communication; obsessive interests, routines or activities; and social or occupational dysfunction.
To put it simply, a developmental delay is when your child does not reach their developmental milestones at the expected times, whilst Autism refers to a group of complex neurodevelopmental disorders, present from early childhood which is characterised by the difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with ...Do parents cause developmental delays? ›
Advanced parental age (both maternal and paternal) can result in birth defects, low birth weight, increased risk of premature birth. All these factors can lead to developmental issues in children in later life.Do delayed kids catch up? ›
Between 70–80% of Late Talkers seem to catch up to their peers by the time they enter school. Sometimes these children are called “late bloomers” because they eventually seem to catch up to other children their age.What is considered a developmental disability? ›
Developmental disabilities are a group of conditions due to an impairment in physical, learning, language, or behavior areas. These conditions begin during the developmental period, may impact day-to-day functioning, and usually last throughout a person's lifetime.What causes toddlers not to grow? ›
Slow growth occurs when a child is not growing at the average rate for their age. The delay may be due to an underlying health condition, such as growth hormone deficiency. Some growth problems are genetic. Others are caused by a hormonal disorder or the inadequate absorption of food.What is the number 1 disability in the world? ›
The CDC reports that arthritis is the most common cause of disability for U.S. adults. It often worsens as someone gets older. If someone has another disability, they also are more likely to have arthritis.What is the most common childhood disability? ›
The most common developmental disability is intellectual disability. Cerebral palsy is the second most common developmental disability, followed by autism spectrum disorder.What is the fastest growing developmental disability? ›
Autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder in the United States.What are delayed milestones in a 2 year old? ›
Tell your doctor if your child can't do any of the following by age 2: Walk properly -- they should not be walking exclusively on their toes or unsteadily after several months of walking. Say a two-word sentence. Imitate actions or words.
A child with a speech delay tends to naturally use body language and eye contact. Autistic children, on the other hand, may have trouble with social interaction, play skills, communication, and behavior. Children with autism may prefer to be alone.
By the age of 2, your toddler is talking, walking, climbing, jumping, running and bustling with energy. Your child now has a growing vocabulary and acquires new words on a regular basis. She/he can sort shapes and colours and may even show an interest in potty training.What does speech delay look like in a 2 year old? ›
by 2 years: can only imitate speech or actions and doesn't produce words or phrases spontaneously. by 2 years: says only some sounds or words repeatedly and can't use oral language to communicate more than their immediate needs. by 2 years: can't follow simple directions.What can cause developmental delay? ›
These factors include genetics; parental health and behaviors (such as smoking and drinking) during pregnancy; complications during birth; infections the mother might have during pregnancy or the baby might have very early in life; and exposure of the mother or child to high levels of environmental toxins, such as lead ...What is considered developmental delay? ›
• When a child's progression through predictable developmental phases slows, stops, or reverses. •Symptoms include slower-than-normal development of motor, cognitive, social, and emotional skills.Is developmental delay on the autism spectrum? ›
Although some of the signs and symptoms of developmental delays and autism may look the same, they are two different conditions.What are warning signs of autism? ›
- Avoids or does not keep eye contact.
- Does not respond to name by 9 months of age.
- Does not show facial expressions like happy, sad, angry, and surprised by 9 months of age.
- Does not play simple interactive games like pat-a-cake by 12 months of age.
The child may seem to have one-sided social interaction and limited ability to form friendships. He or she may often talk incessantly about one subject, without acknowledging the listener. Toddler's with HFA usually have difficulty in social situations (e.g., imaginative play with other kids).How can you tell if your child is mildly autistic? ›
Autism in young children
not smiling when you smile at them. getting very upset if they do not like a certain taste, smell or sound. repetitive movements, such as flapping their hands, flicking their fingers or rocking their body. not talking as much as other children.
Between the ages of 2 and 3, most children: Speak in two- and three-word phrases or sentences. Use at least 200 words and as many as 1,000 words. Ask questions that start with who, what, where or why, such as "Where is mommy?"What words should a 2 year old be saying? ›
Should a 2 Year Old Learn Colors? A two-year-old may not be able to understand the concept of colors completely but they should be able to identify at least one color at this age. By this time, the child should learn how to name colors and identify basic shapes and numbers.