Every child learns, grows, and develops in their own unique way. For many parents, watching their child achieve new and greater milestones is one of the true joys of parenthood. There are some times when a child struggles to meet one or two milestones within their age-appropriate range. This can be distressing for parents, and in some cases can be frustrating for the child.
To help you better understand your child’s potential challenges, it helps to build a deeper understanding of what developmental delay is, and what you might be able to do to help your child meet their milestones.
What Is Developmental Delay?
The term “Developmental Delay” refers to a child who has not displayed the developmental skills expected of him or her, by a specific age range. This is compared to other children of the same age, based on a large volume of collected data.
Development delay can occur in a wide variety of areas including
- Gross and fine motor function
- Expressive and receptive language
- Problem solving and cognitive skills
- Personal and social skills
What Is Global Developmental Delay?
The term “Global Developmental Delay” refers to a young child who has demonstrated significant delays in two or more of these areas of development. In many of these cases, there might be a learning disability, learning disorder, or physical condition.
If you have noticed your child is late in accomplishing multiple milestones or you have concerns about their developmental progress for their age, you should consult with your pediatrician. A thorough check up can help rule out any potential physical issues that are impeding your child’s natural development, such as hearing or vision issues. If your pediatrician has concerns that your child may be experiencing global development delay due to an undiagnosed learning disability or learning disorder, they can refer you to the right specialist to confirm the diagnosis.
What Causes Developmental Delay?
Developmental delay can be associated with a number of influences such as prenatal and birth factors, trauma, infections, genetic conditions, metabolic disorders, and toxins, such as lead. In most cases, however, a precise underlying cause is not found for the delay. Still, there are many treatments available for developmental delay, regardless of cause.
If there is a physical condition or other underlying medical reason that causes the developmental delay, your child’s pediatrician can help with identification and treatment. This can go a long way toward improving your child’s developmental skills.
What Are Common Signs & Symptoms of Developmental Delay?
Children display different signs and symptoms of developmental delay, and those signs can vary depending on age. There are also some forms of developmental delay that vary in children depending upon specific characteristics. In some cases, signs of development delay might present as early as infancy, but in other cases, they may not be noticeable until your child reaches school age.
Some of the more common signs and symptoms of developmental delay can include:
- Struggling to roll over on their own
- The inability to sit up on their own within the appropriate age range
- Learning to walk much later than developmentally appropriate for their age
- Difficulty communicating
- Difficulties learning to talk or making common phonetic sounds
- Learning basic skills slower than other children the same age
- Delay potty training
- Struggling to socialize with children or connect with adults and caregivers
- Below average scores on IQ tests
- Frequent problems remembering things
- Inability to connect actions with consequences
- Difficulty with problem-solving
- Cognitive struggles at home and in the classroom
- Trouble learning in school
- Inability to do everyday tasks for their age
Therapy Or Treatment For Developmental Delays
There is no cure for developmental delay. However, there are therapies and treatment strategies that can be directed to the specific type or types of delay. This can be very effective in helping children catch up to their peers, while also identifying future challenges to help parents and teachers prepare to support the child. These may include some of the following therapeutic methods.
Physical therapy is often very beneficial for children with developmental delays that involve gross motor skills. This helps the brain better learn to control the body and improve coordination. In many of these therapeutic strategies, physical therapy might also be used to help improve a child’s fine motor skills.
Occupational therapy can also be used to address fine motor skills. It can help with developmental delays related to sensory processing as well as addressing or improving self-help issues such as using the bathroom on their own.
Speech & Language Therapy
Speech & language therapy can be employed in a variety of ways to target and address problems in the areas of understanding and producing language and speech sounds. In very young children, it can help with feeding issues, since the same muscles of mastication (chewing) are used for both eating and speaking.
Early Childhood Special Education
Many ECFE (Early Childhood Family Education) programs offer access to early childhood special education. They provide stimulation for early developmental skills. This can include socialization and play skills.
Some children benefit from techniques that address delayed children with poor or inappropriate social behavior.