Developmental Delay is when a child does not reach their developmental milestones at the expected times. It is an ongoing delay in the process of development. Delay can occur in one or many areas such as: gross/ or fine motor functioning, language processing, social skills, emotional functioning and/or learning. If a child is temporarily lagging behind, that is not considered a true developmental delay. A child with a global delay will have delays in all areas of development. Developmental delay can have many different causes, such as genetic causes (like Down syndrome), or complications of pregnancy and birth (like prematurity or infections). Often, however, the specific cause is unknown.
Developmental Delay is most often a diagnosis made by a doctor based on specific guidelines. Usually, though, the parent is the first to notice that their child is not progressing at the same rate as other children the same age. If you think your child is struggling in a developmental area or “seems behind,” talk with your child’s doctor about your specific concerns. Often an Occupational Therapist, Speech Therapist, Physical Therapist, and/or an Educational Specialist can evaluate and identify the existing developmental challenges and provide a treatment plan to begin to address specific areas. Sometimes a referral to a pediatric neurologist and/or developmental pediatrician for further evaluation is warranted.
Developmental milestones are a set of functional skills or age-specific tasks that most children can do at a certain age range. Although each milestone has an age level, the actual age when a typically developing child reaches that milestone can vary quite a bit. Every child is unique! Some signs that your infant may not be meeting his normal motor milestones could include: not being able to bring his hands together by 4 months, not rolling over by 6 months, having a head lag when being pulled to a sitting position after 6 months, not sitting by himself without support by 8 months, not crawling by 12 months, and not walking by 15 months. Remember that mild delays in motor development can be normal, and there is a range during which these milestones are usually met, so your child may not meet each one at the same time as other children.
A delay in fine motor skills in older children may be manifested by not being able to use a spoon or fork, tie his shoes, button his clothes, write his name, draw shapes, color inside the lines, or hold a pencil correctly at the age appropriate time, or by having poor handwriting. A delay in gross motor skills in older children may include not being able to ride a tricycle or bicycle, being clumsy, or not walking correctly.