Developmental Delay

What is Developmental Delay?

Developmental delay is a term used to describe a baby or young child who is slower than expected in achieving the normal developmental milestones. This may affect gross and fine motor skills, speech and language skills, cognitive skills and/or social skills. A child diagnosed with global developmental delay will have delays in all their areas of development.

All babies and children develop at different rates and in their own time. Some children will walk earlier than other children, while other children may start talking earlier than their peers. Parents often feel under pressure and start to worry when their baby is later at achieving some developmental milestones than their friend’s baby.

In some children, developmental delay is suspected soon after birth because of feeding difficulties or unusual muscle tone. In other children, developmental delay is only suspected much later when learning or behavioural difficulties surface at school. There are many different causes for developmental delay. It is a common condition affecting 1-3% of the population. The delay may be caused by a child’s genetic makeup (eg Down’s syndrome), by problems during pregnancy (eg infection), around the time of delivery, especially if very premature (eg bleeding in the brain), early infancy (eg meningitis) or later in childhood (eg head injury).
A cause can be found in about half of cases.

Children with developmental delay may present with some of the following difficulties:

  • Appears very floppy
  • Muscles appear very tight, legs held stiff with little or no movement
  • Problems holding head upright
  • Unable to roll over by 6 months
  • Unable to sit on the floor without support by 8 months
  • Unable to crawl by 12 months
  • Unable to walk independently by 18 months

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