Every baby grows and develops at his/her own pace and the normal range for every milestone is quite wide. It is very important that a parent knows about the signs that indicate their child may not possess the skills of kids at the same age. In medical terms, this is known as developmental delay.
Often, these delays are not serious and most babies can catch up with their peers and show normal development with time. Early diagnosis and intervention is the key to ensure this. It is however, important to remember that babies do not adhere to a strict growth timetable. For instance, some babies learn to walk as early as 9 months while others take their first steps at 15 months. Both these babies fall in the typical range of development. Such minor time gaps are not a cause of concern.
A developmental delay is much more than just being slower than other babies. It indicates that the child is continually lagging in more than one skill that other kids of his age possess.
A baby who still doesn't roll at 4 months may be lagging in one skill. But if he is not able to hold his head or push himself up when lying down, he’s showing delay in more than one motor skills, which is considered to be one of the signs of developmental delay in infants.
Developmental delays can be seen in one or more areas. When toddlers show delays in two or more areas, it is known as global developmental delay.
Babies develop skills in the following areas:
Factors that cause developmental delays are many, and include:
Signs of cognitive delay are noted when the child:
Possible signs of social and emotional delay are:
Signs of motor delay are seen in a child who
Signs of speech delay in a child are worrisome when he
There is no specific cause of developmental delays. These delays could be an early sign of learning disorders or could be a genetic disorder. Hence, early detection is important to help the baby to develop further skills.
Management consists of individualized plans, tailored for the baby according to the age and the areas in which a delay is noted. Modalities that can be used include speech therapy, physical therapy, behaviour therapy, etc. It is crucial to check for hearing and vision loss as these can commonly simulate developmental delay. One should remember that support and patience form the foundation of management in such cases.