Developmental Delays

Also known as: DM.

What are developmental delays?

Whenever a child fails to reach (lags behind) a set of developmental milestone (a significant point of progress) for physical/motor (movement), in language and communication, social, or behavioral function, and/or cognitive ability (to think, learn, and solve problems) at their expected time, it's known as developmental delay.

What causes developmental delays?

Causes include those that can occur before birth (genetic and/or chromosomal abnormalities, infections or other maternal problems), difficulties around birth or problems occurring after birth e.g. premature birth, lack of oxygen, infections, and other causes. In some cases the cause is unknown.

What are the symptoms of developmental delays?

Symptoms of developmental delays vary widely depending on the nature and severity of the delay. While every child develops at his/her own pace, children with developmental delay may have:

  • movement/motor problems (may not be able to grasp objects or stack blocks as early as they should be able to)
  • trouble with language (speaking, reading)
  • social difficulties (interacting with other children or behaving differently)
  • difficulty with vision
  • abnormalities in cognitive function (thinking, organizing, learning etc.).

What are developmental delay care options?

The best treatment outcomes for developmental delays occur when the delay is recognized and treated early. Specific problems like hearing, vision or speech problems or broader issues all need a multidisciplinary team to both fully evaluate and treat so as to allow your child to develop to his/her fullest potential. Some children will improve significantly with intervention, others may require ongoing rehabilitation and other therapies plus special education programs to address learning difficulties.


Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf, MD, FAAP

This page was last updated on: September 09, 2020 11:17 AM

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