Kids don’t develop skills on a strict timetable. For example, some babies start walking as young as 9 months, while others don’t take their first steps until 15 months. Both of those babies are within the range of typical development. And minor differences in when kids perform a skill usually aren’t cause for concern.
But a developmental delay is more than just being “slower to develop” or “a little behind.” It’s a substantial lag. It means your child is continually behind in skills other kids his age have. For example, a baby who isn’t rolling over by 4 months may be just a little behind in that one skill. But if he also isn’t able to hold his head up and push up when lying on his tummy, he’s behind in more than one motor skill. That’s a sign of a developmental delay.
However, a developmental delay is often diagnosed when a child does not reach their developmental milestone when expected. They can range from minor to something more significant. They might simply be late talkers, late walkers, late eaters, late toileters, etc. or, they might also have more pressing needs such as seizures, health problems, lack of communication etc. Developmental delays can be an early sign of a learning or attention issue. Early detection and intervention is important to help your child develop skills.
Do you suspect that your child might have a developmental delay? If your child isn’t catching up as quickly as expected, the school can do formal testing to find out more about your child’s strengths and weaknesses. The tests show how kids’ skills compare to those of their peers. They also show how kids think and solve problems. The results can help to determine whether a child has a learning or attention issue. It’s not always easy to make the link between delays and learning or attention issues until kids start school. That’s when teachers can see how kids do in areas like math, reading and spelling. They can also see how well kids focus in class.
Five Areas of Skill Development and Possible Delay
A developmental delay can occur in just one area or in a few. A global developmental delay is when kids have delays in at least two areas. Kids develop skills in five main areas of development:
1. Cognitive (or thinking) skills: This is the ability to think, learn and solve problems. In babies, this looks like curiosity. It’s how your child explores the world around him with his eyes, ears and hands. In toddlers, it also includes things like learning to count, naming colors and learning new words.
2. Social and emotional skills: This is the ability to relate to other people. That includes being able to express and control emotions. In babies, it means smiling at others and making sounds to communicate. In toddlers and preschoolers, it means being able to ask for help, show and express feelings and get along with others.
3. Speech and language skills: This is the ability to use and understand language. For babies, this includes cooing and babbling. In older children, it includes understanding what’s said and using words correctly and in ways that others can understand.
4. Fine and gross motor skills: This is the ability to use small muscles (fine motor), particularly in the hands, and large muscles (gross motor) in the body. Babies use fine motor skills to grasp objects. Toddlers and preschoolers use them to do things like hold utensils, work with objects and draw. Babies use gross motor skills to sit up, roll over and begin to walk. Older children use them to do things like jump, run and climb stairs.
5. Activities of daily living: This is the ability to handle everyday tasks. For children, that includes eating, washing their hands, dressing and bathing themselves.
To learn more about the developmental milestones of your child, please click the link specific to your child’s age below:
- Developmental milestones for 2-year-olds
- Developmental milestones for 3-year-olds
- Developmental milestones for 4-year-olds
- Developmental milestones for kindergarten