Development delay and your child

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Development delay is a hold-up in a young child in reaching early childhood physical and mental milestones, compared to other children of the same age.

Key points

  • Development delay, sometimes called global developmental delay, occurs when children don’t reach milestones that their peers are achieving
  • Children with developmental delay may need support with fine motor skills and gross motor skills, speech and language and social skills
  • Early intervention and therapy can help children to reach the milestones and continue developing

This delay may occur in the way a child moves, communicates, thinks, learns or behaves with others.

Symptoms of development delay include:

  • Achieving milestones at a different rate than the child’s peers
  • Difficulties speaking
  • Difficulty controlling breathing and speaking
  • Slow language development and understanding words resulting in a language delay
  • Difficulties combining physical movements into a controlled sequence, learning basic movement patterns and/or remembering the next movement in a sequence
  • Difficulties establishing the correct pencil grip and age-appropriate speed of writing
  • Poor balance and spatial awareness
  • Trouble picking up and holding onto simple objects
  • Difficulties with fine and gross motor skills
  • Difficulty with body awareness
  • Difficulties achieving and maintaining continence
  • Bed-wetting

Children with development delay require more time and effort to learn skills, may struggle with body movements, coordination and control, can take more time to respond to their surroundings and may need support to understand social interactions.

Risk factors for developmental delay include complications at birth, lead poisoning, poor nutrition, exposure to drugs and alcohol before birth, trauma, vision problems, illnesses and chronic ear infections – which can all affect a child’s development.

Early detection and early intervention are vital. Occupational therapy and speech therapy can help your child with developmental delay to achieve much-anticipated milestones, but the impact of patient and positive parenting strategies cannot be underestimated.

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