What are developmental delays?
Developmental delays are delays children experience in making progress at language, thinking and motor skills. Note that on the norms, different children would normally attain this milestone at different paces. Hence, some developmental delays are not threatening and the children who experience that usually catch up on time. However, there are some cases where a child experiences a delay which extends longer and has the potentiality of causing health issues in the child’s later life.
A variety of factors contribute to developmental delays. Common ones are issues during the pregnancy, preterm delivery, as well as genetics. Sometimes, the cause may be beyond diagnosis. At other times, developmental delays may come as a result of another underlying health issue. If as a parent you suspect your child is experiencing such delays, consult your child’s doctor. Such a child can be helped before the delay eats into his growing life. Let’s take a look at each of the aspect of developmental delays.
Motor Skill Delay
Motor skills are of two categories. Fine motor skills have to do with small and not-too-difficult movements such as handling a crayon or holding a toy. Gross motor skills involve deeper movements such as flying a kite, jumping, or climbing a hurdle
The rate at which children develop certain abilities differ, but a greater number of kids can raise their heads at age 3 months, sit up without aid at month 6, and walk without support before 2. Most kids can run up a staircase or even ride a tricycle without propping.
If your child has not been able to do some of these movements at certain ages, you should realize that the child is experiencing some delays in his/her fine or gross motor skills. The inabilities include:
- Stiff arms and legs.
- Still needs support at 9 months.
- Can’t stand up or bear its weight at a year.
- Loose limbs and limbs.
- Reflex movements dominating voluntary movements.
- Limited movements of arms and legs.
Speech and Language Delay
Speech and language is actively developed during the first 3 years of human life. This goes hand in hand with brain development and maturity.
The beginning of the communication process is the hunger cry raised by an infant. An infant at 6 months can grab basic sounds in the environment. Infants should make few and simple expressions, though unclearly, between 12 and 15 months. 18-month-old toddlers should understand a few common words around them and make short statements at age 3.
Note that there is a difference between speech delay and language delay. A child with a language disorder finds it difficult to comprehend what others are saying. Such a child has difficulty expressing thoughts. Language disorders would include delays difficulties in making and understanding speech, gesture, signs, and writing.
Speech delay, on the other hand, happens when children are unable to make speech sounds the correct way or stutters when trying to articulate sounds. A speech disorder that makes it difficult for a child to combine syllables to form words is known as apraxia of speech.
One of the causes of delay in speech and language development is poor hearing. For this, a hearing test should also be carried out when trying to diagnose speech and language delay. These cases are better handled by speech-language pathologists, and early diagnosis and care can make a big difference.
Autism Spectrum Disorders
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects children’s communication abilities. Usually, autism causes intellectual disabilities and delay in language development. Sometimes, the symptoms may not be discovered before ages 2 and 3.
Though the symptoms of autism may be varied, delays in speech and language, as well as communication difficulties, are some of them. The mildness or severity of the health condition depends on each child. Other symptoms are as follows:
- Difficulty in speaking or holding conversations.
- Developing specific routines.
- Difficulties remembering words and expressions.
- Inability to respond to their name.
- Resistance to cuddling.
- Unwillingness to play with others.
- Repetitive movements.
- Lack of facial expression.
- Coordination problems.
At the moment, no cure has been discovered for autism. But an autistic child that receives care early enough can fare better.
What causes developmental delays?
It may be difficult to make a specific diagnosis of the cause of developmental delay because they can be induced by a variety of factors. Some of the factors may be genetic, for example, down syndrome. Problems such as infections during pregnancy and childbirth, premature delivery, etc. can also contribute to delays in development.
Most times, developmental disorders happen before birth, though some can still happen after birth as a result of injuries, infections or other risk factors.
Some underlying medical issues can cause developmental delays. Some of them include:
- Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs).
- Fragile X syndrome.
- Cerebral palsy.
- Myopathies, including muscular dystrophies.
- Fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
- Landau-Kleffner syndrome.
- Down syndrome.
What to do if you suspect developmental delays in a child
You must never forget that children develop are varied paces. But if you suspect a delay in your child’s development, consult the pediatrician.
Make findings to find out about specialized services and education for a child with such a condition. This is to help the child farewell and make progress in school.
The affected child will have to take treatments peculiar to his/her condition and delay type. Motor skill delay would require physical therapy. Autism and some other forms of disorders would need behavioral and educational therapy. If medications are necessary, there is a need for a holistic evaluation of such medication by a pediatrician to ascertain the suitability of such medication.
Developmental delays in the long term
There are a variety of treatment options for developmental delays. Remember. Early detection and treatment can make a lot of difference.
Tonika Bruce, MSN, RN, MBA. is an accomplished nurse leader, published author, and personal development expert passionate about advancing healthcare management and quality patient outcomes.
She taps into the years of experience in healthcare management to produce credible and easy-to-understand health and leadership content. Her exceptional work has been featured in reputable publications, including Forbes, Recruiter, Inc, and the Color of Wellness magazine.