/A Complete Guide to Developmental Delays in Kids
Development Delays in Kids

A Complete Guide to Developmental Delays in Kids

My son was growing beautifully till the time we noticed that he was almost two years old and literally had no vocabulary. Moreover, he did not even imitate expressions and gestures. We tried to engage him with toys, songs, and games, but nothing could attract his attention. Laughing and smiling was too at just his whims and fancy, purposefully make him laugh and smile was an immensely tough task.

The most worrisome fact was that I found that he rarely made any eye contact and was too much energetic all the time to focus on learning anything new. Although his hearing has been checked and was normal, he hardly babbled or made other baby noises, or respond to when we called his name. All these signs were enough for us to know that we need to consult a child development specialist right away.

We were confused, as different people we met had different views on child rearing. The most common advice which we came across was “Every Child is unique and so does his development milestones, so just chill, wait and see him bloom” .Another commonly spurted advice which I literally hated but got to hear really often was” Ladka hai toh der se hi bolega”. Seriously?? I often googled how scientific this belief was.

All that on one side, my biggest secret fears which I never wanted to face was what if my child is diagnosed under the “Autism Spectrum Disorder”. This thought petrified the mother in me and totally left me heartbroken.

As a parent, we never want to believe that our precious bundle may have any kind of development problem or a delay. When I say a Problem or a delay, mind you there is a very thin line of difference between the two. Many a times a delay may be confused with a problem or even vica versa.

The ages from 1 year to 4 years are real confusing, parents have to speculate about every single thing regarding their kids. I am sure there are so many parents who are going through such phase, this article can be your complete guide to keep a check on your growing kids milestones to avoid any kind of delays.

As you watch your kid grow, always keep in mind that every kid develops at his or her own pace and therefore the parameters may range in a wide array. However, it’s always imperative to know all about the red flags for potential developmental delays in young kids. So,today lets learn all about developmental delays in young kids.

What Are Developmental Delays in Young Children?

Developmental Delay is when your kid does not reach their developmental milestones at the expected times. It is a continuing major or minor delay in the process of development of the child.

Delay can be in one or several areas—for example, gross or fine motor, language, social, or thinking skills.

What’s considered normal development is described broadly. That’s because we know that every child develops and progress at their own pace. Two different kids born on the same day may learn the same skill months apart, and both can be considered “Normal”.

Trivial, momentary delays are usually no cause for alarm, but an continuous delay or multiple delays in reaching milestones can be a sign there may be challenges later in life. It’s when skills don’t develop as expected, then the parents may become concerned.

There may be variety of causes for Developmental delay in kids including inheritance, complications during pregnancy or premature birth of the baby. Many a times the exact cause is unknown to all.

Types of Development Delays

There are multiple kinds of developmental delay a child may go through. Most commonly the delays are classified as below:

  • Cognitive Delays
  • Fine & Gross Motor Delays
  • Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Delays
  • language or speech Delays

May times symptoms of development delays can be identified with the help of warning signs attached to them. If parents suspect we feel that there can be a potential delay they should immediately consult their pediatrician and further investigate the matter with the Developmental pediatrician or child neurologist, if required.

Developmental delay sometimes directs an underlying disorder that only doctors can diagnose. Early intervention can help your child make gradual progress and develop in the best way he can into adulthood.

Cognitive Delays

Cognitive delays refers to a delay in child’s intellectual functioning, difficulties with recognition and learning difficulties. Cognitive delays begins to come to forefront when the mother starts to teach the kids basics of academics or general awareness like ABCs, Numbers, rhymes etc as these kids may have problem in retention of knowledge and hence can cause learning disabilities in future. Children with cognitive delays may also face difficulty in communicating and playing with age appropriate peers.

Some of the Symptoms of cognitive delay in kids may include:

  • Difficulty paying attention, even for short span of periods.
  • Inability to sit still/at one place for short span of time.
  • Poor memory retention power when recalling simple basics learned
  • Poor listening skills and inability to remember and comprehend instructions.
  • Difficulty with reading, spelling, vocabulary and comprehension.

If your toddler shows signs of cognitive developmental delay then the probable known reasons may include a learning disability (like ADHD), lead poisoning, a genetic disorder, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Early intervention along with the treatment is basic key to such kind of developmental delay.

Fine and gross motor skill delay

Fine motor skills include minor movements like holding toys or using a crayon/pencil etc. Gross motor skills on other hand refer to larger movements, like jumping/hoping, climbing stairs, or throwing a ball etc.

Children progress at different rates however the broad standardized classification of development of motor skills in infants and toddlers can be done as below:

  • Most children can lift their head by 3-4 months
  • Starts to Sit with some support by 6-8 months
  • Begins to crawl by 7-12 months
  • Pulls himself up and stand with the help of some sturdy object by 9-12 months
  • Starts walking unaided by 12-15 months.
  • Starts to climb up and down stairs with help and starts little jumps by 15-18 months.
  • He can kick a ball, carry something in his hands while walking, and jump from a low step to the floor by 18 to 24 months.

If your child exhibits some or many of the below signs, it means that the probability of your child facing a delay in developing his fine or gross motor skills are high:

  • Unable to reach basic physical milestones like sitting, crawling, standing etc even after 6 months as per the normal standards.
  • Poor hand-eye coordination, and they may appear to be rather clumsy at grasping objects.
  • Kids with fine and gross motor skills delay have trouble doing things with their hands which other kids love to do, like playing with building blocks, scribbling on paper/easels, or using spoon to eat food.
  • Having trouble chewing and swallowing food
  • losing toddler motor skills, such as waving bye-bye, that he may have already mastered

The normal range may not be same as stated for all and may not be a cause of worry if the kid is showing age appropriate behaviors in all the other areas or skills, but if your child is unable to achieve consecutive milestones within the expected time frames, speak to your doctor.

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As a mother of a hyperactive toddler showing signs of delayed development, I highly recommend the Wooden hammer ball toy.It actively helps develop gross & fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination and concentration in kids.

I bought this myself for my kid, from Amazon and it worked wonderfully well with him.

I also recommend fruits and vegetable cutting toys as it not only helps kids develop fine and gross motor skill but also sharpens cognitive skills along with educational value.

You can click here to check explore various available options to improve your kids Fine and Gross Motor skills as I did 🙂

as it not only helps kids develop fine and gross motor skill but also sharpens cognitive skills along with educational value.
as it not only helps kids develop fine and gross motor skill but also sharpens cognitive skills along with educational value.

Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Delays

Every child starts to develop socially and emotionally right from the time of birth and as per the standards should reach social and emotional developmental milestones at certain specified ages. These abilities include gestures such as smiling, playing, and expressing.

Although some kids are a little faster or slower than the others, delayed social and emotional milestones could be an initial warning of future issues. Talk to your pediatrician if you feel much deviation from the below specific standards of social and emotional milestones.

Here are some milestones to watch out for in your kids first year: 

  • By 3 months.
  • Enjoy his playtime and show signs of distress when stopped playing with. 
  • Starts to communicate with face and body and may imitate your facial expressions.
  • By 7 months. 
  • Your kid may respond to his or her name at this age, respond to the emotions in your voice, and enjoy seeing his reflection in a mirror.
  • At 12 months. 
  • By this time he may start to be shy away from strangers and express preferences for certain people

Here are milestones to watch out for in your kid’s toddler year: 

  • By the end of second year, your child will imitate the behavior which he sees around him, and at the same time he begins to realize that he has a separate identity. Kids also learn the concept of playing together rather then parallel play which they did at younger age.
  • By the end of the third year, your kid should be able to play simple games, take turns, and recognize concepts such as “yours” and “mine. “He may follow much more then simple instructions and even begin to negotiate the same.
  • By the end of fourth years, your kid is becoming more independent, imaginative and creative. He is bubbling with energy and intelligence exploring the world around him by playing more interactive games with grownups.
  • By the end of the fifth year, your child may be really social and may be concerned more about his friends than his Mommy and Daddy. Your child begins to enjoy activities like singing, dancing, acting etc.

Social and emotional milestones are not only guiding principle, but they may also be important warning signs. If you think your child may be delayed in achieving any of these milestones, talk to your pediatrician right away..

Language and Speech Developmental Delays in Children

Speech and language delay are two very different issues and need to be addresses differently.

A speech delay occurs when children aren’t speaking as many words as would they are supposed to do as per their age whereas a language delay is said to be existent when the kid have difficulty understanding what people say or can’t express his own thoughts in words or signs.  Language includes speaking, gesturing, signing, and writing.

Most of the times it’s very difficult to distinguish between speech and language delay in young children. A child who understands what people are trying to convey and can express their needs (maybe by pointing or signing) but isn’t speaking as many words as they may probably be having isolated speech delay.

By the end of 3 months, your child might be able to show below signs:

  • Smile when you are in sight
  • Make cooing and babbling sounds
  • Seem to recognize your voice or familiar voices
  • Cry differently for different needs like hunger, poop etc

By the end of 6 months your child might be able to show below signs:

  • Babble and make a variety of sounds
  • Use his or her voice to express comfort or discomfort
  • Move his or her eyes in the direction of sounds/voices
  • Respond appropriately to changes/variations in the tone of your voice
  • Pay attention to music

By the end of 12 months your child might be able to show below signs:

  • Try imitating speech sounds
  • Is able to speak few words, such as “dada,” “mama” and “uh-oh”
  • Understand simple instructions, such as “Come here”
  • Recognize common items by words, such as “shoe”, “Hat”,”Bat”


By the end of 18 months, your child might be able to show below signs:

  • Recognize names of familiar objects and body parts
  • Follow simple directions accompanied by gestures
  • Say as many as 10 words

By the end of 24 months, your child might be able to show below signs:

  • Use simple two words phrases, such as “more milk”, “Come on” etc
  • Wave and say Bye,Bye
  • Follow simple commands and understand simple questions
  • Speak about 50 or more words
  • Speak well enough to be understood at least half the time by parents

Speech and language are the most common types of developmental issues. About 20% of kids learn to talk or use words later than other children their age. Speech delays are very common in toddlers and are no cause of worry till the time your child is showing signs constant progress. If, as a parent you feel that your toddler has reached a stagnation, you should consult your pediatrician instantly, who in turn may refer your child to early intervention which can be a great help.

As a mother of a toddler who is undergoing a speech and language delay, I feel that reading has really worked wonders for him. Infact I remember he started to use symbolic gestures to point at figures in his First learning set books

These too are great collection of books. You can click here to check them. Also there are alternatives of it available.

I think that was the turning point in my son’s speech progression. The more I read to him, the more interested he seems.His concentration has definitely increased overtime and also he has gained tons of vocabulary through this precious set of books.

What are the causes and signs of developmental delays?

Causes for Developmental delays in kids cannot be pinpointed as there can be several factors which can contributing towards it. Some of the development delays can be a result of any underlying issues like:

  • Autism Spectrum Disorder
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Genetic disorders (Down Syndrome)
  • Complications in pregnancy or birth (Prematurity or some infections)
  • Lead Poisoning

How much ever we speculate, the exact cause of development delay in kids may never be known. Every kid is different, and progresses at a different pace as per their personal skills and environment around them. Comparing skillsets of kids of same age may not be a virtuous way for measuring their development.  Uniqueness of every kid should respected however,parents should always keep in mind some common warning signs which can alert them for any future issues. Some warning signs may be summed as:

  • Invariable delay in achieving basic milestones (Not walking till 15 moths or Not babbling till 12 months etc.)
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Signs of aggression toward others or self-harm
  • Repeating same hand/leg movements (flipping of hands)
  • Lack of social interaction
  • Clumsy, in terms of hand-eye coordination, stiffness or limpness of arms and legs
  • Very frequently staring at nothing at all or at unusual objects
  • Doesn not respond to verbal or visual clues or prompts,
  • Does not begin imitate or speak event after lots of prompting,
  • More than usual temper-Tantrums

Autism vs Developmental delays

A few decades ago, many people were not even aware of the word autism and now it’s a very commonly heard condition which kids may develop or are born with. Autism is short form of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It’s a a very wide term which consists of neurodevelopment disorders that result in behavior and communication problems.

ASD usually occurs in early childhood, but adults can be diagnosed with it, too.

Two kids diagnosed with ASD may be very different from each other. One may look and behave just like his age appropriate peers and other may have severe condition and may not be able to live a normal independent live. Hence, Autism differs with each individual ad hence the signs and symptoms of it are often confused with development delays.

There is a very thin line of difference in recognizing signs development delays and autism. Some signs of autism are similar to or the same as those of other conditions or development delays. As a result, some symptoms can be easily mistaken for autism. Below are few pointers which may help parents distinguish between signs of autism and a development delay:

Delayed speech:

Speech delay without any social issues or problems may be a part of development delay  however speech delay along with social interactions problems may be a warning sign of autism.

Social difficulties:

Normally developing children may be hesitant to interact with strangers, but once they become familiar, they may interact better however kids with autism continue to struggle with relating to peers and people familiar to them.

Narrowed interests.

Kids with autism display a very narrow line of interest while playing with any toys or activities. They may be found Lining up cars and playing the same way for hours. Having said that, it does not mean that every kid who has a narrow stream of interest during playtime is autistic.

Anger/frustration.

A normally developing child may throw tantrums and show anger may times but can be consoled and controlled with a reward/anything of his interest however a fit of anger or frustration by an autistic kids looks a lot like a toddler going through the terrible twos, who is really difficult to console with any logic or reason.

Sleep issues.

Children with autism may have sleep issues wherein they wake up in the middle of the night and think that its daytime and are all set to play unlike a kid who may wake up in the night and eventually settle in sometime after having water or little playtime.

Toe-walking

Toe-walking that continues after age 2 may be a sign of autism — but it may also represent a muscle-related issue. “Once the kid have been walking for months, they are expected to become more flat-footed.

The above mentioned are just few of the warning signs or signs which help parents to differentiate between autism and normal development delays however when a parent feels concerned; they should talk to their pediatrician right away. Even for an isolated developmental delay, occupational therapy, speech therapy or social skills training will help your child progress.

What should you do if you suspect your child has a developmental delay?

Without any delay consult your pediatrician!

Remember that if your baby or toddler isn’t reaching developmental milestones as per the time specified or is completely skipping some milestones, Don’t Panic! Give him time and work with him to improve his skills however, if the kid is skipping his milestones consecutively, that may call for some action, as this kid may be experiencing developmental delay.

Treatments or therapies for developmental delays vary according to the specific delay for which the kid has been assessed. Therapies are the best treatment for all kinds of development delays Physical therapy for help in motor skill delays, and behavioral, occupational and educational therapy helps kids with ASD and other delays.

Remember if you suspect your child showing signs of developmental delay, then follow the below pointers without delay: 

Trust Your Instinct

No one would ever know your child better than you do. So, if you have a feel that something may be wrong, then there is a good chance that things can be wrong.

Act Early

If you are concerned then it never hurts to reach out for doctors’ opinion or advice With any developmental delay, early treatment is most important key.

Be Vigilant

Alertness is a must if at any point in time you feel that your kid is not developing on schedule, be vigilant and take immediate doctors’ opinion when required.

Get a Professional evaluation

There are two kinds of professional evaluations that your child can receive when assessing a developmental delay; medical and educational. Medical assessment is conducted by a specialist and educational assessment may be conducted by the local school.

What is Early Intervention?

Early intervention is the name which is used to describe the services and supports that are available to infants and young kids with developmental delays and their families.

Early Intervention services includes many kids of therapies as per the requirement of the kid. Therapies which are generally recommended are Speech therapy, physical therapy occupational therapy and other kinds of services based on the needs of the child and family.

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The services offered by the early intervention may differ from country to country. It definitely has a significant impact on a progression of the child and helps him develop new skills and make him ready to enter adulthood independently.

Read more blogs on your child’s skills development like writing and Learning basics of Life through simple Household chores

Manvi has a rich work experience of 9 years into Agency Channel & Corporate Marketing in Tata AIA Life Insurance Company Ltd in Mumbai. Her immense dedication and passion towards work has won her many accolades and accomplished her as a "Go-Getter". After a successful stint into the corporate she decided to pursue her long-fond passion for writing hence she is now a successful Parenting blogger. In Investocafe, she takes care of Marketing and is responsible for Planning, creating and overseeing long-term marketing strategies including the digital platforms. She also ensures expansion of Brand’s awareness/visibility through various marketing activities hence contributing towards the growth of the company.