Developmental Delay in Children

Overview

What is child development?

A child’s growth is more than just physical. Children grow, develop, and learn throughout their lives, starting at birth. We can find out about a child’s development by how they play, learn, speak, move, and behave.

What is developmental delay?

Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving "bye-bye" are called developmental milestones. Children reach milestones in playing, learning, speaking, behaving, and moving (crawling, walking, etc.). A developmental delay happens when your child is slow to reach these milestones.

Diagnosis and Tests

What is developmental screening?

Doctors and nurses use developmental screening to tell if the children are learning basic skills when they should, or if they might have problems. Your child’s doctor may ask you questions or talk and play with your child during an exam. This will show how the child learns, speaks, behaves, and moves.

The nurse or doctor may also ask you questions or give you a questionnaire to fill out. Developmental screening is tool to find out if your child needs to see a specialist. There is no lab or blood test to tell if your child may have a delay in his or her development.

There is a wide range of growth and behavior for each age. It may be natural for children to reach milestones earlier or later than a general trend. Your child’s doctor will let you know if a specialist is needed.

Why is developmental screening important?

When a developmental delay is not found early, children must wait to get the help they need. This can make it hard for them to learn when they start school. The sooner children get help, the better off they will be in the long term.

In the United States, 17% of children have a developmental or behavioral problem, such as autism, intellectual disability (also known as mental retardation), and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADD or ADHD).

Management and Treatment

What happens if my child has developmental delay?

Depending on what the concerns are, your healthcare provider may refer your child to several specialists. These may include:

  • A hearing specialist
  • A speech therapist
  • A developmental pediatrician
  • A neurologist
  • A provider of Early Intervention Services (such as Help Me Grow)

Will my child "outgrow" developmental delay?

It is not likely that your child will outgrow a developmental problem on his or her own. But, with help, your child could reach his or her full potential.

Resources

What are Early Intervention Services?

Early Intervention Services are for children under the age of three years. In Ohio, these services are often provided by Help Me Grow. Help Me Grow is a system of services and support for infants and toddlers with certain issues. These may include:

  • Premature birth
  • Health problems
  • Delays in seeing, hearing, talking, thinking, playing, or moving

If your child is eligible for Early Intervention Services, the provider will write an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). This plan is based on the particular needs of your child and your family. The service provider will figure out what activities and services could best help your child. The types of services include:

  • Assistive technology (devices your child may need)
  • Audiology or hearing services
  • Speech or language services
  • Family counseling and training
  • Medical services
  • Nursing services
  • Nutrition services
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Psychological services

These services are provided to eligible children free of charge and usually are done at your home. The services are voluntary (you do not have to do them).

I have more questions and concerns. Whom do I talk to?

Please speak to your child’s nurse or doctor. They will be happy to talk to you about any questions and concerns you may have about your child’s development.

You can also go to the website: ohioaap.org/projects/past-projects/concerned-about-development-learning-collaborative, which is sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics – Ohio Chapter.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 06/09/2016.

References

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Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy