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Why isn’t my child talking? Or walking? Shouldn’t they be doing that by now?

Parents often worry about their little ones reaching major developmental milestones. There’s no set timetable for speaking, smiling or crawling, but these are good guidelines. Each kid gets there in their own way. Some may take their time reaching these important markers. Other times, they may need a little help. And that’s OK.

If your child isn’t doing things as quickly as other kids, they may have developmental delays. Many are treatable if caught early. Cleveland Clinic Children’s expert healthcare providers are here to help you find out why your child falls behind other kids. And they’ll compassionately guide them through therapies to help them catch up.

Why Choose Cleveland Clinic Children’s for Developmental Delay Care?

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Comprehensive treatment:

Developmental delays affect children in different ways. We pinpoint the areas where your child may need extra help. And we build a treatment plan around their needs. This could include speech, physical or occupational therapy hearing support or individualized nutrition plans.

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Caring approach:

We know it can be stressful hearing your child needs some help catching up. But you can rest assured knowing they (and you) are in the best hands at Cleveland Clinic Children’s. We offer personalized treatment and caring support every step of the way, like support groups and classes to help your little one reach their goals.

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Skilled collaborative providers:

When your child comes to Cleveland Clinic Children’s for care, they’ll be part of a team. A personalized one led by the best pediatric healthcare providers for their needs. These experts work together to make sure your child and their needs stay at the center of all we do. Meet our team.

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Trusted experts:

Medical appointments and testing can be scary for kids. Our child life specialists are here to help them feel more comfortable with what’s happening. They do this through play, art and music therapy and more. All while reaching kids at their own level.

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Virtual visits:

Wrangling kids to go to appointments isn’t always easy. What if we told you that you can schedule virtual visits for quick check-ins with your child’s providers? Your child will get the same great care but from the comfort of home. And all you need is an internet connection and a smartphone, computer or tablet.

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National recognition:

U.S. News & World Report consistently ranks Cleveland Clinic Children’s a top hospital in the nation. Newsweek has also named Cleveland Clinic a top hospital in the world.

A Few Things to Know About Developmental Delays in Children

Kids grow in different ways. Yes, they get taller and gain weight, but there’s a lot more to child development than that. It also involves thinking, communicating, socializing and moving. When a child is constantly behind other kids their age in doing things like this, they may have developmental delays. Delays can happen at any age as kids grow, from birth to 18 years old.

If delays affect only one area, it’s an isolated developmental delay. If significant delays happen in two or more areas, we call it a global developmental delay. Skill areas where delays happen are:

  • Thinking (cognitive): This covers thinking, learning and understanding (processing) information, like solving problems or following directions.
  • Social and emotional: Getting along with others, expressing feelings (emotions), and letting people know your needs fall into this developmental delay area.
  • Speech and language: This area focuses on using and understanding language, like having problems saying words or understanding what people say.
  • Fine and gross motor: This area includes delays with coordinating muscles to do small things (fine motor control), like cutting and writing, or larger things (gross motor control), like rolling over or walking.

Many things can cause developmental delays. And while sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint the cause, things like certain infections before birth, lead exposure or even long illnesses can slow a child’s developmental pace. So can conditions they’re born with like a misshapen skull (craniosynostosis) or prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs. Even premature birth and low birth weight can play a role.

It’s important to understand that developmental delays aren’t the same as developmental conditions like autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or ADHD.

When your child has a developmental delay, early treatment and support can help them catch up with other kids their age.

With a developmental disability, treatment can help kids manage symptoms, but the condition is usually lifelong.

Our experienced pediatric providers will carefully evaluate your child and let you know if they have a developmental delay or a developmental disability. Either way, getting care as soon as possible is the best way to help your child move forward.

Diagnosing Developmental Delays at Cleveland Clinic Children’s

Early diagnosis is important for your child’s growth and well-being. If they don’t get the help they need right away, it can be harder for them to learn and can make delays worse. Our team is here to help get things moving in the best direction.

Developmental screening is important to measure what skills your child is learning and where they might be falling behind. Because every kid reaches milestones at different times, screening helps our team see how your child fits into the bigger development picture.

What to expect at your first visit

Your child’s story helps our team confirm delays and plan treatment around where they are in this journey.

During their first appointment, our team will watch how your child plays. And you’ll fill out questionnaires about your child’s growth, personality and behavior.

If we suspect their delays come from an underlying health condition, we may set up medical testing to rule out those. They may also have a hearing test from one of our pediatric audiologists. Our team will go over the details of any other tests your child may need.

Meet Our Developmental Delays Team

Diagnosing and treating developmental delays in children take the expertise of pediatric providers from many specialties, like:

This expert team, and other skilled pediatric providers, work together to confirm a diagnosis. And using what they learn, they plan the most personalized treatment for your child.


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Treating Development Delays at Cleveland Clinic Children’s

Your child’s treatment plan focuses on the delay or delays they have. Their treatment may include:

Occupational and physical therapy

If your child has motor skill delays, we may recommend occupational therapy (OT) and physical therapy (PT). PT helps your child improve gross motor skills like walking. OT can help them find ways to improve how they do things like coloring, cutting and writing. Some sessions may include aquatic (water) therapy to help them with movement and muscle strength.

Speech therapy and hearing support

Speech therapy helps your child improve their speech and better understand what others are saying to them. If they also have hearing problems, we can fit them with hearing aids or other devices to help them pick up sounds. Auditory-verbal therapy may also help, particularly if they have a hearing device.

Behavioral therapy and special education

If social, emotional and learning development delays have sidelined your child, we can help them get back on track. Behavioral therapy helps them improve interactions at home, school or in social settings. Special education also helps with social skills. And it can help with any learning disabilities, too.

Recreational, music and art therapy

When your child plays with other kids during recreational therapy, they have the chance to improve many different skills, like speech, language and social interaction. Our team may also add in art or music therapy to help them learn how to express themselves. Art therapy can also help with fine motor skills, while dancing and acting out songs during music therapy can help them with gross motor skill delays.

Helping Your Child Succeed

During treatment, your child will have many appointments with their pediatric care team. It’s important they go to them. That’s where they do the work to move past their delays and catch up. Your child’s pediatric providers may also recommend family training and counseling to increase the chance they get the best possible results.

This could include learning how to support your child at home with activities, good nutrition and finding ways to make family life and social events easier, like:

  • Play that improves their fine motor skills, physical abilities, speech and social and emotional skills.
  • Reading to them to help them learn and understand language.
  • Limiting screen time and having them interact with real people.
  • Making schedules and plans to help your child learn to follow directions, understand what’s expected of them and make decisions.

Our team is here to talk about your child’s progress. We can give you tips to help them learn at home.

Taking the Next Step

When your child seems to lag behind other kids, you may wonder what kind of future they’ll have. In most cases, they can have a great one. Developmental delays are treatable and manageable. And Cleveland Clinic Children’s caring pediatric providers have the personalized care and support your child needs and deserves. We’re here to help you and your child keep moving forward at a pace that works for them — so they can thrive.

Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic Children’s developmental delays experts is easy. We help your child get care.


Getting an appointment with Cleveland Clinic Children’s developmental delays experts is easy. We help your child get care.

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