Signs and Symptoms of Developmental Delays in Children

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“Baby hasn’t rolled over yet?”

“Kids are supposed to be talking by now”

Developmental_DelaysIf you are the parent of a toddler, don’t brush aside these questions just as insensitive, though it can still be upsetting. Not reaching these milestones on time is not always a sign that the child has a developmental delay. A developmental delay is not just being “a little behind” in skills. Generally developmental delays are not very serious and with time a child will grow out of it. Unfortunately, if indeed there is a real delay, getting supports and services early may help him/her catch up more quickly.

Developmental delays can range from minor to something more serious. For developmental delay, there may not be an exact cause to point. If your child has developmental delay, being a parent there are certain things that you can do.

Signs of a developmental delay

Speech and language delay in children are quite common. In fact, they are the most commonly found developmental issue. While speech points to verbal communications, language is more about how your child is able to express his/her thought process and receive information from outside. If your child is not speaking at the same age as his/her sibling did, or children in the neighborhood is ahead of him in speech and language, it should not be a concern for you as a parent. Early language development is uneven and happens in spurts, a few months of difference is not something serious and your child will catch up faster than you expect. It might even happen all of a sudden when he has a good vocabulary of growth spurt. However, one language delay cause that a parent should investigate is a potential hearing loss, fortunately it is rather easy to identify. In case you are concerned fix an appointment with your pediatrician. In the unlikely event, if your school-going child still finds language difficult, you may need to look into a potential learning disability like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.

If your pediatrician suspects a speech delay, your child will be referred to be evaluated by a speech-language pathologist.

Spotting the delay

If you are suspicious of a language delay in your baby, here are some signs to look out for:

  • Does not babble or respond to loud noises by three to four months
  • Does not attempt to imitate sounds by four months
  • Does not respond to sounds at all by seven months
  • Does not use any single words by age one
  • Cannot speak at least 15 words, can only imitate speech, or does not use speech to communicate by age two

Movement and motor delay

Are you concerned that your child is not walking when he/she is supposed to? Or have you noticed that your child could not hold a crayon properly? If so, there is a case of gross motor or fine motor delay.

If a child has gross motor delay, it impairs the ability to crawl or walk, whereas a fine motor delay affects the baby’s ability to use utensil or hold a spoon properly. Premature birth, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, vision problems etc could be the causes of this problem. Pediatrician may suggest physical therapy for gross motor delay and occupational therapy for fine motor delay.

Spotting the delay

If you are suspicious of a motor delay in your baby, here are some signs to look out for:

  • Does not reach for, grasp, or hold objects by three or four months old
  • Does not roll over in either direction by five months
  • Cannot sit up without help by six months
  • Does not actively reach for objects by seven months
  • Does not crawl or cannot stand while being supported by age one
  • Cannot walk or push a wheeled toy by 18 months
  • Still walks on toes by age two

Cognitive delay

As the name indicates, cognitive delay refers to issues with thinking, so it is also referred to as an intellectual disability. If your toddler has cognitive delay, it could be a sign of learning disability, lead poisoning, a genetic disorder or autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). Here early intervention and treatment are key factors for the overall development of the child.

Spotting the delay

  • Does not wave, point to objects, or use gestures by age one.
  • Does not follow simple instructions, imitate actions or words, or know how to use common objects like a spoon, hairbrush, or telephone by age two.


During the first six months of life vision can be blurry though eventually it will improve. If it does not, there are some signs to watch out for

  • Does not notice hands by two months
  • Does not follow moving objects with his or her eyes by three months
  • Experiences constant tearing or eye drainage by six months
  • Does not follow near objects at least one foot away or far objects at least six feet away with both eyes by six months

Emotional and social developmental delay

An emotional and social developmental delay interferes with your child’s ability to interact with other people around him, including adults and children. These problems will crop up before your child attaining school-going age. Sometimes it could be a part of cognitive delay or pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). While there is no tailor-made cure for this delay, there is treatment which includes behavioral therapy and medication.

Global developmental delay

A combination of all the above-mentioned delays amounts to global developmental delay. Common causes include genetic problems like Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome and a host of medical issues related to prematurity.

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