Developmental delays in children are significant slowing down of growth – which can be mental, emotional, social, physical or both mental and physical delays. Sometimes the delay can happen in speech or language, movement, cognitive, vision, social and emotional skills of a child – such a delay is known as global developmental delay. You should remember that each child grows at his or her normal pace, but the range of normal is quite broad. However, as a parent, you must be aware of the potential warning signals of developmental delays because your awareness ensures early intervention, diagnosis and treatment if your child experiences a developmental delay.

The following are the common developmental delays in children:

  • Language or speech delays
  • Vision delays
  • Movement — motor skills developmental delays
  • Social and emotional skills developmental delays
  • Thinking — cognitive skills delays

Language or speech delays: The potential causes for these types of delays may include learning disability, negligence or child abuse, dysarthria (a speech disorder); severe hearing loss due to middle ear infections, use of certain medications, genetic disorder or trauma and autism spectrum disorders and sometimes no known cause (idiopathic).

Delay in Vision Development: A child’s vision normally improves as he or she grows, but sometimes, vision problems manifest. Though farsightedness and near-sightedness are common refractive errors in children, poor vision, amblyopia, strabismus, retinopathy of premature infants and infantile cataracts are the other causes of vision delays in children.

Gross motor and fine motor skills developmental delays: The problems with movements – such as walking and crawling difficulties comes under gross motor skills developmental delays and problems with grip, dexterity and using fingers to grasp pen, pencil, spoon and other objects comes under fine motor skills developmental delays. The potential causes of motor skills developmental delays may include impairment in muscles coordination due to ataxia and myopathy (muscular disorder); the other causes may include cerebral palsy and spina bifida.

Social and Emotional Skills Developmental Delays

Children suffer from social and emotional developmental delays when they experience difficulties while interacting with other children or adults. Parents can notice these problems in a child before the child begins his or her school. The potential causes of emotional and social developmental delays in children may include parental negligence, cognitive delays, attachment problems, ineffective parenting and Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Cognitive Skills Developmental Delays: Problems with learning, thinking or cognitive abilities can be due to premature birth, medical issues before birth, genetic defects (Down syndrome), Autism Spectrum disorder, environmental toxins exposure (lead, arsenic, mercury exposure) and parental neglect.

Bottom Line

There are many types of developmental delays in children and majority of them are not very serious if detected early and corrected with diligent medical intervention and treatment. In many cases of developmental delays, children successfully reach to the developmental point where they should actually be even after a delay if they get prompt support and care. With early medical intervention, diagnosis and treatment, even children with serious developmental delays can improve significantly.