Developmental Delay

Developmental delay is a descriptive term used when a young child’s development is delayed in one or more areas compared to other children.

Different areas of development may include:

  • Gross motor development: how children move
  • Fine motor development: how children manipulate objects and use their hands
  • Speech and language development: how children communicate, understand and use language
  • Cognitive/intellectual development: how children understand, think and learn
  • Social and emotional development: how children relate with others and develop increasing independence

When does developmental delay become apparent?
Developmental delay can be noticed when a child does not achieve some, or all of expected milestones at a particular age. Alternatively, some children can present with behaviour problems, which may be associated with delayed development.

The significance of the delay is often only determined by observing the child’s development over time and the term ‘developmental delay’ is often only used until the exact nature and cause of the delay is known.

Types of developmental delay:
Developmental delay can be transient, or persistent. For example, some children have a transient delay in their development in areas such as sitting, crawling and walking but then progress at a normal rate.

On the other hand persistent developmental delay is usually related to problems in one or more of the following areas:

  • Understanding and learning
  • Movement
  • Communication
  • Hearing
  • Sight

An assessment is often needed to determine what area or areas are affected.

Causes of persistent developmental delay
Examples of causes of persistent developmental delay include cerebral palsy, language disorders, autism, emotional problems and disorders of vision and hearing. However, one of the most common causes is intellectual disability.