Developmental Delay

Developmental delay in a child is the inability to reach a developmental milestone. Developmental milestones are simply points where a child is expected to master and perform certain expected activities.  A child who does not go through changes in skill development during predictable time periods is experiencing a developmental delay. Whether it’s a major or minor delay, it’s important to pay keen interest so as to observe even the slightest of delays. These delays might be evident in the child’s movement, communication, social skills, thinking, learning or behaviour.

When a developmental delay is detected, it is best to have a doctor run a developmental evaluation in order to determine the child’s developmental pace and depth of delays. A developmental screening is also needful so as to determine if there are impairments.

Types of Developmental Delays

Motor delays: This impacts the child’s movement and balance causing the inability to walk, sit, crawl and use the hands or fingers

Language or speech delays: This is the inability to communicate, receive information or make expressions at the appropriate age. It is also the absence of non verbal communication signals and gestures.

Cognitive delays: This affects the child’s memory, thinking, learning and reasoning abilities. The child is also unable to imitate actions, repeat words or mimic.

Social delays: This affects the child’s ability to make interactions with others. A child with this type of delay may act isolated or physically aggressive towards people who try to connect or make contact.

Developmental delays can be short-term or permanent with the later resulting in severe developmental disabilities. When a developmental delay results in one or more areas in your child, it is often referred to as global developmental delay. Developmental delays can be caused by a genetic defect, problems with pregnancy, and premature birth.

Causes of Developmental Delays:

Genetic and chromosomal conditions, such as Down Syndrome, fragile X syndrome, cerebral palsy and infections during pregnancy.

Problems during pregnancy or birth, such as prolonged labour and complications during pregnancy can cause a developmental delay. Other causes are low birth weight; premature birth and inadequate oxygen at birth.

Mental retardation, which is the lack of necessary skills in your child and a mild or more than below average mental function. Though your child may eventually pick up new skills, it will be at a very slow pace. A mental retardation causes intellectual disabilities and the absence of adaptive behaviours.

Environmental factors, such as an older sibling with a disorder, poor nutrition, exposure to alcohol or drugs during pregnancy, trauma or family circumstances.

High levels of bilirubin in the blood during the first few days after birth, often known as jaundice. If left untreated in a new born, it can cause cerebral palsy, hearing, vision and teeth problems

Muscle spasticity, which is often caused by cerebral palsy is an increased resistance to external movement round the joint. This can cause poor selective motor control, excessive deep tendon reflexes and weakness or difficulties with motor control.

Other medical conditions such as chronic ear infections; impaired vision, diarrhea, infections and injuries can cause developmental delays.


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