According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), developmental disabilities impact roughly 15% of youths between 3 and 17 years-of-age. Many disabilities originate prior to birth, during birth, or after due to injuries, infections, and other problems. The cause of developmental disabilities is often difficult to determine and may take years to recognize. Children grow and develop at their own pace; however, the delay may be noticeable when there is a lengthy lag in developing emotionally, cognitively, or physically.
Types of Child Developmental Delays
- Difficulties with speech and language
- A lack of emotions or social skills
- Cognitive impairments
- Visual impairments
- Limitations in movement and motor skills
Often, a child will experience delays that involve multiple areas of development, referred to as “global” developmental delay. Many such delays are mild and the child will progress over time. The best results are recognized when the delay is detected early on and treatment begins.
Delays in Language & Speech
The most common developmental delays are those related to speech and language. Speech problems may encompass difficulties in the ability to express verbally and correctly form words. Language refers to a wider scope of potential problems including the ability to exchange information and comprehend gestures or signals. Some of these problems may be caused by infections within the middle ear, the result of trauma, reactions to medication, or genetics. Autism spectrum disorders are neurologically-based and involve impairments in communication, learning, and social skills.
Delays in Motor Skills
Activities including crawling, walking, and gripping relate to the development of motor skills. There are a host of potential causes for delays in motor skills development including:
- Premature birth that leads to underdeveloped muscles
- Ataxia, a problem leading to poor muscle coordination
- Cerebral palsy, a disorder affecting movement and posture caused by damage to the brain
- Myopathy, where muscle fibers are dysfunctional
- Spina bifida, a birth defect that can lead to paralysis or postural deformity
Delays in Emotional or Social Development
Emotional and social developmental problems tend to surface before a child enters school. Many cases are attributed to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which was previously referred to as pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). ASD is a disorder that causes difficulties in communication, behavior that is highly repetitive and language impairments. Social and emotional delays are also sometimes attributed to neglect and ineffective parenting.
Cognitive delays are difficulties with thinking that generally require educational assistance and therapy. Common causes for these developmental delays include medical problems prior to birth, exposure to toxins, or Down syndrome. Some of the indicators at the age of 1-year-old include:
- Does not search for items or objects
- No usage of gestures—like waving
- Will not point to pictures or items of interest
Some of the indicators to look for at the age of 2-years-old include:
- Lack of understanding regarding how common objects function such as spoons or tooth or hair brushes.
- Does not repeat (mimic) words they hear
- Inability to comprehend basic instructions
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