Developmental milestones are the big moments parents look out for when their children grow up. Their first words, the first time they crawl, their first grip, and first steps. These are moments that alert mom and dad that their baby is growing and developing well.

However, some children might experience a developmental delay.

What does developmental delay mean?

Doctors use this term when a child doesn’t reach developmental milestones within the broad range of what’s considered normal. The delay might be in one or more areas:

  • Gross and fine motor skills (such as walking and scribbling with a crayon)
  • Communication and language skills (receptive, which relates to understanding, and expressive, which relates to speaking)
  • Self-help skills (like toilet training and dressing)
  • Social skills (such as making eye contact and playing with others).

“It’s important to remember that while development tends to unfold in a typical progression, most babies crawl before they walk, make sounds before they say their first word – children develop at different rates and in different ways,” says Claire Lerner, child development specialist at Zero to Three, a non-profit organisation promoting the healthy development of children.

Although children develop at different rates, there are some signs that shouldn’t be ignored. The sooner the problem is detected, the better it can be treated.

According to the Centres for Disease and Control and Prevention, “children develop at their own pace, so it’s impossible to tell exactly when a child will learn a given skill. However, the developmental milestones give a general idea of the changes to expect as a child gets older.”

10 potential red flags that your child may have a motor development delay:

  1. Your child’s motor skills are regressing.
  2. Your child’s limbs seem stiff.
  3. Your child’s muscles seem floppy and loose.
  4. Your child doesn’t walk by 18 months.
  5. Your child walks on her toes.
  6. Your child favours one hand or side of her body.
  7. Your child seems very clumsy.
  8. Your child is constantly moving.
  9. Your child has trouble grasping and manipulating objects.
  10. Your child drools and has difficulty eating.

What to do if you are concerned?

The CDC recommends that you should see your doctor if you are concerned or “if you think there could be a problem with the way your child plays, learns, speaks, acts, and moves.”

Use a checklist to see if your child is reaching age-appropriate milestones, and if not, ask your doctor for a referral and screening. The earlier delay is identified, the sooner it can be addressed.


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