"How do I know what to watch for...and when to be concerned?"


Recognizing symptoms of developmental delay is the key to early intervention.

While it's true that every child develops at a different pace, being able to recognize signs of potential developmental delays can help your child make progress through early intervention. Most delays are not serious – and the child often catches up. Only when a baby or preschooler lags far behind, or fails to reach developmental milestones, or loses a previously acquired skill, is there reason to suspect a mental or physical problem serious enough to be considered a developmental disability. A variety of factors contribute to a child being at a higher risk for having developmental disabilities.

Risk Factors for Developmental Disabilities

These factors may be biological, genetic, environmental, or infections. Prenatal factors, such as exposure to alcohol, drugs, or toxins; genetic syndromes, such as Down Syndrome, Fragile X, or other disorders; premature births, low birth weight, and congenital heart defect may also put an infant at higher risk for disabilities. If there is a sibling with a developmental disability, children have a higher risk of being diagnosed with that condition. After your child is born, factors which can promote optimal development include: good nutrition; stable, low stress and consistent environment; warm and responsive parent-child interactions together with positive parenting practices.

When to be concerned about your child.

Language or Speech

Language and speech problems are the most common type of developmental delay.

Symptoms of Concern

  • Has no words by age 2
  • Not using sentences by the age of 3

Behavior

Tantrums and behavior difficulties are very common in children with developmental delays.

Symptoms of Concern

  • behavior problems so severe they disrupt the child's functioning
  • lashes out when angry or upset
  • resists dressing, sleeping, or using the toilet
  • additional delays in other areas

Learning

While it's true that every child learns at his or her own pace, there are a few flags that may be possible indicators of a developmental delay or learning problem.

Symptoms of Concern

  • has trouble learning and meeting milestones at pace with peers
  • does not "outgrow" symptoms or catch up to peers
  • loses skills he or she once had

Emotional and Social Skills

Social and emotional delays often show up pre-school age – and may cause children to have problems interacting with adults or other children.

Symptoms of Concern

  • poor eye contact or lack of pointing
  • no pretend play
  • does not seem interested in other children or family members
  • plays with toys in an odd or unusual way

Motor Skills or Medical issues

Problems with coordination or motor skills may signal a developmental delay, or an underlying medical condition.

Symptoms of Concern

  • has trouble coordinating movements
  • falls often and may have trouble with stairs
  • cannot throw a ball by age 4
  • vision or hearing difficulties
  • pediatrician has expressed concerns

For more information on developmental milestones, visit:

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