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What is developmental delay?

Developmental Delay is an ongoing delay in the process of development. Developmental delay is a term used to describe children who do not progress as expected. Progress in children is measured by developmental milestones.

Developmental milestones are a set of functional skills and tasks that most children are able to achieve by a certain age. Paediatric physiotherapists use these milestones to help check how your child is developing, in line with what is expected. Milestones can be motor skills, social skills, speech and language skills. If a child has delays in all areas of development then they may have a Global Developmental Delay.

Functional mobility exercises assisted by an experienced paediatric physiotherapistAbove: Functional mobility exercises assisted by an experienced paediatric physiotherapist

Parents are sometimes concerned that their child is not reaching certain developmental milestones compared to other children. Although each milestone has an age range it does vary quite a bit. Every child is unique! For example, some children may start to walk as young as 11 months, while others may not start to walk until they are 16 months old. If your child is slightly or only temporarily lagging behind, that is not called developmental delay.

What causes developmental delay?

There are many different things that can cause developmental delay, and often no cause will be found.

Developmental Delay may be caused by:
  • Genetic causes (for example: Down’s syndrome)
  • Problems during pregnancy (such as infection)
  • Problems during delivery, especially if very (for example: bleeding in the brain)
  • Premature delivery
  • Infections in early infancy (for example: meningitis)
  • Late onset of developmental delay in childhood

Mobility exercises encouraging development of functional abilities overseen by paediatric physiotherapistAbove: Mobility exercises encouraging development of functional abilities overseen by paediatric physiotherapist

What are the symptoms of developmental delay?

In some case developmental delay is suspected soon within weeks of birth because of feeding difficulties or unusual muscle tone. Developmental delay can also be suspected much later when children experience learning or behavioural difficulties surface at school. Signs of developmental delay are apparent in your child’s motor skills, social skills, speech and language skills.

Motor delay can affects a child’s use of their muscles.

Gross motor delays - affect the large muscles such as those that control the arms and legs, a gross motor delay would be indicated by your child not developing the ability to roll, sit, and walk when expected.

Fine motor delays - affect the smaller muscles, such as the small hand muscles. Fine motor delays can be indicated my problems by a child not having as much control with their hands as expected.

In young infants signs of motor delay include:
  • Being unable able to bring their hands together by 4 months
  • Being unable to roll by 6 months
  • Being unable to lift their head when pulled to a sitting position by 6 months
  • Being unable to sit by themselves without support by 8 months
  • Being unable to crawl by 12 months;
  • Being unable to walk by 15 months;
In older children some of the signs of a motor delay include: If you are concerned about any aspect of your child's motor development, it is important to arrange an assessment with a paediatric physiotherapist. To arrange a physiotherapy appointment call on 0330 088 7800, or book online

Physiotherapy for developmental delay

Developmental delays should be diagnosed and dealt with as early as possible, as children's brains can change particularly easily and can therefore respond to training that will help them learn the skills that are lacking. Paediatric physiotherapists are able to treat the children with developmental delay that have problems with their motor skills.

A paediatric physiotherapist will first carry out a full assessment of your child and measure your child’s developmental progress and determine if your child has developmental delay, they can then begin appropriate treatment progress your child to the relevant development milestones. Physiotherapy for development delay may involve; stretching and strengthening, recommended play activities, exercise programmes, and hydrotherapy.

To arrange a paediatric physiotherapy appointment with you can book online or call 0330 088 7800.

Does developmental delay have any long-term effects?

It is acknowledged that early diagnosis and treatment will bring about the best result for your child. This will give your child the greatest scope for improvement and limit any long term effects.

To arrange a physiotherapy appointment call on 0330 088 7800, book online or alternatively request a free phone consultation.

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