What is a Developmental Delay? What are the symptoms and treatment of Developmental Delays? And how can AC Cares assist a family in dealing with the symptoms of Developmental Delays?

Developmental delay is the condition of a child missing developmental milestones normal for their age. Developmental delay is not a singular diagnosis but is rather a defining trait of many developmental disabilities. Developmental disability is a group of chronic conditions characterized by mental or physical impairments that arise before adolescence. These impairments may include abnormalities in language, mobility, and/or learning development. These conditions are often detected during childhood and persist throughout the person’s life. Early diagnosis is essential to best treatment outcomes.

Examples of the many developmental lines that could be impaired by developmental delay are:

  • Physiological development and homeostasis
  • Structural and anatomic development
  • Motor development – both fine and gross motor
  • Development of language (the full spectrum of communications skills, including gesture and speech)
  • Cognitive development
  • Personality development
  • Social development
  • Psychological development
  • Sexual development
  • Development of adaptive skills (activities of daily living)

Children should be evaluated by pediatricians regularly to ensure they are on track. Early milestones, such as rolling over, smiling, babbling, sitting up, crawling, or walking, emerge fairly predictably. While attainment can vary, a significant delay is cause for investigation. Speech, gross motor, and fine motor delays are evident early on, while high-level cognitive, sensory processing, social and emotional delays might only become obvious when the child enters peer groups (in daycare or school.) Early diagnosis is vital to long-term success. Children should be evaluated regularly and begin necessary treatment immediately. Special needs doctors and pediatricians may be recommended if delays are evident.

Medical histories, parent interviews, physical examinations, developmental assessment, and hearing tests are methods used to diagnose developmental delays. Understanding external factors, such as the child’s birth, prenatal complications, and family history can aid physicians in diagnosis. After gathering this information, pediatricians will complete physical examinations. This may include looking for atypical growth patterns or abnormalities in general appearances, gross and fine motor delay, or problems with speech. During these routine checkups, pediatricians will also examine reflexes, muscle tone, and balance. They may be asked to complete age-appropriate physical tasks. Evaluating social development involves observing a child’s behavior in interactions with others. Hearing tests are conducted to reveal potential implications on speech and language skills. This information allows the physician to get a good idea of the child’s overall function.

Minor delays need not raise an alarm. However, ongoing or multiple delays may signal a greater cause for investigation. Signs of developmental delay in developing fine or gross motor functions include floppy or loose trunk and limbs, stiff arms and legs, limited movement in arms and legs, inability to sit without support by nine months, dominance of involuntary reflexes over voluntary movements, or the inability to bear weight on legs or stand by one-year-old. Signs of developmental speech delays include inability to say two or three words by 12-14 months, inability to speak in brief sentences by age three. Signs of language delays include difficulty understanding what other people say or an inability to express their own thoughts.

The three types tend to share a number of traits. Common features of Down syndrome include small skull, upward slant of eyes and epicanthic fold, oblique palpebral fissure, small nose and a flat nasal bridge, narrow palate, small teeth, protruding tongue, small ears, short hands, simian crease, delayed development, behavioral problems and cognitive disability.

What causes developmental delay?

A variety of factors can contribute to developmental delay. It is often difficult to point to specific causes. Genetics, infection, and/or complications during pregnancy and childbirth are common factors. Developmental delay is often a symptom of another underlying medical condition. These conditions include Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), cerebral palsy, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, Landau Kleffner syndrome, myopathies, muscular dystrophies, and genetic disorders such as Down syndrome and fragile X syndrome.


Treatments are dependent on the specific delay. Motor skill delays are addressed with physical therapy while social delays (like ASD) require behavioral and educational therapy. Medication may be prescribed to treat primary or secondary symptoms. In any case, a proper evaluation and diagnosis from a pediatrician are crucial to setting an effective treatment plan.

Early treatment for developmental delays is highly recommended. This can prevent the condition from persisting or worsening over time. Hearing and vision tests, speech and language therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, family education, and counseling can be valuable in the treatment of developmental delay. Ideally, with the help of these therapies, children will reach developmental milestones before they begin school.

If the opportunity for early intervention is missed, there are alternative therapies suitable for older children with developmental delays with or without behavioral problems. Specialists work with older children independently. Speech therapists aid children in improving communication, increasing the complexity of sentences and enhancing speech production. Physical therapists help children gain age-appropriate physical skills and dexterity and offer exercises to improve strength, balance, and coordination in children with gross motor problems. Occupational therapists focus on acquiring the fine motor skills to adequately complete tasks. Children with developmental delay can learn how to behave in social settings, control their behavior and communicate more effectively with their peers through social skills therapy. Reinforcement for children with social and emotional delays can be provided in cognitive behavioral therapy.

Regardless of the intervention method, parents are included in treatment so that they can provide support in applying skills attained during therapy in the home and social environments.

How can we help?

At AC Cares, we can assist the family in dealing with Developmental Delay in many ways. These would include:

Whether you are searching for a qualified doctor, treatment options, or a nutritionist, we have vetted, knowledgeable medical professionals to assist you on your journey.
Dealing with Developmental Delay can be overwhelming and confusing for families, and we have the latest information on everything from new treatment options to medical trials to help our families in need.
Meeting with others facing similar challenges can provide a lifeline to those who feel alone, and our support groups and moderators are there to walk with you on this journey.
Group seminars and workshops on topics ranging from getting the support needed for your child at school to safety measures in the home provide instruction to prepare you for your role as advocate and caregiver.