What is developmental delay?
Babies and children learn and develop important skills known as ‘developmental milestones’. These milestones usually occur during the first five years of life and are fairly predictable. When a child is not reaching these milestones, their development may be termed as ‘delayed’.
There are many reasons that a child may not be reaching their milestones and these will need to be fully investigated.
How would I know if my child has developmental delay?
Below are some examples of milestones and their typical ages of achievement. Remember these are guidelines only and every child develops at different rates.
By 3 to 4 months, your child should be starting to...
- Motor skills - reach, grasp and hold objects, support their head well, bring objects to their mouth and push down with their legs when their feet are placed on a firm surface
- Personal / social skills - smile at people and pay attention to new faces
- Communication skills - respond to loud noises, babble and imitate sounds
By 7 months, your child should be starting to...
- Motor skills - reach with one hand, take objects to their mouth, roll over in either direction, sit up without help and weight bear through their legs when you pull them up to a standing position
- Personal / social skills - enjoy cuddles, show affection for parents, show enjoyment around people, be comforted at night, smile without prompting, laugh or squeal, and take interest in games of peek-a-boo
- Communication skills - respond to sounds
By 1 year, your child should be starting to...
- Motor skills - crawl, drag one side of their body while crawling, and stand when supported
- Personal / social skills - show back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or facial expressions and show back-and-forth gestures, such as waving, reaching, or pointing
- Communication - use single words (like "mama")
- Thinking - Search for objects that are hidden while they watch, use gestures, such as waving and point to objects or pictures
By 2 years, your child should be starting to...
- Motor skills - walk and specifically develop a heel-to-toe walking pattern or be able to push a wheeled toy
- Communication -speak at least 15 words, use two-word phrases, and use speech to communicate more than immediate needs
- Thinking - know the function of common objects, such as a hairbrush, telephone or spoon, follow simple instructions and imitate actions or words
If you would like to learn more about how we as occupational therapists can help people overcome common difficulties associated with developmental delay in children, you will find some useful links at the bottom of this page.
How can an occupational therapist help with developmental delay?
A paediatric occupational therapist specialising in developmental delay will be skilled at assessing a child to establish what areas they are weak in and what the reasons are for this. It is essential to break activities down into their component skills needed to complete them successfully. For example, a child may be delayed in self-care and dressing.
The role of an occupational therapist is to identify the skills required for particular tasks and be able to assess the level of these underlying skills in the child. The therapist is then able to identify exactly which component of the task is causing difficulty, and plan appropriate treatment to aid development.