The 5 Main Signs of Developmental Delay & Why You Shouldn’t Worry (2023)

Today we are going to help you to understand what a developmental delay is, how to detect if your child has one, and when you should worry about it.

What Is a Developmental Delay?

Do you suspect that your baby or toddler might have a developmental delay? A developmental delay is often diagnosed when a child does not reach their developmental milestone when expected. They can range from minor to something more significant.

The 5 Main Signs of Developmental Delay & Why You Shouldn’t Worry (1)

Most developmental delays are not serious and usually correct themselves. And for some, there is no known cause. However, if your child does have some form of developmental delay, there are things that you can do to address it.

What Are the Signs of a Developmental Delay?

There are many types of possible developmental delay in babies and toddlers; speech, vision and motor skills are just a few. It can be hard, especially for first-time parents to distinguish a simple lagging behind with a true developmental delay in their child. The following are the warning signs for different types of developmental delays in children from newborns to two year olds.

Language and Speech

Speech and language delay in toddlers are very common. In fact, they are the most common form of developmental delay. While speech refers to verbal communications, language is more about how your little one is able to express and receive information. If your toddler is not speaking at the same age as his older sister did, or some other kids his age is ahead of him please do not worry. Early language development is very uneven and happens in spurts, a few months difference is not significant and your child will catch up before you expected, and it will likely happen all of a sudden when he has a big vocabulary growth spurt. One language delay cause that you should investigate though is a potential hearing loss, luckily this is rather easy to rule out, but if you are worried check with your child’s pediatrician. If your school-aged child is still struggling with language you may need to look into a possible learning disability (like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). If you suspect a speech delay, your pediatrician will likely refer your child to be evaluated by a speech-language pathologist.

How to Spot It

If you suspect that your baby or toddler has a language delay, here are some signs to watch out for:

(Video) Don't Miss These 7 Signs of Motor Delays in Your One-Year-Old

  • Does not babble or respond to loud noises by 3 to 4 months
  • Does not attempt to imitate sounds by 4 months
  • Does not respond to sounds at all by 7 months
  • Does not use any single words by age 1
  • Cannot speak at least 15 words, can only imitate speech, or does not use speech to communicate by age 2

Motor Skills or Movement

Are you afraid that your baby or toddler is not walking when he or she should be? Or maybe you have noticed that your toddler is having difficulty grasping a spoon. If so, then it is possible that he or she may have a gross motor or fine motor delay.

The 5 Main Signs of Developmental Delay & Why You Shouldn’t Worry (2)

Gross motor delay affects the ability to crawl or walk. Whereas a fine motor delay will impact your baby or toddler’s ability to use utensils or hold a crayon properly. Common causes include premature birth, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, vision problems, and cognitive delays. If you suspect a delay in motor skills, your pediatrician may recommend physical therapy for gross motor delays or occupational therapy for fine motor delays.

How to Spot It

If you suspect that your baby or toddler has a motor skills delay, here are some signs to watch out for:

  • Does not reach for, grasp, or hold objects by 3 or 4 months old
  • Does not roll over in either direction by 5 months
  • Cannot sit up without help by 6 months
  • Does not actively reach for objects by 7 months
  • Does not crawl or cannot stand while being supported by age 1
  • Cannot walk or push a wheeled toy by 18 months
  • Still walks on toes by age 2


A cognitive delay refers to problems with thinking and can sometimes be referred to as an intellectual disability. If your little one has a cognitive developmental delay then it may be due to a learning disability (like ADHD), lead poisoning, a genetic disorder, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Early intervention and treatment is key when addressing this type of developmental delay.

How to Spot It

If you suspect that your baby or toddler has a cognitive delay, here are some signs to watch out for (with more in-depthinformation available here):

The 5 Main Signs of Developmental Delay & Why You Shouldn’t Worry (3)


Your baby’s vision is normally blurry within his or her first 6 months. Eventually, it should improve. If it doesn’t, there are some signs you should look out for.

(Video) Is my Baby Developmentally Delayed? Signs of early infant motor delays!

How to Spot It

If you suspect that your baby or toddler has a vision delay, here are some signs to watch out for:

  • Does not notice hands by 2 months
  • Does not follow moving objects with his or her eyes by 3 months
  • Experiences constant tearing or eye drainage by 6 months
  • Does not follow near objects at least 1 foot away or far objects at least 6 feet away with both eyes by 6 months

Social or Emotional

A social or emotional developmental delay causes problems with your child’s ability to interact with adults or even other children. These problems will likely appear before your child starts school. Some causes of social or emotional delay are cognitive delay or what is known as pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). PDD falls under the umbrella of ASD. While there is no known cure for this type of developmental delay, there is treatment. Treatment includes behavioral therapy and medication.

The 5 Main Signs of Developmental Delay & Why You Shouldn’t Worry (4)

Global Developmental Delay

When a child has many or all of the previously listed developmental delays, it is called “global developmental delay.” Common causes include a genetic defect (like down syndrome), fragile X syndrome, fetal alcohal syndrome, and severe medical problems associated with prematurity.

What Should I Do If I Suspect a Developmental Delay in My Child? When Should I Worry?

Remember that if your baby or toddler isn’t reaching developmental milestones “on time” that that is not the only deciding factor of whether or not your child has a developmental delay. All children learn and master milestones at different paces, meaning that the normal range for your child to reach a certain milestone is wide.

Here, at ADAM & Mila, we cover many milestones and for each milestone we include the typical age range for that milestone. Those age ranges are just averages which does not mean that all children must display that milestone within that average age range. Some may earlier or later.

It is also important to note that some milestones may be skipped completely. But it is uncommon for a child to skip two consecutive milestones (consecutive meaning they are part of the same “theme” and one is directly after the other). There is no need to worry if your baby is a little behind on a milestone. Here is a look at what you should do if you suspect that your baby or toddler is developmentally delayed.

(Video) The Difference between Developmental Delays and Autism

Trust Your Gut

No one knows your child as well as you do. So, if you feel like something may be wrong, there is a good chance that it may be.

Act Early

If you are worried then it never hurts to reach out for opinions and help. With any developmental delay, early treatment is key.

Be Vigilant

Your child’s pediatrician is your go-to person if you suspect that your child is not developing on schedule; but it is you who is your child’s ultimate advocate. If you have a concern, be vigilant in requesting a developmental screening.

Get a Professional Assessment

There are two types of professional assessments that your child can receive when determining a developmental delay; medical and educational. Your pediatrician or a specialist can provide medical assessments in addition to your child’s well-child visit and your local school system can perform an educational assessment.

Developmental Delay Diagnosis

After a developmental delay diagnosis, you will be pleasantly surprised at the number of resources available to your child and family. You can start by researching online for what resources might be available in your area and you will find comfort in reaching out to other parents with children who also have a developmental delay.

Online Resources

Below are some wonderful and helpful resources that we suggest you read over and use to help you and your child.

Find a Community of Parents

After a developmental delay diagnosis, it is important and extremely helpful for you to find a community of parents whose children have the same or similar delay. Here is a list of online communities to find support and advice if your child receives a developmental delay diagnosis.

(Video) 5 Worrying Things to Watch For During Development (And When You Need To Be Concerned)

We hope that this information has helped you to learn more about your baby and developmental delays. Do you have a pregnant friend or mommy friend that could benefit from this article? Share our post because you never know who this may help!

So tell me why I shouldn’t worry?

At one point between zero and three years of age every child will have exhibited some sort of unusual development. Whether that be physical or mental, the only certainty about our babies is that each one is as unique as he or she is precious. Every child is special, and there is no such thing as an average baby.

The 5 Main Signs of Developmental Delay & Why You Shouldn’t Worry (5)

Just as certain though, every parent will at some point start to wonder why their kid does not keep up with rest of the gang. Whether you are worried about crawling, walking, talking, crying or any of the other hundreds of milestones covered here at ADAM & Mila, it is essential that you seek professional advice from your pediatrician to rule out any medical cause of delay.

The good news is that for the vast majority of kids showing a mild delay the cause is not a medical condition – but rather what you might call natural causes. In these cases, the solution most commonly is simply to intensify the stimulation your child receives from the environment around him or her.

For those kids (and also for the few unlucky ones) we here at ADAM & Mila have collected a large number of fun and educational activities and categorized them by developmental milestones, so that you as a parent can easily find new ideas for providing the best learning opportunities for your little bundle of joy.

In fact, the exact reason why we started ADAM & Mila was to help busy parents find inspiration and practical ideas for awesome fun and educational activities for their baby and toddler. We believe that learning starts at birth, and having lots of fun with your child is one of the best gifts you can give!

(Video) Developmental Red Flags Every Parent Should Know About

Finally, if you like what we are doing we would love to say hi to you! Give us a shout in the comments below!


What are the 5 categories of developmental delays? ›

However, for many children, the cause of the delay, or multiple delays, is not clear.
  • Cognitive Delays. ...
  • Motor Delays. ...
  • Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Delays. ...
  • Speech Delays.

What are the signs of developmental delay? ›

Signs and Symptoms of Developmental Delay
  • Learning and developing more slowly than other children same age.
  • Rolling over, sitting up, crawling, or walking much later than developmentally appropriate.
  • Difficulty communicating or socializing with others.
  • Lower than average scores on IQ tests.

When should I be worried about developmental delays? ›

Signs of developmental delay

But as a general guide, you might be concerned about developmental delay if you notice that, over several months, your child isn't developing motor, social or language skills at the same rate as other children the same age.

What are red flags of developmental delays? ›

Red flags when you should refer to your pediatrician

If a child is not smiling back to parents by 3 months (average age 6 to 8 weeks). If a child is unable to steadily hold neck by 4 months (average age 3 months). If a child is unable to sit momentarily without support by 7 to 8 months (average age 6 months).

Can a child outgrow developmental delay? ›

Will my child “outgrow” developmental delay? Most developmental delays will resolve on their own over time. With early intervention services, your child should be able to catch up to their peers and reach their full potential.

What is the most common developmental delay? ›

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

Can a child have developmental delay and not be autistic? ›

Children with autism usually experience developmental delays in one or more areas, but not every child who experiences a delay in their development has autism. When autism or other developmental disorders are diagnosed at a young age, early intervention can greatly improve your child's development.

What makes a child developmentally delayed? ›

What causes developmental delay? Prematurity, medical problems (ranging from stroke to chronic ear infection), lead poisoning, and trauma all have the potential to cause developmental delay, but sometimes the cause is unknown.

Is developmental delay progressive? ›

Global Developmental Delay is not normally a progressive condition, so it does not get worse. Some children catch up to peers however parents should be prepared for the fact that some disabilities may persist throughout life.

What is the life expectancy for developmental delay? ›

The life expectancy for people with I/DD is similar to that of the general population, with the mean age at death ranging from the mid-50s (for those with more severe disabilities or Down syndrome) to the early 70s for adults with mild/moderate I/DD (Bittles et al., 2002; Janicki, Dalton, Henderson, & Davidson, 1999).

Is developmental delay a mental health issue? ›

However, mental illness and developmental disabilities are not the same, although many people with developmental disabilities often experience co-occurring mental disorders. When someone with a developmental disorder also has a mental illness, it's known as a dual diagnosis.

How do you test for developmental delay? ›

Your child will get a brief test, or you will complete a questionnaire about your child. The tools used for developmental and behavioral screening are formal questionnaires or checklists based on research that ask questions about a child's development, including language, movement, thinking, behavior, and emotions.

What do cognitive delays look like? ›

Short attention span; inability to remember things. Lack of curiosity. Trouble understanding social rules or consequences of behavior. Trouble thinking logically.

What disorders are associated with developmental delay? ›

Delayed Speech and Language
  • General speech delay.
  • Developmental language disorder.
  • Intellectual disability (ID)
  • Autism spectrum disorder.
  • Social communication disorder.
  • Developmental language disorder.
  • Social deprivation.
Jan 22, 2023

What are 4 causes of developmental delay? ›

Causes and chances of developmental delay
  • autism spectrum disorders (ASDs)
  • cerebral palsy.
  • fetal alcohol spectrum disorders.
  • Landau Kleffner syndrome.
  • myopathies, including muscular dystrophies.
  • genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome and fragile X syndrome.

What is the cure of developmental delay? ›

There's no "cure" for developmental delay, therapies directed to specific areas of delay however, are very effective in helping children catch up. The sooner a delayed child gets intervention, the better their progress will be. Lifestyle changes may also help.

How do you raise a child with developmental delays? ›

Ongoing Strategies:
  1. Take a break when you need it. Give yourself time to connect with supportive family members and friends. ...
  2. Don't let your child's challenges become the sole focus. Watching your child grow and develop as part of your family is one of the great pleasures of being a parent.
Feb 8, 2018

What are warning signs of autism? ›

Social Communication and Interaction Skills
  • Avoids or does not keep eye contact.
  • Does not respond to name by 9 months of age.
  • Does not show facial expressions like happy, sad, angry, and surprised by 9 months of age.
  • Does not play simple interactive games like pat-a-cake by 12 months of age.

What is one cause for developmental delays? ›

These factors include genetics; parental health and behaviors (such as smoking and drinking) during pregnancy; complications during birth; infections the mother might have during pregnancy or the baby might have very early in life; and exposure of the mother or child to high levels of environmental toxins, such as lead ...

How do you know if your child is mentally delayed? ›

Potential Warning Signs of Social & Emotional Developmental Delay
  1. Child doesn't play games involving back and forth play.
  2. Child doesn't respond to his or her own name.
  3. Child doesn't seem to recognize familiar people.

What activities are good for developmentally delayed toddlers? ›

Everyday activities like playing with play-dough, slime, or putty can help build fine motor skills. Even typical kid play, like digging in the dirt or dancing, can help build gross motor skills.

Does developmental delay mean disability? ›

Doctors sometimes use the terms developmental delay and developmental disability to mean the same thing. They're not the same, though. Kids can outgrow or catch up from developmental delays. Developmental disabilities are lifelong, though people can still make progress and thrive.

Can an MRI show developmental delay? ›

Introduction: Developmental delay is defined as significant delay in one or more developmental domains. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is the best modality to investigate such patients.

How do doctors determine if a child has developmental delays? ›

Assessment for developmental delay in primary care settings should include a general and systemic examination, including plotting growth centiles, hearing and vision assessment, baseline blood tests if deemed necessary, referral to a developmental paediatrician, and counselling the parents.

What is the difference between a learning disability and a developmental delay? ›

In general, depending on how the terms are used, developmental delays are actually disabilities that impact more than one part of a child's development, while learning disabilities are delays that impact just a single aspect of academic learning.

What is one of the first signs of cognitive decline? ›

You have trouble following a conversation. You find it hard to make decisions, finish a task or follow instructions. You start to have trouble finding your way around places you know well. You begin to have poor judgment.

What are 3 characteristics of children with delays in cognitive functioning? ›

Children with intellectual disabilities (sometimes called cognitive disabilities or, previously, mental retardation) may take longer to learn to speak, walk, and take care of their personal needs such as dressing or eating. They are likely to have trouble learning in school.

What is the difference between cognitive and developmental delay? ›

Cognitive skills allow you to think, learn, and solve problems. Cognitive delay, a type of developmental delay, means a child falls behind their peers in cognitive development. In most cases, a delay is temporary and can be corrected with therapy.

What are the 4 main types of developmental disorders? ›

There are four main types of developmental disorders: nervous system disabilities, sensory related disabilities, metabolic disabilities and degenerative disorders. Many different subsets of disabilities nest under these four main groups.

How do you classify developmental delays? ›

A model developed by the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research is used to compare existing classifications of developmental delays. This model defines the five domains in the disability process: pathophysiology, impairment, functional limitation, disability, and societal limitation.

What are the 4 domains via which developmental delay is usually assessed? ›

Developmental delay refers to children who are behind the age-expected norms in one or more of the four main domains: gross motor, fine motor, language and communication and personal/social.

What is developmental delay in DSM 5? ›

According to the DSM-5, “Global developmental delay, as its name implies, is diagnosed when an individual fails to meet expected developmental milestones in several areas of intellectual functioning.”

What is the best treatment for developmental delay? ›

Treatments for developmental delays vary according to the specific delay. Some treatments include physical therapy for help in motor skill delays, and behavioral and educational therapy for help with ASD and other delays. In some cases, medications may be prescribed.

What causes a child to be developmentally delayed? ›

These factors include genetics; parental health and behaviors (such as smoking and drinking) during pregnancy; complications during birth; infections the mother might have during pregnancy or the baby might have very early in life; and exposure of the mother or child to high levels of environmental toxins, such as lead ...

What are the two most common developmental disorders other than autism? ›

Common Developmental Disabilities

Among the most common are intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, and cerebral palsy.

What is developmental delay in IEP? ›

Understanding Developmental Delay

It is an ongoing major or minor delay in the process of development. If a child is temporarily lagging behind, that is not considered developmental delay. Delay can occur in one or many areas. For example, gross or fine motor skills, language, social skills, or thinking skills.

Is developmental delay a mental disability? ›

However, mental illness and developmental disabilities are not the same, although many people with developmental disabilities often experience co-occurring mental disorders. When someone with a developmental disorder also has a mental illness, it's known as a dual diagnosis.

Is developmental delay autism? ›

To put it simply, a developmental delay is when your child does not reach their developmental milestones at the expected times, whilst Autism refers to a group of complex neurodevelopmental disorders, present from early childhood which is characterised by the difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with ...

What are the 5 main developmental domains? ›

“Those domains are social, emotional, physical, cognitive and language.” The five critical domains inform the JBSA CDPs' approach to early childhood education, but they also can provide a blueprint for parents as they facilitate their children's development.

What are the associated conditions for developmental delay? ›

What causes developmental delay? Prematurity, medical problems (ranging from stroke to chronic ear infection), lead poisoning, and trauma all have the potential to cause developmental delay, but sometimes the cause is unknown.

What are the 5 neurodevelopmental disorders? ›

NDDs comprise intellectual disability (ID); Communication Disorders; Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); Neurodevelopmental Motor Disorders, including Tic Disorders; and Specific Learning Disorders.

What is high functioning developmental delay? ›

High-functioning pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs) have only recently been widely recognised; they are diagnosed mainly in children. Key features are impaired social cognition and communication; obsessive interests, routines or activities; and social or occupational dysfunction.

Does developmental delay qualify for SSI? ›

Most developmental disabilities begin before age 21 and can dramatically impair one's ability to perform daily activities. Because of this, individuals with developmental disabilities are often eligible to receive Social Security Disability benefits.


1. Global Development Delay and Autism: Hot Seat #5 with Grandma Tina
(Mary Barbera - Turn Autism Around)
2. 5 Signs You DO NOT Have Autism
(Autism Family)
(SJ Strum)
4. Early Signs of Autism | Speech Delay or Autism | Speech Pathologist Laura Mize | teachmetotalk
5. Episode 1 - 5 Red Flags for Child Development Delay
(Reconnecting Kids)
6. Camp: The Importance of Social Recreation for People with Developmental Disabilities
(University of California Television (UCTV))


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Barbera Armstrong

Last Updated: 08/16/2023

Views: 6528

Rating: 4.9 / 5 (59 voted)

Reviews: 82% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Barbera Armstrong

Birthday: 1992-09-12

Address: Suite 993 99852 Daugherty Causeway, Ritchiehaven, VT 49630

Phone: +5026838435397

Job: National Engineer

Hobby: Listening to music, Board games, Photography, Ice skating, LARPing, Kite flying, Rugby

Introduction: My name is Barbera Armstrong, I am a lovely, delightful, cooperative, funny, enchanting, vivacious, tender person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.