A term used if a young child or baby has not mastered new skills within the expected time range. Often, new abilities and patterns of behaviour appear at given ages, and existing behaviour patterns change and can disappear. Delays differ in severity, and can affect the development of one or more of the following; walking, listening, language, speech, social and hand eye coordination.
A child that is late in majority of aspects of development often has a generalised issue. This can be due to extreme hearing or visual impairment, limited intellectual abilities, or injury or damage to the brain, before, during or after birth. For more information on the plausible causes of generalised delay search for causes of developmental delay.
Specific forms of delay
Delay in walking and movement has no serious cause. In particular cases, however, there can be exact causes; these may include spina bifida and muscular dystrophy. A delay in delving manipulative skills (the ability to use and pick up objects with hands) is usually due to lack of proper stimulation.
Delayed speech development can have a number of different causes. The most significant is deafness, which can cause the child to be unresponsive to sounds. Autism is an unusual cause; in this condition hearing is common but the child can be unresponsive to the human voice and sounds. Another plausible cause is generalised difficulty with muscle control, which can impair speech production; this can arise in children who have cerebral palsy. Injury to, or structural defects of, the larynx, speech muscles, or the mouth may too cause speech difficulties, as can any disorder that affects the speech area of the brain (for example, speech disorders)
Children vary immensely in the age at which they master bowel and bladder control. Often bowel control is learnt first. Delay in bladder control is very common. Such delays have a number of possible causes.
Delays can initial be noticed by parents; when this is the case, a doctor or health visitor should be consulted as soon as possible. Delays can also be detected during routine developmental checks with a family doctor, paediatrician or health visitor. These check ups are carried out at various ages, but generally at birth, six weeks, six to eight months, eighteen to twenty four months, and five years.
A child that shows signs of developmental delay should endure a full medical assessment. This can usually include a vision test, hearing test and physical examination, and a thorough developmental assessment. The child can possible need to undergo further investigation, such as blood tests, to check for any genetic abnormality, or referral to a specialist such as neurologist, physiotherapist or speech therapist.