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

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

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

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) The Difference between Developmental Delays and Autism

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.

What is the most common cause of 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 4 causes of developmental delay? ›

Developmental Delay Causes and Risk Factors
  • Being born prematurely.
  • Genetic conditions like Down syndrome or muscular dystrophy.
  • Poor eyesight or hearing.
  • Malnutrition.
  • Alcohol or drug use during pregnancy.
  • Physical abuse or neglect.
  • Lack of oxygen during delivery.
Nov 29, 2022

What are the five developmental factors? ›

Five main factors identified in contributing to growth and developments at early childhood are nutrition, parent's behaviours, parenting, social and cultural practices, and environment.

What are the five developmental? ›

The Five Areas of Development is a holistic approach to learning for Cerebral, Emotional, Physical, Social and Spiritual development.

How do you fix developmental delay? ›

Keep playing. There are many fun activities that can help build skills. 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.

Can a child outgrow developmental delay? ›

Kids can outgrow or catch up from developmental delays. Developmental disabilities are lifelong, though people can still make progress and thrive. Conditions that can cause developmental disabilities include Down syndrome, autism, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), and brain injuries.

What are red flags in child development? ›

Months Is not gazing at objects; does not tune out repetitive sounds; does not move eyes to follow sound Does not respond to loud sounds Does not coo or make sounds When lying on back: keeps hands fisted and lacks arm movements; is not bringing hands to mouth; lacks symmetrical arm movements; does not turn head to ...

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 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.

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.

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 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).

At what age is a child most influenced? ›

Nomination of age 12, early-mid puberty, as the time when parents can most influence child outcomes, points to pressing concerns that eclipse early life matters. Alternatively, early development may be viewed as less amenable to parental influence.

How parents influence child development? ›

As a parent, you influence your child's basic values, like religious values, and issues related to their future, like educational choices. And the stronger your relationship with your child, the more influence you'll have, because your child will be more likely to seek your guidance and value your opinion and support.

Who has the most influence on a child? ›

Common knowledge, parents influence their children's development and personality. Whether we want to admit it or not, parents are a child's most influential role model. As parents, we spend more time with our children than any other adult. We model to our children our values, as well as our likes/dislikes.

What are the 5 developmental dimensions? ›

In their research, they classified traits into five broad dimensions: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. You can remember them by using the acronyms OCEAN or CANOE.

Is developmental delay a mental disability? ›

Developmental delay refers to mental and physical characteristics below the level of other individuals at the same age. These impairments affect daily functioning in a variety of ways, including learning, language, mobility and coordination.

Is developmental delay a form of autism? ›

Although some of the signs and symptoms of developmental delays and autism may look the same, they are two different conditions.

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.

Are you born with developmental delay? ›

Most developmental disabilities begin before a baby is born, but some can happen after birth because of injury, infection, or other factors. Most developmental disabilities are thought to be caused by a complex mix of factors.

What is the biggest red flag for autism? ›

Social communication
  • Limited use of gestures such as giving, showing, waving, clapping, pointing, or nodding their head.
  • Delayed speech or no social babbling/chatting.
  • Makes odd sounds or has an unusual tone of voice.
  • Difficulty using eye contact, gestures, and sounds or words all at the same time.

What are the 10 red flag symptoms? ›

Examples of red-flag symptoms in the older adult include but are not limited to pain following a fall or other trauma, fever, sudden unexplained weight loss, acute onset of severe pain, new-onset weakness or sensory loss, loss of bowel or bladder function, jaw claudication, new headaches, bone pain in a patient with a ...

What are three red flag symptoms? ›

What is a red flag symptom?
  • Severe chest pain – heart attack, clot in lungs, collapsed lung.
  • Severe headache – bleed in brain, meningitis (a brain infection)
  • Shortness of breath – heart failure or COPD (a group of lung diseases that cause breathing difficulties), asthma.

Is there a test for developmental delay? ›

There's no lab or blood test to tell if your child may have a delay in their development. However, there are tests for other specific syndromes and disorders that cause developmental delays. Your child's provider will tell you whether your child needs any of those.

Can a child be delayed and not have autism? ›

Not necessarily. While speech delays, language delays, and learning differences are often a hallmark of ASD, a speech delay by itself does not mean a child has autism. In fact, there are key differences between communication delays caused by autism and other types of speech-language disorders.

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).

Is a developmental delay different than 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 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 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 are other developmental delays besides autism? ›

These can include language, speech, or hearing problems. Fine motor issues, problems with social interaction, and impaired thinking skills can happen, too. While kids with autism may have developmental delays, those delays can have other causes, like lead poisoning or Down syndrome, or even no known cause.

Can a developmentally delayed child catch up? ›

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. However, without early intervention support, there's a chance a developmental delay may progress into a more serious problem.

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.

Is developmental delay a disability? ›

1. Developmental delays are usually caused by a variety of life-long conditions categorized as developmental disabilities (DD). Developmental disabilities include Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, and cerebral palsy, all conditions also referred to as special needs.

Is ADHD a developmental delay? ›

The Americans with Disabilities Act recognizes Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as a developmental disability. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , developmental disabilities are conditions that affect learning, language, physical, or behavioral areas.

Can parents cause developmental delays? ›

There are myriad factors that might contribute to a child's delayed development, some more alarming than others. It could mean that a parent isn't giving a child opportunities to develop on their own, for example, not leaving age-appropriate items within reach to help a baby develop their pincer grasp skills.

Is developmental delay a neurological disorder? ›

Developmental disability

Developmental disabilities are neurological disorders that usually appear during childhood and persist for the rest of your child's life. With intensive intervention, children can often overcome some aspects of their disability but the core challenges remain throughout adulthood.

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.

What is mistaken for autism? ›

There are other brain disorders that mimic autism symptoms, like ADHD and anxiety disorders, including selective mutism. Autism can be misdiagnosed as another disorder with some shared symptoms.

What are the 3 main symptoms of Aspergers? ›

What are the Symptoms of Asperger's Syndrome?
  • Inappropriate or minimal social interactions.
  • Conversations that almost always revolve around themselves or a certain topic, rather than others.
  • Not understanding emotions well or having less facial expression than others.


(SJ Strum)
2. The 5 Main Reasons for Delays on your Property Development Project
(James Armstrong)
3. Global Development Delay and Autism: Hot Seat #5 with Grandma Tina
(Mary Barbera - Turn Autism Around)
4. 5 Signs You DO NOT Have Autism
(Autism Family)
5. Developmental Red Flags to Watch For at 6 Months Old (Must-know for every parent)
(Emma Hubbard)
6. Will Your Speech Delayed Child Catch up?
(Agents of Speech)


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Jerrold Considine

Last Updated: 22/08/2023

Views: 6309

Rating: 4.8 / 5 (78 voted)

Reviews: 93% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Jerrold Considine

Birthday: 1993-11-03

Address: Suite 447 3463 Marybelle Circles, New Marlin, AL 20765

Phone: +5816749283868

Job: Sales Executive

Hobby: Air sports, Sand art, Electronics, LARPing, Baseball, Book restoration, Puzzles

Introduction: My name is Jerrold Considine, I am a combative, cheerful, encouraging, happy, enthusiastic, funny, kind person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.