Children always have different journeys through childhood. Some may need more help than others to develop the skills they need to thrive as they age. You don’t need to worry if your child struggles to reach the same milestones as their peers. These are some common things you should know about developmental delays as a parent to best help your kids.
1. Any Child Can Experience Developmental Delays
Kids don’t need a specific diagnosis during infancy or fetal development to experience delays. Research shows that 10-15% of preschool children have developmental delays and 17.3% of kids three to 17 years old had developmental delays from 2014–2018, so it’s more common than many parents realize.
Your child’s pediatrician can answer any questions you may have regarding your kid’s progress with things like fine motor skills, talking and walking. They’ll know when each skill naturally appears in children’s lives and when your child may show cause for concern.
2. Delays Can Appear Immediately
Infants have much to experience and develop in the first year of their lives. They won’t walk or talk immediately, but you may notice delays regarding what visual or auditory stimulation they respond to. Discussing concerns or questions with your child’s pediatrician is always a good idea. They may suggest trying new activities to better gauge whether or not your child is experiencing a delay.
3. Speech Delays Have Other Side Effects
Children typically start saying their first vowel sounds or rudimentary words around six months old and then a more extensive vocabulary quickly forms in the months following. Sometimes kids begin this stage seemingly well, but they struggle with side effects parents may not relate to a potential speech development delay.
Pediatric speech therapists find that other signs may appear in young children struggling to develop speech abilities, such as:
- Failing to follow verbal directions
- Using tenses incorrectly
- Never imitating sounds
- Missing cues to point at things they see
You might not associate these occurrences with a speech delay, but they could be the earliest red flags your child exhibits. Their doctor will consider these signs alongside their medical history to determine what’s a cause for concern.
4. Fine Motor Skills Can Be Challenging
People use fine motor skills daily and might not even realize it. They’re abilities that develop in early childhood but may take longer for some children than others. Encourage your child to engage in fine motor skills games like playing with putty, squeezing colorful sponges full of water and coloring. If they can’t grasp tools or manage hand-eye coordination, playing those types of activities more often may be necessary during a developmental delay.
5. Self-Care Skills May Take Time
Although you might picture things like aromatherapy and journaling when you picture self-care sessions, there are skills that some kids need more time to develop that count as self-care. Your child might not catch onto potty training, feeding themselves or getting dressed as quickly as other kids.
These struggles could relate to various delays, so additional monitoring and check-ins with your child’s pediatrician will clarify their future. Practicing fine motor skills at home and school is easy to do in the meantime.
6. Social Abilities Don’t Always Come Naturally
Kids don’t always naturally develop social skills. Typically they occur when kids meet others their age in daycares, preschools or neighborhood playdates. They may cry before hanging out with friends or remain silent around their peers.
Some kids with developmental delays don’t foster or maintain relationships because they have undiagnosed conditions. No one would enjoy time with friends if they can’t keep up with conversations, articulate their thoughts or play the same games requiring advanced hand-eye coordination.
Take notes if your child isn’t forming a group of peers. If they’re also struggling socially in school, it could be worth chatting with their doctor to see if it’s more than a case of social anxiety.
7. Memory Retention May Require Therapy
The ability to retain memories happens gradually while kids are still young. It starts when parents point to something, explain what it’s called and ask their child to remember that new term. It’s fun to practice words for things in the house, things in nature and even farm animal names, but developmental delays could exist if your child never remembers the correct answers.
You can encourage their development by meeting with a therapist and practicing the memory-boosting activities they advise. Visualization games and picture activities are helpful, especially if you and your child do them multiple times daily. There are many resources to try for cognitive development delays, so meet with a therapist to find the best ones for your child.
8. Numerous Experts Can Help
Developmental therapists and educators are experts on childhood delays. They’ll understand what’s typical for kids at specific ages and what’s a cause for concern. Meet with potential therapists to assist your child with their speech, social and physical skills if their pediatrician advises it. You’re not alone in monitoring your child’s growth when so many experts are readily available.
Learn About Developmental Delays
Although it might seem intimidating, learning about developmental delays will empower you and your child. You’ll pinpoint how to help them and who you can reach out to for guidance. Life will be much more enjoyable for everyone when you know what your child needs at every stage of their development.