Identifying and Treating Developmental Delays 

Identifying and Treating Developmental Delays 

The term developmental delay may sound scary, but it is important to understand that every child grows, develops and learns differently and often a delay in one area does not predict long term or permanent outcomes.

What is a developmental delay? 

A developmental delay refers to a child who has not gained the developmental skills expected within a specified age range. Delays may occur in the areas of motor function, speech and language, cognitive, play, and social skills. Global developmental delay means a young child has significant delays in two or more of these areas of development.

How to know if your child has a developmental delay?

If you are concerned that your child is not reaching milestones when typically expected you should first consult with your child’s general practitioner or paediatrician. At this appointment the doctor will most likely ask you a series of questions regarding milestones your child has or has not met, and what your child has and has not yet been able to do. The doctor may then refer you to a specialist.

Doctors your child might be referred to include:

  • Developmental paediatricians. These doctors have special training in child development and children with special needs.
  • Child neurologists. These doctors work on the brain, spine, and nerves.
  • Child psychologists or psychiatrists. These doctors know about the human mind.

Act Early

If a child does have a developmental delay early intervention can make a big difference. There are a range of therapies available to support the area of delay, including speech and language therapy, physical and occupational therapy, and behaviour therapy. Research has shown that early intervention can positively alter the course of development with long term outcomes.(, (Karoly, Lynn A., M. Rebecca Kilburn, and Jill S. Cannon, Proven Benefits of Early Childhood Interventions. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2005., 

To conclude, remember that not all children develop at the same rate. Avoid making comparisons between your child and other children. If you are concerned about your child’s development, first port of call is to visit your GP or paediatrician, and if a referral is made start with the recommended intervention as soon as possible.