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Developmental Delay in Children

At Children’s Health, our pediatric neurologists have vast experience diagnosing and treating all forms of developmental delay in children. Our nationally recognized care team can work with you and your family to support children with a wide range of conditions.

What is Developmental Delay in Children?

Developmental delay refers to the mild, moderate or severe delays that children may have in a number of areas, including learning to walk and talk. Some developmental delays are very common in children. They usually don’t mean that a child has a serious illness.

While children develop at different paces, parents may notice that their child seems to be meeting milestones later than other children. These delays can be physical and social, and they may affect communication skills as well.

Although developmental delays are common, our specialists take all delays very seriously. We work with all children to identify those who may be at risk for long-term problems.

What are the signs and symptoms of Developmental Delay in Children?

At 5 years and younger, we look for delays in:

  • Gross motor skills, like walking
  • Fine motor skills, including things like holding a spoon
  • Language skills, both speaking and understanding
  • Social skills, including making eye contact and giving and receiving hugs

After age 5, we watch how well children do in school, mainly the ability to learn to:

  • Read
  • Write
  • Do math

How is Developmental Delay in Children diagnosed?

Your pediatrician may refer you to a child neurologist if they suspect that your child is experiencing developmental delays. The neurologist will take a full medical history of the family and the child. They will use a wide range of tests to measure a child’s development precisely.

They may also run tests to understand why a child might be developing at a different pace. We might use imaging tests to determine if your child has a central nervous system disorder. Using blood samples, we might do genetic tests or look for metabolic disorders.

If your child is experiencing developmental delays, it can be helpful to get a diagnosis early so they can start treatment as soon as possible.

What causes Developmental Delay in Children?

Delayed development can be caused by many factors, including:

  • Exposure to toxins during pregnancy, such as alcohol and recreational drugs
  • Genetics, inherited from a parent
  • Exposure to toxins during infancy, such as lead, tobacco smoke or agricultural products (pesticides and fertilizers)
  • Neglect, including if parents are suffering from substance abuse

How is Developmental Delay in Children treated?

Once we have a precise diagnosis, we use a wide range of therapies to address each child’s specific needs. Treatments include:

  • Physical therapy, which helps your child get stronger and more coordinated
  • Occupational therapy, which helps your child with the skills of daily living
  • Behavioral therapy, to help with emotional or mental-health aspects
  • Academic coaching, to help with challenges at school

Developmental Delay in Children Doctors and Providers

Your care team at Children’s Health℠ may include a wide range of specialists who can work with your child.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Will my child with developmental delays be okay?

    Some developmental delays can last throughout a person’s life. We are dedicated to working with your family so that your child can lead as independent and happy a life as possible.

  • Why does my child have delayed development?

    Children have delayed development for a variety of reasons, including genetics and exposure to toxins. We will try to provide a precise diagnosis. Then, we will work with your family to support your child in terms of their environment, their schooling, needed treatment and medication that may be helpful.

  • If we live far from Dallas, is there a way to reach our doctors virtually?

    We now have the option of seeing your child virtually through telehealth for follow-up visits. If there are new concerns or if your child has had physical changes, you would need to come to Children’s Health in person.