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Developmental Delay in Children: Know the Types, Causes and More!

Medically reviewed by Kristina Campos, MD · General Practitioner

Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Jun 20, 2022

    Developmental Delay in Children: Know the Types, Causes and More!

    Normally, a baby will reach their developmental milestones at the expected age. Sometimes, they might miss one or two, but they will soon catch up.

    However, in certain cases, when development goes off the track it may lead to negative consequences. If any developmental delay is leading to a significant lag in the child’s emotional, physical, or psychological behavior on a daily basis, then it’s time to raise an alarm.

    Early intervention to treat developmental delay always helps in preventing it from getting worse.

    What Does Developmental Delay in Children Mean?

    Developmental delay means more than just ‘slowing down’ or ‘lagging behind’. A developmental delay is when a child fails to achieve developmental milestones expected at a certain stage. According to several studies, about 10 to 15 percent of children under the age of three experience a developmental delay.

    Researchers believe that early intervention can make a huge difference for many children with developmental delay thanks to appropriate treatments. However, the number of children who are diagnosed with a developmental delay from the very beginning is less, say only about 3 per cent.

    Hesitation to seek medical help may decrease the child’s chances of recovery. Therefore, if you suspect a developmental delay in your little one, seek help as soon as possible.

    Types of Developmental Delay in Children

    There are different kinds of developmental delay observed in children. The list comprises of:


    This is one of the most common types of development delay found in children.

    A speech development delay happens when a child is unable to speak as many words as expected by their age.

    Whereas, in language development delay, a child finds it difficult to understand what others are saying or cannot express themselves properly. Development delay in language involves difficulty in writing, speaking, signing and gesturing.


    Before and until six months, a child’s vision is usually blurry. Post that it gradually gets clearer as the child grows and he/she learns to coordinate sight in both eyes. The child might be suffering from a developmental delay in vision if he/she is unable to do this or faces any other sight issues. 

    Motor Skills (Movement)

    Motor skill development delay is generally associated with problems in crawling, walking or jumping which are termed as gross motor skills or it could be related to fine motor skills such as difficulty in using fingers to hold a pen or any other object.

    Cognitive Skills (Thinking)

    Cognitive developmental delay is typically referred to when a child’s mental processes are affected. Kids with cognitive developmental delay usually find it difficult to take care of themselves. They may find it difficult to eat, change clothes on their own or even communicate with people for that matter.

    Social and Emotional Skills

    Under this type of developmental delay, children find it difficult to interact with other kids and adults. It is generally observed to take place before the kid goes to school.

    Causes of Developmental Delay in Children

    There are many conditions to be blamed for developmental delay in children. For example:

    • Developmental delay in motor skills can be caused by complications of premature birth, genetic disorders such as Down syndrome, or the result of a serious illness or accident.
    • Developmental delay in communication and social skills can be caused by hearing impairment, problems in the larynx, throat, or nasal or oral cavity, and troubles in the central nervous system.
    • Fragile X syndrome – an inherited type of cognitive impairment.
    • Fetal alcohol syndrome – caused due to mother drinking alcohol during pregnancy.

    Delays could also be a result of environmental factors such as gadget use and lack of guidance from the caregiver.

    When to Call Your Doctor?

    You should make an appointment with your doctor if:

    • There is something wrong with the way your baby moves or communicates.
    • Your baby seems to have lost a milestone that they previously reached.
    • You notice any specific signs of physical or language or communication delay.

    Even if your child does not have any clear sign, but you suspect or have a question or concern about this medical condition, you should call the doctor right away.

    If your doctor says that your baby is fine and you’re still concerned, you may ask for another opinion from a specialist in developmental issues or a speech pathologist.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Kristina Campos, MD

    General Practitioner

    Written by Nikita Bhalla · Updated Jun 20, 2022

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