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Development Delays and Why You Shouldn't Worry

First off, what is a developmental delay?

A developmental delay in a child can be referred to as a child who has not reached the developmental skills expected of him or her, compared to others of the same age.

It is suggested to get children screened for developmental and behavioral delays at the ages of 9 months, 18 months, and 30 months. As first-time parents, it can sometimes be hard to distinguish what is a delay and what is your child just simply being a little behind. In the case of my son, it was a speech delay. Although many of my family members kept telling me it's fine he will catch up, I still felt I needed to talk to his pediatrician. His pediatrician at the time recommended waiting until he was 2.5 years old until we got him evaluated because my son was hitting all the milestones in other areas, but his speech was lagging. So once he hit his 2.5-year-old mark, I decided to get him evaluated and the speech therapist diagnosed him with a speech delay.

At first, this was devastating news to me. Mainly, because whenever something is "wrong" with your child you often feel guilty. I felt like it was my fault, what could I have done or what shouldn't I have done? But in actuality, all kids learn at different paces and the sooner you get past the guilt/denial phase. The sooner you can get in a position to help your child and use the available resources that are offered through many state and local programs.

According to WebMD, areas of developmental delays may include:

Language and Speech

  • What is it?

    • These are not unusual delays in toddlers. Language and speech problems are the most common type of developmental delays. Speech refers to verbal expression, including the way words are formed. Language is a broader system of expressing and receiving information, such as being able to understand gestures.

  • Examples:

    • By 1 year, contact the doctor if your child does not: Use any single words (like "mama"), Understand words like "bye-bye" or "no"

    • By 2 years, contact the doctor if your child: Cannot speak at least 15 words, Does not use two-word phrases without repetition; can only imitate speech, Does not use speech to communicate more than immediate needs

Motor Skills or Movement

  • What is it?

    • Motor skill developmental delays may be related to problems with gross motor skills, such as crawling or walking, or fine motor skills, such as using fingers to grasp a spoon.

  • Examples:

    • By 1 year, contact the doctor if your child: Does not crawl, Drags one side of their body while crawling, Cannot stand when supported

    • By 2 years, contact the doctor if your child: Cannot walk (by 18 months), Does not develop a heel-to-toe walking pattern or walks only on toes, Cannot push a wheeled toy


  • What is it?

    • Problems with thinking, and or problem-solving.

  • Examples:

    • Reaching for a toy with one hand, Exploring things in different ways like shaking, banging, throwing, Building towers of at least four blocks, An infant staring at mom’s face as she leans over his crib.

Social or Emotional

  • What is it?

    • Children may have problems interacting with adults or other children, called social and/or emotional developmental delays. Usually, these problems show up before a child begins school.

  • Examples:

    • By 1 year, contact the doctor if your child shows no: Back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or facial expressions (at 9 months), Back-and-forth gestures, such as waving, reaching, or pointing

After my son's diagnosis, we were able to get access to therapy services and I can truly say it has made a tremendous difference. He went from saying very few words and pointing to the things he wanted, to not only talking but also using sign language to assist with communicating the words that are still a little difficult. So I am going to tell you what I wish someone would have told me when I first started this journey.

"It is nothing wrong with feeling like you did something wrong, truth is... you didn't. Even though it is hard to accept at times, you are a great parent. Not only are you ensuring your child hits their milestones but you also are acting quickly and getting your child the help they need.

The road is long and I am only at the beginning but I am so thankful for God's grace and mercy. I have learned so much about being the best parent/at-home therapist and teacher to my son and I cannot wait to watch him blossom! Most children can work through their delays and catch up by the time they reach grade school with early intervention.

Here's an easy to follow worksheet that can help you track your child's development journey:

If you suspect your child is showing a delay in one of the listed areas above, you should:

Trust Your Gut

If you feel like there is something wrong, most likely it is. I often found myself feeling guilty as a new mom because every time something came up with my son I would be on the phone with his nurse or making an appointment with his pediatrician. In the long run, I am glad that I have always done this. Pushing my child's pediatrician to give him an allergy test, revealed that my son had a severe peanut allergy. I say this to say, always trust your gut mamas!

Act Early

It is so important to monitor your child's development to spot the signs early. As a new mom I used google a lot to understand things that I did not know of and I was able to find great resources. A cool way to access your child's development is by reading these books to your child. While reading to your child, pay attention to the milestones on each page and if your child is having difficulty with completing the tasks it may be time to talk to your child's pediatrician.

Be Vigilant

Even if your child's pediatrician tells you to wait, your child will eventually catch up. Always push to have assessments done if you feel that your child is behind. You pay for your health insurance and if you feel in your gut that your child needs help, be sure to advocate for it by any means necessary. If you have issues getting assessments done or do not agree with your child's pediatrician, I would recommend seeking a developmental pediatrician to evaluate your child.

Get a Professional Assessment

Although our gut feelings are good to go on, it is always good to get a professional assessment done to understand truly where your child is according to the milestones set for his or her age. Once the assessment is completed then you will be able to have a better understanding of where your child is and identify where your child might have a delay.

Other Helpful Resources:

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