How should I approach talking to the doctor if I think my child might have a developemental delay?
Developmental delays are mental and physical conditions that affect the child’s normal functioning because they have not gained the developmental skills expected of them at that age. While most of these disorders are not detectable at birth, others might have signs that show up at birth. Most developmental disabilities stay for a lifetime, but rehabilitation and medical help can improve symptoms and overall functioning. With others, the developmental delay is transient, and the child can catch up with time.
Developmental delays or impairments can present in various domains, including gross and fine motor skills, speech, cognitive functioning, and social skills.
Common developmental delays or disabilities include:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Down’s syndrome
- Hearing impairments
- Intellectual disabilities
- Motor skills delays and disabilities
- Vision impairments and speech delays
- Dyslexia or dyspraxia
Every child grows at their own pace, so a minor delay in achieving milestones shouldn’t worry you. However, if you notice a major gap in your child’s motor or cognitive development or unusual behaviour, then you should contact their doctor.
Disorders like Down’s syndrome or other physical impairments are usually visible at birth. That said, you should still seek help if you notice these signs and symptoms:
- Abnormal facial features (also known as dysmorphism)
- Poor neck stability after three months
- Impaired or delayed speech
- Not crawling, rolling over, or sitting at eight months
- Repeated head banging
- Not responding to their name
- Not following toys or objects
- Not speaking a word after 18 months
- Not walking after two years
- Emotional breakdowns around strangers and not making eye contact
- Lack of focus or attention towards tasks in schoolchildren
- Lower IQ and cognitive skills
- Not picking up emotional or verbal cues
Do not hesitate to make an appointment with a paediatrician or family medicine doctor if you feel that your child is not active or not following milestone charts or they are unresponsive to your sound, toys, or any other object after three to four months of age. Mention your specific concern and ask about the next steps. You should also contact a doctor immediately if you notice your child having seizures, drooling excessively, or not meeting physical milestones.
Cognitive and social disorders like autism and ADHD are usually diagnosable from ages two and four, respectively. However, if your child gets panic attacks, continuously spins or repeats one task/activity, doesn’t connect with strangers, or is hypersensitive to new surroundings, this can indicate an underlying problem. Additionally, you should make an appointment with a speech therapist or paediatrician if your child is not speaking at least two words combined or making a sentence by age two.
Dr Arif Khan
Founder and consultant paediatric neurologist
Neuropedia Children’s Neuroscience Center, Dubai