Developmental Delay

Developmental Delay
When a child shows delays in achieving developmental milestones in comparison to peers of the same age range then the child is said to be having developmental delay. The degree of developmental delay can be further classified in three categories, first mild (functional age < 33% below chronological age), second moderate (functional age 34%–66% of chronological age) and third severe (functional age < 66% of chronological age). A significant delay in child development is when performance of the child is two or more standard deviations below the mean on age-appropriate standardized norm-referenced testing (usually conducted in secondary or tertiary care settings

Signs and Symptoms of Developmental Delay

  • Child does not babble or respond to loud noises by 3 to 4 months
  • Child does not speak a single word by the age of 1 year
  • Child does not reach for, grasp, or hold objects by 3 or 4 months old
  • Child does not reach for, grasp, or hold objects by 3 or 4 months old
  • Child does not follow moving objects with his or her eyes by 3 months

Myths and Facts

Myth- Developmental delay can be outgrown.

Fact- They are lifelong conditions, with no cure but regular treatment and intervention can help in improvement of symptoms and can help in effective functioning in various factors of one’s well-being.

Myth- Developmental delay is a mental illness.

Fact- Developmental delay is a neurological problem and not a mental illness. A person may develop mentally below the average rate or may have trouble learning or adjusting to the environment but they can always learn. However, with appropriate treatment and early intervention a child can always live effectively in the society.

Myth- Developmental delay is contagious.

Fact- Developmental delay is not contagious as it is biological, and occurs from damage or some changes in brain cells.

Issues and challenges

Children with developmental delay have 4 times likelihood of having mental illness as compared to children with normal functioning. A major challenge with this is the co-occurrence of mental retardation and other behavioural issues. It becomes more challenging for a therapist to deal with such cases and of course regular long-term commitment is required.

How do you know you need counseling/Therapy?

Children generally reach developmental milestones at their own pace, and even some move faster than others. If there are two siblings in the same family then they may reach milestones at different rates. Minor, temporary delays are usually no cause for alarm, that can be handled but an ongoing delay or multiple delays in reaching milestones can be a sign there may be challenges later in life. If your child has Delay in reaching language, thinking, social, or motor skills milestones then you should consult to a therapist.

Role of counseling & Therapy in overcoming developmental delay

Although there is no cure for developmental delay, but therapies those are directed to the specific area of delay are found to be effective in helping children catch up to their peers. These types of therapies may include:

  • Physical Therapy- Physical therapy is often helpful for children with delays in gross motor skills.
  • Occupational Therapy- This can address fine motor skills, sensory processing and self-help issues.
  • Speech and Language Therapy- Speech therapy is typically used to address problems in the areas of understanding and producing language and speech sounds.
  • Early Childhood Special Education- Early childhood special education provides stimulation for early developmental skills, including play skills.
  • Behavioral Therapy-This may be needed in some children for behavioral difficulties that affect socially appropriate behaviors.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  • Developmental disability is a term used to describe disabilities that occur in the developmental years (before age 22). It may be simply caused by a mental or physical impairment or by the combination of both. Developmental disabilities cannot be cured permanently—they are life-long and chronic. Developmental disabilities include, but are not limited to: intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, autism, Down Syndrome. It may also include injuries such as head injury if the injury occurred before age 22 or other disabilities such as learning disabilities that are related to brain dysfunction. A person who is having developmental disability will have substantial functional limitation in his/her life basically in two or more of the following areas of major life activities: self-care, language development, expressiveness, self-direction, capacity for self dependent living or economic self-sufficiency, learning, and mobility.
  • A slower development than normal development in a child is considered as development delay. In Missouri, if a child shows a 50% delay in one of the major areas of development (cognitive, physical, communication, social or emotional, or adaptive) he or she is considered to have a developmental delay, early intervention services can benefit in this case. If a child is diagnosed with a physical or mental condition associated with developmental disabilities or one that has a high chance of resulting in a developmental delay or disability then the child is considered to have a developmental delay
  • There are various causes for developmental disability, which can occur before, during or after birth. In many cases, it is also seen that a person may have a developmental disability that cannot be attributed to any specific cause. Genetic factors, also plays a role in some cases, also inherited traits or environmental factors such as infections, injuries, lack of oxygen at birth, or exposure to toxic elements, drugs or alcohol can result into developmental disability. Sometimes it is a result of combination of genetic and environmental factors.
  • Early intervention means, identifying and providing effective support and therapies as soon as possible to children, who are at risk of poor outcomes. It helps child to prepare for the future and foster a whole set of personal strengths.
  • No, developmental delay is not a mental illness, it is biological.

Our team of experienced therapists can help you or your loved one to better deal with Developmental Delays.


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