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How to Understand Developmental Delays and Unlock Your Child’s Growth Potential

Kids all develop at their own pace. Just get a group of same-aged kiddos together on the playground and you’ll witness this principle in action.

Max is swinging from the money bars like he was born in the treetops…

Hailey is cautious with the slide but she’s directing and leading a group of friends in a game of hide and seek…

Taylor’s showing off her balance skills on the wobbly bridge…

And Adam is digging in the sandbox while singing all of his favorite songs…

They may be the same age, but they’re not all in the same stage.

Some have developed their motor skills, others excel in their early language capabilities. Some have mastered fine motor skills, while their friends are showing serious working memory chops.

When kids grow and develop—there are a LOT of skills to be learned and mastered. It takes time. And it stands to reason that some kids develop skills at a different rate and pace than their same-aged peers.

That’s why we’ve developed ranges for the typical development of these learned skills—because we understand and accept that there’s a lot of wiggle room in how and when kids develop certain skills.

These developmental milestones have been mapped out for speech, language, and motor skill development, among others.

But how do you know if your child is delayed in their development of the important skills they’re learning?

While you may be fearful your child is not meeting developmental milestones—it’s always better to know if this is the case than to avoid the issue.

If your child is struggling with meeting developmental milestones, there are many ways they can get the support they need to overcome any challenges they face.

But first, you need to gain a clear understanding of what those challenges are.

Let’s explore what developmental delays are, to help you pinpoint if your child may be dealing with a delay in their development. Then, we’ll look at the many ways you can support your child and get them the help they need to thrive.

What are developmental delays?

Developmental delays are the terms used when a child fails to meet developmental milestones in areas including communication, movement, behavior, and play.

While it’s true that these skills develop at different rates in different kids, there are age-based norms for these milestones that therapists, educators, and healthcare professionals use to assess if a child is on track or delayed with their skill development.

Some examples of important developmental milestones in young children include—

  • Rolling over

  • Social smiling

  • First word(s)

  • Recognizing their own name

  • Sharing attention on an activity

  • Pulling up

  • First steps

Because there are different areas of development, there are different types of developmental delays. In some cases, kids may have delays in more than one area.

If significant delays occur in two or more areas of your child’s development, this is referred to as a global developmental delay, meaning that more brain systems are involved and impacted.

Developmental delays can also be isolated, meaning they only impact one aspect of your child’s development, while they progress through typical developmental milestones in other areas.

The different types of developmental delays children experience include—

  • Speech and language delays

Communication skills development is a key part of your child’s growth. Language delays can impact both receptive and expressive language skills. Speech delays can affect the acquisition and mastery of articulation and phonological skills.

  • Cognitive delays

Cognition is a fancy term for thinking skills. Our cognitive abilities cover skills like learning and retaining information, problem solving, and making inferences and judgments. A child with cognitive delays may fall behind their same-aged peers in skills that require following directions, using information provided, recalling what they’ve heard, or making educated guesses.

  • Delays in social and emotional skills

Kids need to learn skills to interact socially with others, as well as to understand and regulate their own emotions, in order to become fully functioning adult members of society.

Kids with delayed socioemotional development may struggle to get along with others, understand social norms, or read and respond to common social cues. They may face challenges with behavioral regulation, or may be impulsive or struggle with changes to their routine. Children on the autism spectrum often experience challenges in this area of development.

  • Gross and fine motor skill delays

Our physical lives are full of large and small, intricate and coordinated movements. Our motor skills build upon one another from the first moments we enter the world.

From sitting up to rolling over, standing to walking to running and jumping—our gross motor skills govern the large, coordinated movements that involve big body systems.

Fine motor skills are what we use to hold and use writing and eating utensils. They also come in handy for personal grooming and anything that requires an intricate touch.

Some children struggle with acquiring and mastering the building blocks for a solid motor system. These kids may benefit from working with an occupational therapist or physical therapy to address their struggles.

But how can you be sure if your child has developmental delays? After all, every child is different, and many issues don’t show up as cut and dried as they seem on paper.

Let’s explore some ways you can track your child’s development, to understand if they’re meeting important milestones or may be falling behind.

How do I know if my child has developmental delays?

Some parents are well aware their child has or is at risk for developmental delays. Kids with genetic disorders such as Down's syndrome and fragile X syndrome experience developmental delays as a result of these conditions.

Certain factors put children at increased risk for developmental delays. These include—

  • Premature birth

  • Low birth weight

  • Exposure to certain drugs and toxins, either prior to or after birth

  • Hypoxia at birth

  • Trauma from accidents or abuse

  • Health problems including chronic ear infections

  • Failure to thrive due to consistently poor nutrition or hydration

If your child has any of these issues, it’s important to monitor their development and enlist the guidance and support of their pediatrician and other trusted healthcare professionals to assess and keep track of their development. This is why attending your child’s regular check ups and well-child visits are an important part of their early years.

It’s also important to be open with your child’s pediatrician if any known or suspected developmental issues have impacted anyone in your immediate family. This includes conditions like autism, ADHD, learning disorders and intellectual disabilities in your family history.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one in six children in the United States has at least one form of developmental delay.

It can be difficult for parents to know if your child is one of the 17% of kids in this country who are impacted by developmental delays. It can be helpful to learn about certain developmental milestones and their typical timelines, to understand if your child may be experiencing a delay in their skill development.

If you’re feeling a bit lost or uncertain, The Loop has got you covered—

These articles will give you a great foundation to understand how developmental skills build upon one another as your child grows. They’ll also help you learn important benchmarks for these skills, to know if your child could benefit from some additional assessment and support to ensure they’re reaching their developmental potential.

How can I support my child with developmental delays?

If your child has delays in one or more areas of development, there are many ways you can support them and get them the outside assistance they need.

Your child’s pediatrician is a great source of information and resources to help you navigate next steps to evaluate and treat your child for developmental delays. Your child’s teacher and school administrators are also great sources to obtain information and assistance.

If needed, your child’s doctor or school can connect you with appropriate therapists and professionals to assess your child’s developmental skills and provide treatment in any areas of concern.

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and occupational therapists (OTs) are often involved in the assessment and treatment of kids with developmental delays.

The Loop is proud to have several top-notch SLPs and OTs on our team, all of whom are highly skilled at assessing and treating developmental delays in children.

Feeling unclear about what these two disciplines of therapy can offer you? You’re not alone!

Your child may also benefit from our other awesome educational support service options. These include learning remediation, executive function coaching, and educational consultancy and advocacy.

Unsure what these are or how they can help your child with developmental delays?

If your Chicago private school partners with The Loop, our team is standing by to mobilize to offer you the best in personalized therapy and learning support services. Our team is passionate about supporting Chicago students in need to reach important developmental milestones and fulfill their potential.

From our customized evaluations to our individualized treatment plans—you can always depend on The Loop to offer the one-of-a-kind therapy and learning support services your child needs to succeed.

Plus, we’ll always keep you in the loop of your child’s progress with us—so you can learn how they’re progressing and any areas we’re focusing on and why.

We’ll also involve you in therapy whenever possible, and will provide you with the training and resources you need to further your therapy child’s progress at home.

We value you as a core member of your child’s support team—so we’ll always work with you to deliver them the best possible experience and promote optimal outcomes in their therapy journey.

When your child faces developmental delays and challenges, it’s important to know that you’re not alone. The Loop is ready to be a trusted partner in your corner—to help you advocate for and support your child to step into their bright future.

The Loop is in your corner when it comes to addressing developmental delays comprehensively. Our stellar speech, language, occupational, and behavioral therapists are highly skilled at treating issues that impact your child's development. And our helpful educational support services include educational consultancy and advocacy, learning remediation, and executive function coaching. We’re here for you!

Be sure to follow us on your fav social platforms @TheLoopSLL. Email us with questions at And visit our blog regularly for advice and insight on topics that matter to parents like you!

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