Addressing the types of developmental delays in Children

  • Posted On : 28 January 2023

What is developmental delay?

A developmental delay is when a child is consistently behind peers in reaching milestones in an area of development.

There are four major types of developmental delays. They are cognitive, sensory motor, speech and language and socio-emotional delays.

Risk factors of developmental delays -

- Genetic conditions, such as down syndrome, fragile x syndrome, cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy.

- Maternal infections, such as chickenpox and rubella, during pregnancy

- Maternal use of drugs or alcohol during pregnancy

- Lack of oxygen to the baby during delivery

- Premature birth and low birth weight

- Vision and hearing disabilities

- Nutritional deficiency and malnutrition

- Untreated childhood disease, such as whooping cough and meningitis

- Exposure to poisons, such as lead and Mercury

- Physical abuse or neglect

Here is a closer look at each of the four major groups of developmental delays


Cognitive delays affect a child's intellectual functioning, their thinking and reasoning.

A child with cognitive developmental delay may have trouble following simple instructions .They may also have difficulty speaking, as well as imitating words and actions. They may lack the level of awareness and curiosity seen in similarity aged children.

Common cognitive developmental disorders

- Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)

- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD)

- Down Syndrome

- Fragile X Syndrome

- Cerebral palsy

- Dyslexia

- Dyscalculia

- Intellectual disability

- Learning Disability


Sensory motor delays may affect a child's gross and fine motor skills. A child's ability to process sensory information may also be affected.

Delays in fine motor skill development mostly affect the muscles of fingers. A child with this kind of delay may have difficulty writing, picking up small objects, holding spoon or trying their shoes

Common sensory motor developmental disorders

- Hearing impairment

- Sight impairment

- Ataxia

- Muscular Dystrophy

- Myopathy

- Spina bifida

-  Autism

- Cerebral palsy


Socio-emotional delays may be manifested in how a child interacts with others; they may also affect how a child interprets the emotion of others.

Parents may notice a potential socio-emotional delay when an infant does not point or does not return their waves, smiles, or other gestures.

Common socio-emotional developmental disorders

- Autism

- Asperger's disorder

- Social-emotional processing disorder

- Social communication disorder

- Non-verbal learning disorder

- Alexithymia

- Anxiety Disorder

- Reactive Attachment Disorder(RAD)

- Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder(DSED)


Speech and language delays can affect a child's ability to communicate with and understand others.

Parents may notice that an infant does not babble or talk.

Common speech and language developmental disorders

- Speech Production Disorder

- Receptive Language Disorder or Wernicke's Aphasia

- Expressive Language Disorder

- Childhood Apraxia of Speech

- Dysarthria

- Autism

Developmental delays may be temporary. In such instances, the child catches up and displays age appropriate development and learning, but a delay may be a marker for a long-term condition, such as disorder or disability.

Early intervention is the key, in either case. It helps a child with a delay reach their highest level of functioning in a developmental area.

This requires -

- Screening for developmental delays

- A therapy plan that connects an affected child and caregivers to qualified providers

- Monitoring a Child's progress to ensure they achieve the very best results

For Early Intervention contact us