What Are Signs of Developmental Delays in Toddlers?

Reviewed on 6/23/2021
developmental delays in toddlers
Learn how to spot signs of developmental delay and see if your toddler is on track

Developmental delay refers to when a child does not reach the developmental milestones expected of children their age. Delays may occur in motor function, speech, hearing, or vision.

Of course, if a child was born premature and has a milestone delay of a month or so, that is perfectly normal. However, if delays are persistent or significant, they can indicate serious medical conditions.

It’s important to remember that each child develops at their own pace. So if your child doesn’t reach a certain milestone for that particular age, don’t panic or get anxious. Give it some time. If you are still worried about your child’s development, consult your pediatrician.

What are signs of physical developmental delay?

3-5 months

  • Does not put objects in their mouth
  • Poor head and neck control
  • Fails to reach for or grasp objects

7 months

  • Cannot sit up without support
  • Does not roll in both directions
  • Muscle spasms
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Floppiness
  • Does not bear weight on their legs when you pull them up to a standing position
  • Difficulty swallowing

1 year

  • Does not crawl
  • Limping or awkward body posture
  • Cannot stand with support

2 years

  • Cannot push a wheeled toy
  • Cannot walk
  • Walks only on their toes
  • Speech delay

What are signs of speech or language delay?

3-4 months

  • Does not respond to loud noises
  • Does not babble
  • Begins babbling but does not try to imitate sounds

7 months

  • Does not respond to sounds

1 year

  • Does not use single words, such as “mama”
  • Does not understand instructions, such as “no” or “bye-bye”

2 years

  • Cannot speak at least 15 words
  • Does not use 2-word phrases without repeating and can only imitate speech
  • Does not use words to communicate more than immediate needs

What are signs of social or emotional delay?

3 months

  • Does not smile at people
  • Does not pay attention to new faces or seems frightened by them

7 months

  • Hesitates to cuddle
  • Shows no enjoyment being around people
  • Cannot be comforted at night (after 5 months)
  • Does not smile without prompting (by 5 months)
  • Does not laugh or squeal (by 6 months)
  • Shows no interest in playing peekaboo (by 8 months)
  • Shows no affection for parents or caretakers

1 year

  • Does not indulge in back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or facial expressions (at 9 months)
  • Does not indulge in back-and-forth gestures, such as waving, reaching, or pointing

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What are signs of cognitive developmental delays?

1 year

  • Does not search for hidden objects
  • Does not use motions, such as waving
  • Does not point to things or pictures

2 years

  • Fails to understand the function of everyday objects, such as a hairbrush, telephone, or spoon
  • Does not follow simple instructions
  • Does not imitate actions or words

What are signs of vision problems?

3 months

  • Does not follow moving objects with their eyes
  • Does not observe hands (by 2 months)
  • Has trouble rolling one or both eyes in all directions
  • Crosses eyes most of the time

6 months

  • Has one or both eyes turning in or out all the time
  • Experiences constant tearing or eye drainage
  • Does not track near objects (1 foot away) or far objects (6 feet away) with both eyes

What are therapies for developmental delays?

There is no cure for developmental delays, but therapies to treat the specific developmental delay have been effective in helping children catch up with their peers. Therapies include:

  • Physical therapy for physical developmental delays
  • Occupational therapy for independent living skills and visual motor skills
  • Speech and language therapy for speech and language issues
  • Early childhood special education for early developmental skills, such as play skills
  • Behavioral therapy for behavioral issues

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References
WebMD. Developmental Delays in Young Children. https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/recognizing-developmental-delays-birth-age-2#1

American Academy of Pediatrics. Is Your Baby’s Physical Development on Track? https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/Is-Your-Babys-Physical-Development-on-Track.aspxs

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