Developmental delay refers to when a child does not reach their developmental milestones at the expected times. Delays may occur in different areas such as motor function, speech and language, social and emotional development, or cognitive ability [1]. It’s important to note that children develop at their own pace, so variations are normal. However, consistent delays in multiple areas might require further evaluation by a professional

A teacher at school with her students.

Types of Developmental Delay  

  1. Motor delay, relating to the development of fine or gross motor skills, like grasping objects or walking [2]. 

  2. Speech and language delay, relating to the development of the skills involved in speech and communication [3]. 

  3. Social and emotional delay, relating to the development of social skills and emotional regulation [4]. 

  4. Cognitive delay, relating to the development of learning, understanding, problem-solving, and reasoning skills [5]. 

Causes of Developmental Delay  

Developmental delay can arise from a complex mix of factors including genetic conditions, premature birth, and environmental factors [6]. Sometimes, the causes are unknown. 

The Importance of Early Intervention 

Early intervention is important in managing developmental delay. It involves therapies and services designed to address developmental challenges as early as possible, enhancing the potential for positive outcomes [7]. The goal of early intervention is not to accelerate a child’s development, but to provide them with support to reach individual milestones.  

Targeted Therapies for Developmental Delays 

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapy 

ABA therapy is a well-established approach for children with developmental delays, especially for addressing behavioral concerns and social skills. It provides positive reinforcement for desirable behaviors, which can reduce challenges associated with social and emotional delays [12].   

Speech and Language Therapy 

Speech and language therapy can benefit children exhibiting delays in speech development. In this type of therapy, a speech-language therapist engages with the child to enhance communication skills and improve the child’s ability to form sounds, understand language, and express themselves [11]. 

Occupational Therapy 

Occupational therapy helps children with the skills required for daily living and academic success, including fine motor skills and sensory integration. It’s a vital intervention for those with sensory processing challenges, helping them navigate their environment more comfortably [10]. 

Physical Therapy 

Children experiencing delays in gross motor skills can benefit significantly from physical therapy. Through carefully designed exercises and activities, a physical therapist assists the child in improving balance, coordination, and strength [9]. 

Music Therapy 

Music therapy uses the universal appeal of music to address emotional, cognitive, and social needs. It stimulates various senses, promoting relaxation, improving emotional expression, and enhancing overall well-being [16]. 

A speech-language pathologist working with a young boy.

What to Do if You Suspect a Developmental Delay 

 If you notice your child is not meeting their developmental milestones: 

  1. Consult your pediatrician or primary care physician: Regular check-ups allow for monitoring of developmental progress and early detection of any delays. 

  2. Seek early intervention services: These services, offered at Cortica, can offer tailored support to address specific developmental needs. 

  3. Stay informed: Educate yourself about developmental milestones so that you can better advocate for your child’s needs [8]. 

Understanding developmental delay and acting promptly can pave the way for support and success. As a caregiver, approaching developmental delay with a combination of information, the right professional interventions, love, and patience can help to support and empower your child as they continue to learn and grow.  


[1] American Academy of Pediatrics. (2020). Developmental Delay: What You Need to Know. 

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Important Milestones: Your Child By Two Years. 

[3] American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2021). Late Language Emergence. 

[4] Zero to Three. (2021). Social and Emotional Development. 

[5] National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. (2021). Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDDs): Condition Information. 

[6] Mayo Clinic. (2021). Developmental Delays in Children: When to worry. 

[7] Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center. (2021). The Importance of Early Intervention. 

[8] (2021). Trust Your Instincts: How to Know When to Seek Early Intervention.