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Babies and children usually learn important skills as they
develop. In fact, during the first five years of their lives, most
children develop more skills than at any other time.
These skills are known as 'developmental milestones' and usually
happen at fairly predictable ages. A child with developmental delay
is much slower in reaching one or more of these milestones than
The key areas of development are:
The tables in
our development delay poster [PDF] list the ages by which most
children will have gained certain skills in the four key areas of
If your child has not reached these milestones by these ages it
is advisable to talk about it with your health visitor or GP. More
detailed information on this can be found in the 'Birth to
Five' section of the NHS Choices website.
Why might a child be slow in development?
A child's development can be slower than others for various
reasons. For example:
If a child's progress slows for a while and there seems to be a
reason, this is not necessarily a cause for concern. But if the
delay is persistent, or happens for no obvious reason, it is
important that you seek advice so that any necessary help can be
given as soon as possible.
Types of delay
Delay might be specific to one particular area of development.
For example, children with muscular dystrophy will have specific
delays in their physical skills. Children on the autistic spectrum
will be slow in developing personal, social and communication
A child may be described as having global developmental delay
(GDD) if they are slow in reaching two or more milestones in all
areas of development -
see our milestones poster [PDF].
It is well known that parents are often the first to realise
that their child is not developing in an expected way.
If you are worried about your child's progress you should talk
to your health visitor or GP.
It can be helpful to have your Personal Child Health Record with
you. Your health visitor or GP might suggest activities you can do
with your child to support their development. This might be all
that is needed.
However, if after four to six weeks, or after having tried the
activities, you are still worried, go back and tell your health
visitor or GP.
It is important that different types of delay are identified as
early as possible so that support can begin, tailored to your
child's specific needs.
Who can help?
If your child is referred for further assessment, they could be
seen by a paediatrician, who is a doctor specialising in children's
health and wellbeing. The paediatrician might order tests for
specific conditions that could be causing the delay in their
development. You might also see a:
The professionals are likely to ask questions about how your
child has developed since birth and may want to spend time
observing and possibly giving them one or more developmental
If you have been recording your child's progress in their
Personal Child Health record, they will find this information
If the specialist says there is nothing to worry about but you
are still concerned, do go back to them or talk to your GP.
Contact with other families
Parents often report feeling lonely and isolated and that other
people do not understand what they are going through.
Families often find it helpful to get in contact with others who
are going through, or have been through, similar experiences.
Parents frequently say that other parents have been their best
source of information and support. Find out more about parent