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Developmental delay is a condition where a child doesn’t reach developmental milestones at the ages he or she would normally be expected to.

More to Know

Developmental milestones are skills or tasks that children can typically do at certain ages. Crawling, walking, and talking are three examples. Doctors use developmental milestones to check on a child’s development and make sure there are no issues that need to be addressed. All children are unique and develop at different rates, but most children will hit their milestones within a certain age range. If a child doesn't reach his or her milestones on time, it could be a sign of developmental delay.

There are many areas of childhood development, including motor skills, speech and language, social, emotional, and thinking skills (also called cognitive development). Delays can happen in one or many of these different areas. During routine checkup visits, your child’s doctor should check for any possible developmental delays. If you or the doctor think your child might have a developmental delay, a more thorough evaluation might be done.

Treatment depends on which areas of development are delayed and can include speech-language therapy, physical therapy, behavioral therapy, and social skills training.

Keep in Mind

Living with a developmentally delayed child can be challenging, but help is available. In the U.S., all states have early intervention services designed to help children from birth through 3 years of age, and in many cases the services are free. Any parent with concerns about a child’s development should seek help as soon as possible. The sooner treatment is started, the better the chances of a good outcome.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.