Early Signs of Developmental Disability in a Child: What to Look For

Page content

Developmental Milestones

From the day a baby is born, parents often anticipate each milestone a child will reach as she grows. Although each child is an individual who will develop on her own schedule, every child should be able to do certain tasks by a certain age. These tasks fall into the categories of gross motor skills, fine motor skills, language skills, thinking skills, and social skills. Each of these categories is listed below, as well as a list of some signs of a developmentally disabled child. The approximate age when a child should typically develop these skills also follows.

Signs of a Developmental Delay: Gross Motor Skills

  • Cannot raise head and chest when lying on stomach by 3 months
  • Cannot roll from back to stomach and stomach to back by 6 months
  • Has abnormal muscle tone – either floppy or stiff muscles
  • Does not sit without support by 9 months
  • Does not crawl by 9 months
  • Cannot walk with or without support by 12 months
  • Cannot walk independently by 18 months
  • Does not run by 2 years
  • Cannot climb well by 3 years

Fine Motor Skills

  • Does not grasp objects by 3 months
  • Does not move objects from hand to hand by 6 months
  • Inability to pick up smaller objects and control coordination by 12 months
  • Cannot draw circles and squares by 4 years

Language Skills, Including Speech and Comprehension

  • Lack of smiles or other joyful expressions by 6 months
  • Lack of response to name by 7 months
  • Lack of back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by 9 months
  • No babbling by 12 months
  • Does not point, reach, wave, or make back-and-forth gestures by 12 months
  • No words by 16 months
  • No two-word sentences by 24 months
  • Lack of coordination of nonverbal communication
  • Little variation in pitch or intonation, irregular rhythm, or unusual voice quality
  • Loss of speech or babbling at any age

Thinking Skills

  • Cannot find partially hidden things by 7 months
  • Cannot follow simple instructions by 2 years
  • Does not start playing make-believe by 2 years
  • Cannot sort items by shape and color by 3 years

Social Skills

  • Lack of sharing interest or enjoyment
  • Displays unusual, repetitive behavior such as rocking, hand-flapping, or spinning
  • Shows preoccupation with lining up objects or making patterns
  • Has poor eye contact
  • Prefers to play alone
  • Does not get along with non-family members by 4 years

If parents notice any of these signs of a developmentally disabled child, they should talk to their pediatrician immediately. If the doctor does not take the concerns seriously, find one who will. Early diagnosis and intervention is vital in helping a child reach her full potential.