Developmental Delay and Disabilities
 
Developmental delay refers to the children’s physical and mental functioning level which is not on par with children of their age group. In other words, these children do not reach their developmental milestone at the expected age. Developmental delay is not only delay in physical development and hence, may not be easily detected by parents or caregivers. Developmental delay and disabilities in children include: delay in speech and language development, delay in cognition development, delay in motor development, delay in emotional and social skills, Global Developmental Delay (delay in most of the areas), and Pervasive Developmental Disorder
 
Delay in speech and language development Children’s ability in speech and language is lower than children in their age group as they take a longer time to reach the expected speech and language level. For instance, they have no meaningful speech at all at the age of 2, have difficulty at speaking in sentence level at the age of 3, and have “baby talk” or still mumbling after the age of 3.
Delay in cognition development Cognition delay refers to children’s intelligence or cognition that has not reached the expected developmental milestone. These children receive equal education with peers but parents and teachers may find their learning is much slower. In addition, they have difficulty in understanding abstract concepts, in memorizing and recalling information as well as poor organizational skills.
Delay in motor development Motor development delay includes delay in gross and fine motor skills as well as body coordination. Gross motor skills include walking, running, crawling and any movement that involves large group of muscles. Fine motor skills include skills of manipulating hands and wrist such as eye-hand coordination, finger movement and manipulation.
Delay in emotional and social skills Children with such delay would encounter difficulty with emotion regulation and socializing. They often fail to establish and maintain friendship. For instance, they have difficulty in maintaining conversations; they are passive in play, and they prefer to be alone. On top of that, they might have inappropriate emotional responses and behaviors, i.e. laugh or burst out in tears in inappropriate context. In terms of emotion, they tend to get anxious and panic easily.
Global Developmental Delay Children have delay in most of their skill areas. It is common to see children having delay in more than a specific area. For instance, a child could have motor development and speech development at the same time.
Pervasive Developmental Disorder This is a specific developmental disability as it affects children’s ability in social interaction, communication and their interest. According to the DSM-IV-TR, Pervasive Developmental Disorders include Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder, Rett’s Disorder, and Childhood Disintegrative Disorder.

Developmental delay, especially speech and cognition delay, is closely related with Learning Disabilities. In many cases, parents seek for professional consultation and help only when they found out that their children are slow in academic learning (often reported by school teachers). Unfortunately, by then these children have already reached school age and most of them have missed the critical time for early intervention (0-6 years old). The developmental delay, especially speech and cognition delay, has already affected their school performance.

If parents or main caregivers had detected signs of developmental delay earlier, these children’s functional skills could be improved with early intervention. Hence, parents or caregivers are encouraged to be observant and caring in understanding children’s development milestone.