Toddler Behavior: 5 Signs of Developmental Delays
In the US, about 1 in 6 (15%) of children have some type of developmental challenge. These challenges range from mild to severe impairments that affect daily life now and may continue throughout their lifetime.
Developmental delays occur when children fail to reach significant milestones within the broad band of time defined as normal for their age group. Many issues surface during toddlerhood, so to know if your child’s development is on track, watch these five areas for signs of delays:
- Speech and language. By the time they’re two, most children have mastered about 50 words, can form simple two-word sentences and understand simple instructions. Delays in language use and comprehension may be isolated or coupled with other issues such as hearing, problems coordinating the lips, tongue and jaw to produce speech, or autism.
- Motor skills. Fine motor skills relate to the small muscles in the hands, fingers and feet, while gross motor skills involve the large muscles used for walking, hopping or climbing. By 18 months, most children have begun to walk, and they’ve developed sufficient fine motor skills to hold a crayon or manage a cup. By age two, they should be able to run, jump, throw a ball, stack blocks and grasp a range of objects.
- Behavior or emotions. Behaviors and emotions are important development markers. Tantrums are a normal toddler behavior, but if they’re frequent, severe or frightening, there may be cause for concern. Kicking, hitting and biting are also normal behaviors, but if they persist or grow more frequent, there may be an issue.
- Cognition. By age two, toddlers have learned to respond to their names and recognize faces, shapes and familiar objects. They’ve begun to develop imaginary play, can understand basic sentences, remember simple two-part instructions and perform certain minor chores. Watch to see if your child is having difficulty thinking, learning, understanding or remembering.
- Social delays. Most toddlers have developed basic social skills. They’ll interact with others, give a toy to another child, look at an adult to assess reactions, and show signs of empathy. If your child is consistently unaware of or disinterested in others, unable to interact with other toddlers, or unwilling to be held or touched, there may be cause for concern.
Toddlerhood is challenging, so don’t over react. Remember most developmental delays are also comparatively minor and early intervention can make a significant difference. Preemies may initially lag slightly behind their peers, but in most cases they gradually catch up and are on track by the age of three.
An assessment by a skilled developmental pediatrician can be helpful. The doctor will look at the whole child to determine if delays are isolated or part of a broader range of issues, design treatment programs, and provide ongoing care in conjunction with other specialists if necessary.
This article is not intended as medical advice. See your pediatrician for specific advice on your child’s health.