How To Test for Developmental Delays in Children

Experts agree that there is a wide range of what is normal in terms of developmental milestones, since eventually, those in the lower percentile of development eventually catch up. However, there are certain markers or indicators of what children should be able to do given a specific age or time frame. If a child is past the accepted window or range, then he may be considered developmentally delayed.

Developmental delays may manifest itself in a child’s speech, vision, motor skills, social and cognitive skills. Here’s how to test for developmental delays.

  1. Observe your child. As a parent, you will have first hand information as to your child’s growth. You will have a gut feeling about him. Observe obvious signs such as if your baby doesn’t make eye contact, if he doesn’t like being held or seems to push away from you, if he seems like a rag doll when carried, or when he doesn’t respond to stimuli such as clapping noises.
  2. Bring your child regularly for his checkups. A pediatrician will be able to detect for any delays and tell you where your child’s percentile falls under. If you suspect any problems with your child, notify your doctor. Simple tests are done in the office, such as clapping, or checking the child’s response to stimuli. If your child consistently doesn’t react properly, you may be referred to a specialist.
  3. If your child was born premature or you had complications during pregnancy and the delivery, your child may be susceptible to some developmental issues. Additionally, if you have a family history of certain genetic disorders, your child may be at a higher risk.
  4. Refer to a milestone chart. You may click on this link,, to download a chart as issued by the Mayo clinic. You can also refer to books and other online resources so you know what to expect and to cross check if your child is on track.
  5. Observe your child’s motor skills, which may signal problems in brain development such as cerebral palsy, myopathy, spina bifida and other conditions. Your child should be able to support his head, crawl, sit up and walk by a year. As in infant, he should be able to grasp objects, put things in his mouth and bears his own weight.
  6. Have your child’s vision checked to test for lazy eye, infantile cataracts and strabismus. Vision is tested by presenting an object in front of your child, which he should follow with his eyes. If your child is unable to follow the object, his eyes keep crossing, exhibits tearing and light sensitivity or doesn’t notice his hands, you may be referred to a specialist.
  7. Observe your child’s communication skills. Some warning signs that your child has a problem will be if he is unresponsive to sound, he doesn’t babble and doesn’t use speech to communicate his needs.
  8. Social skills are tested to rule out any Pervasive Developmental Disorders, which include Autism. A child should smile, allow himself to be comforted and show interest in objects and things.
  9. Cognitive tests check if your child is able to imitate or mimic, can follow simple instructions, as well as observing hand gestures.

Testing is mainly done through observation and is performed in a calm and private environment. A stimulus is given and a child should react a certain way. If not, it may indicate a problem. Early detection is crucial in getting help. The earlier a problem is detected, the sooner it can be treated.


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