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Developmental Problems


Healthgrades Editorial Staff

What are developmental problems?

Developmental problems are referred to under the umbrella term “developmental delays,” which describe any ongoing delay in a child’s meeting age-specific developmental milestones (as opposed to physical growth). To be a genuine medical symptom (as opposed to a child’s temporary lag in one area, which is normal), a developmental problem must affect a chain of developmental milestones and must be ongoing. Most developmental problems are recognized before the child’s second birthday.

Development problems fall into several categories affecting ongoing functional developmental milestones. These milestone categories include language skills, cognitive development (thinking and learning), social and emotional development, and gross motor and fine motor skills. Most developmental problems cross over, combining several types of developmental milestones or problems within one disorder.

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Causes of developmental delay are widespread, but include inherited disorders, mental retardation, neurological damage, autistic disorders, degenerative diseases, social or environmental deprivations, deafness, and many more causes. Infants with unrecognized (treatable) medical conditions, such as congenital hypothyroidism, can have symptoms of developmental delay. Some developmental problems can be corrected or improved by addressing causes such as poor vision, deafness, and environmental factors.

Developmental problems are ongoing, persistent, and do not go away on their own. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if your child has a seizure; severe difficulty breathing, which may be combined with pale or blue lips; loss of consciousness, even for a brief moment; severe or constant vomiting; rapid heart rate; if an older child is in danger of hurting self or others; or if you suspect child abuse or neglect. Seek prompt medical care if your infant or toddler has poor eye contact; does not respond to his or her name; does not respond to others; seems isolated; is obsessed with repetitive actions; does not walk or talk within a reasonable time frame; seems to not hear or see properly; or has excessively aggressive behaviors.

If your child’s developmental problems cause you concern, seek prompt medical care.

Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Oct 13, 2016

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Medical References

  1. Developmental delay. University of Michigan Health System.
  2. Autism spectrum disorders (pervasive developmental disorders). National Institute of Mental Health.
  3. Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics, 3rd, Levine MD, Carey WB, Crocker AC (Eds), Saunders Elsevier, Philadelphia 2009.

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