Understanding Developmental Delay

Understanding Developmental Delay



Developmental Delay is a general term that is used to describe when a child shows delays in development. Children who have Developmental Delay or Developmental concerns:

  • Are aged between birth and 6 years old
  • Experience delays in comparison to typically developing children around the same age
  • The delays are significant

It is estimated that 1-3% of children are impacted by Development Delay.

Early stages

When a child is aged between birth and five years old, their brains and bodies are growing and developing at a rapid rate. It’s in these early years that children develop the foundations for many skill sets that they will use later in life.

For children with Developmental Delay, they will experience delays in one or more of the key areas of development:

  1. Self-care
  2. Receptive and expressive language
  3. Cognitive development
  4. Motor development

Each of these four areas can be broken down into milestones. When a child is not achieving milestones, they may be experiencing a delay.

Early childhood milestones

It’s important to note that all children develop at different rates. Early childhood milestones are a guide but remember that your child is unique and sometimes they will get there in their own time. If you are concerned that they may be experiencing delays, you should speak to someone who knows your child well like an Educator or Child Health Nurse or your GP or Paediatrician.

What causes Developmental Delay?

There are many possible causes of Developmental Delay some are permanent and some aren’t. Causes can include:

  • Premature birth
  • Genetic conditions
  • Chromosomal conditions
  • Metabolic conditions
  • Problems during pregnancy or birth
  • Vision or hearing loss
  • Difficulties with speech or language
  • Brain injuries or infections

Will my child catch up?

For some children who experience Developmental concerns, they hit their milestones later than their peers but as they get older they become developmentally typical. This is more common when the cause of these concerns is temporary such as temporary hearing loss or problems with speech such as Childhood Apraxia of Speech.

Some children may experience an ongoing delay in ongoing delay in development which may result in a diagnosis of disability later in life.

How can I get support for my child?

Seeking support when your child is under the age of 5, is known as early intervention. It means getting support as early as possible. Early intervention can include any of the following:

  • Contact with your Early Childhood Partner to assist you on your journey 
  • Occupational therapy
  • Speech pathology / therapy
  • Physiotherapy
  • At home activities and plans for implementation at childcare
  • Collaboration between your childcare provider, GP, therapists, family members and others who support your child

Further support

Research shows that when children with Developmental Delay and other disabilities are given the opportunity to participate in mainstream environments, they will have better educational, social and developmental outcomes later in life.

We believe that every child has the right to participate in mainstream early years communities, this includes childcare, early learning centres, playgroups, kindergarten, family day care and in-home care. This can be challenging for children with developmental delays but we are here to help.

No matter what stage you are in of supporting your child through their journey with Developmental Delay, Xavier is here to help.

Our Developmental Delay Directory has been created to help families and providers looking for further information, support or referrals. If you can’t find what you need or require more specific support, call us on 1800 XAVIER and follow the prompts. We will be in touch.

If you’d like Xavier to keep you updated on topics relating to Developmental Delay, provide your details on our Developmental Delay page. We will provide you with interesting articles, upcoming events and networking opportunities in your region as well as updates about the exciting things we are doing in our quest to assist children with Developmental Delay and their families.