If your baby seems to be learning or developing more slowly than your friends’ babies, it may be a sign they have a cognitive delay, which is also known as a developmental delay. This means that your baby is not hitting their milestones on time. Cognitive delays can happen in any of the following areas:
- Social skills
- Intellectual ability
- Motor skills
Some children have delays in multiple areas. When this happens, it’s known as a global developmental delay. This kind of delay affects as much as 3% of the population. Now that we’ve covered the kinds of delays a baby may experience and what you should look for, we’ll take a look at some of the reasons delays happen in the first place.
Causes of Cognitive Delays
There are many reasons children experience developmental delays. The following five conditions are often responsible.
Cerebral Palsy (CP)
Cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in children. The condition happens when a child sustains brain damage, typically before or during birth. This brain damage can cause developmental delays like language, motor, and social delays. Although some kids with CP will also have intellectual delays, others will not and some will have no developmental delays at all.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
Kids on the autism spectrum may hit some of their developmental milestones right on time while being late on others. For some, they will never hit their social milestones at all because this condition affects communication. Some children with ASD are able to overcome their delays. This is especially true for girls who are on the spectrum.
Down syndrome and Fragile X syndrome are two chromosomal abnormalities that can cause developmental delays. Kids who have these Down syndrome may reach most of their milestones, but they are likely to do so later than average. Fragile X can cause delays in speech and language, and boys are more at risk of this than girls.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS)
Alcohol can pass through the placenta and cause brain damage in a developing fetus. When this happens, developmental delays are often the result. Kids with FAS may have delayed motor and communication skills. This and other related effects of the condition may make it difficult for them to grow up into self-sufficient adults.
A myopathy is a neuromuscular disorder like muscular dystrophy. There are different categories of myopathies, and it is congenital myopathy that is characterized by delays in motor skills. When a child is born with this kind of myopathy, it is usually the result of a genetic disorder. Parents who do not even know they have the gene can pass it to their children.
What to Do if You Suspect Cognitive Delays
In many cases, early intervention can significantly improve your child’s development. If you’re worried that your baby may be falling behind, contact your pediatrician. They will use developmental screening to assess your child’s condition, and they may refer you to specialists as well. During your baby’s examination, you will also answer questions and be asked to fill out questionnaires.
The course of treatment that is prescribed for your baby will depend on their condition and how serious their delays are. Your baby may benefit from:
- Physical therapy to improve muscle function
- Occupational therapy to help develop fine motor skills
- Speech therapy to help them with feeding and communication
Developmental delays are often the first sign that a child has a condition like cerebral palsy, so it’s important to get your baby checked out if you’re worried. The sooner you begin looking into the causes of your baby’s delays, the better their quality of life may be in the future.