All parents look forward to tracking their children’s physical development, and most of the time, children reach their developmental milestones on time. However, some parents become concerned, and understandably so when their little one does not do things they’re expected to do at their age. It becomes even worse when a relative or friend shares with you about all the amazing stuff their child is doing that yours isn’t.

If you are concerned about your child not growing and/or moving as they should be, have them checked up by a specialist. A developmental delay assessment may help you determine why your child isn’t reaching their developmental milestones as expected. And once the problem has been identified, the specialists may be able to provide a solution, so your child is back on the development track.

At Suarez Physical Therapy, we carry out developmental delay assessments and treat the affected children and babies using physical therapy. Our professional physical therapists are experienced in working with minors and deliver treatment that realizes considerable progress. We also work with pediatricians and other child specialists to ensure we achieve the best possible results. So, don’t panic. Instead, call us if you are seeking help in Las Vegas, Nevada.

What’s Developmental Delay?

Developmental delay is when a child doesn’t reach developmental milestones by the expected age or time. Developmental milestones refer to tasks that most children develop or learn that commonly occur in given age ranges. These tasks include crawling, sitting, talking, walking, jumping, rolling, and head control.

Child development is the process by which a child grows and achieves given developmental milestones. The unusual delay in growth and development, hindering a minor from achieving these milestones, may impact their social and emotional skills, cognitive (thinking) ability, language and speech, gross and fine motor (movement), and daily living activities. A child who delays in all these areas is said to have global developmental delay.

Child milestones do develop in an orderly manner with time. However, the rate of growth and development differs from one child to another. Children also have different weaknesses and strengths, and it’s often hard to diagnose developmental delay except if the development of a child is significantly below their anticipated level.

Physical therapy treatment improves motor-related developmental milestones like walking, crawling, sitting, rolling, jumping and physical development like mobility, coordination, and balance. Physical therapy also promotes correct positioning and provides stimulating and fun exercises to attain coordination and postural stability. Physical therapy also aims to enhance a child’s physical development by assisting them in achieving their milestones soon enough.

Causes of Developmental Delay

There are several different reasons for developmental delay, like problems during birth or pregnancy, problems during early childhood or infancy such as head injury or infection, and genetic problems. However, often there isn’t an identifiable cause.

Environmental Factors

Delay in development can occur because of hereditary and genetic disorders, exposure to various infections after or before birth, and premature birth. Children with delayed development present differently. We have some who will experience delays in specific areas, like walking, while all of their other skills develop on time.

Genetic Factors

Minors are also at a high risk of delaying achieving developmental milestones if they’re born with a chromosomal or genetic abnormality like Down’s syndrome, cerebral palsy, and autism.  This abnormal development occurs in the womb when the infant is still developing.

Most children whose reason for developmental delay can’t be determined are classified as undiagnosed developmental delay.

Risk Factors for Developmental Delay

Risk factors for developmental delay include congenital disabilities and family history of these delays. In addition, babies born after traumatic or prolonged labor, particularly if they’re born underweight or prematurely, are at a higher risk of developmental delay. Having given infections when pregnant, like cytomegalovirus, or the exposure to given medications, environmental toxins, and alcohol may also increase the chances of giving birth to a baby with developmental delays.

Some developmental delays, like gross motor, fine motor, and speech delays, might be evident in toddler years or during infancy. Other types, for instance, sensory processing, emotional and social delays, and high-level cognitive, may only be apparent when the child starts school.

Developmental Delay Signs and Symptoms

Developmental delay may affect physical abilities, behavior, speech, hearing, and vision. The most common signs and symptoms include:

  • Decreased eye contact, being easily frustrated.
  • Concentration problems.
  • Slow to attain developmental milestones, like standing, crawling, sitting, or rolling, later than the expected age.
  • Very clumsy than other children of the same age.
  • Stiff or floppy limbs.
  • Deformed or small ears, failure to respond whenever called, or being unstartled with loud noise.
  • Very loud or softly spoken voice.
  • Incapable of pronouncing words appropriate to their age.
  • Difficulty focusing eyes or following moving objects or turned or crossed eyes.
  • Difficulty with handwriting.
  • Difficulty walking.
  • Using one side of the body more significantly than the other.
  • Problem tying shoelaces.
  • Reduced tone in the trunk than other minors of the same age.

Several other conditions bear similar symptoms, which is another reason why developmental delay diagnosis is more challenging.

Developmental Delay Diagnosis

You should talk to your pediatrician first about the concerns you have regarding your baby’s development. A pediatrician can identify the various medical issues impacting the overall development, for instance, chronic infections to the ear, which lower hearing and impact the minor’s balance or speech development.

Pediatricians diagnose developmental delay using tests meant to gauge a minor’s play, communication, movement, and any other behavior compared with other children aged the same. These are standardized tests— given to several children— to establish the normal performance range for every age. If a child scores way below the overall score for his/her age, he/she faces the developmental delay risk.

Usually, a pediatric physical therapist conducts screening tests at infancy and with toddler aged children. These tests determine if the children’s progression rate is proportionate to their age, usually, at the parent’s request with suspicions that the child isn’t doing the same things other minors his/her age are doing.

This test helps identify what children will benefit from an in-depth assessment. For example, a physical therapist, because they have in-depth knowledge of medical conditions, coordination, and movement development, will carry out a comprehensive examination to establish if a minor’s motor skills have been delayed and, if they have, to what extent.

The physical therapist first evaluates your child, performing appropriate and comprehensive tests to determine their specific weaknesses and strengths. They will then discuss your concerns and observations with you. Should they diagnose the child to have developmental delay, they’ll evaluate with you your family’s environment and routines to find means to build and enhance your minor’s development skills.

Apart from assessing your child and the surroundings in which they move, the physical therapist will give comprehensive guidance on developing motor skills step by step to reach desired goals. The physical therapist may guide your child’s movements or give cues that help the minor learn new ways to move. For instance, if a minor has difficulty learning to pull themselves up to stand, the therapist may show them how to lean forward and push off their feet. If the child can’t balance when standing, the physical therapist may experiment using different means of support, which help them safely learn new ways of standing.

The physical therapist also teaches the parents and family members what they can do to help the child practice various skills during day-to-day activities. Family is the most critical influence on a child since they can avail necessary opportunities to attain all new skills.

The physical therapist will explain the amount of practice required to help reach a given milestone. For instance, a baby who is learning how to walk covers more ground during the day. Therefore, the physical therapist can specifically advise on the type and amount of activities that will be appropriate for the baby at every developmental stage.

Early diagnosis is critical to obtaining a child the assistance they require. Our child specialists assess children of all ages. Our therapists use the information from these evaluations to develop a personalized treatment plan for your child.

Developmental Delay Assessment

During developmental delay assessment, a physical therapist specializing in gross motor development and in detecting developmental delay observes your minor’s social skills and behavior when playing with peers and interacting with grownups.

The assessment is generally conducted over three or two visits to the physical therapist’s office for preschoolers and school-age minors. Sometimes, the developmental assessment also takes place in the minor’s classroom or both locations. All through the evaluation, the physical therapist will be observing the minor’s capability of remaining focused on different tasks and relating socially, which helps identify conditions like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or autism spectrum disorder.

The therapist will also be observing your child’s motor skills, learning ability, ability to follow directions or pay attention, and language skills. This observation enables them to have an average picture of the minor’s functionality. When it comes to younger children, the physical therapist may request home visits to observe how the minor functions and behaves. If the child goes to school, the specialist may ask you to allow them to meet his/her teachers and observe them in their classroom.

Hearing Test

The pediatrician might refer you to an audiologist to assess your minor’s hearing, which could affect language skills and speech. The audiologist will conduct tests to measure cochlea-generated vibrations. A child whose ears don’t generate these vibrations might have cochlear damage, leading to hearing loss.

The audiologist may also conduct another test that measures auditory brain response to show whether or not the brain responds to sound. Finally, for minors up to three years, the audiologist can suggest behavioral hearing tests. For instance, the child will listen to various sounds, like music or speech, while sitting in a sound booth.

Whenever a sound is produced, they show the child a toy that’s in the farthest corner. The child then learns to find the toy every time they hear the sound, which softens every time it’s produced. The audiologist then observes the minor’s response to see if they hear the sound.

In older minors, more conventional audiometers are used in diagnosing hearing issues. For example, the child could be requested to press a button or raise their hand every time sound is produced. If your baby has difficulty hearing, the audiologist may refer them to a doctor to examine them and determine if they can have a cochlear implant or any other hearing device.

Physical Exam

The pediatrician will perform a physical examination to evaluate the child’s health. Additionally, they will look for atypical growth patterns or any unique thing about the child’s general appearance. For example, skin markings or abnormally shaped eyes/head may indicate a genetic syndrome that impacts cognitive skills, for instance, microcephaly or Down’s syndrome.

The doctor will also look for issues that might cause fine and gross motor delays, like abnormally shaped fingers or discrepancies in leg length. They will also check your child’s palate and mouth to determine any problems with the muscles or other mouth structures interfering with speech or eating.

Other tests include examining the child’s balance, muscle tone, and reflexes to see if they have a neurological-related problem. In addition, the pediatrician may need the child to describe or demonstrate their ability to do age-appropriate physical tasks, like standing on a single foot, descending and climbing stairs, walking, or catching and throwing a ball.

Parent Interview and Medical History

Pediatricians and pediatric physical therapists use a comprehensive medical history form to determine various factors that may affect your child’s development. They will need details concerning your child’s birth and medical history, including information about any medications, surgery, or medical condition your minor might have had. They’ll also need to know the mother’s medical history while pregnant. They’ll also ask about any family history of congenital disabilities or mental health, developmental, or neurological conditions. Based on the child’s age, they may further ask if they have been treated or assessed for developmental delay or associated problems.

Physical Therapy Treatment for Developmental Delays

Physical therapists are primarily concerned with the development of large movements and body postures. Physical therapy aims at promoting a minor’s independence and their ability to achieve physical milestones. Usually, treatment is specific to a minor’s abilities, age, and needs, and therapists often use fun activities and games to help improve normal development and learning.

They closely liaise with parents, teachers, caregivers, and ancillary services (i.e. orthotists; durable medical equipment reps.) to help them understand their needs and help achieve future independence. Therapy treatment should be started early enough since a minor’s brain adapts easily; thus, they respond excellently to treatment. It helps a child learn how to do daily tasks effectively and improves handwriting, walking, balance, and general physical tasks. Physical therapy treatment focuses on:

  • Enhancing independence with day-to-day tasks.
  • Promoting quality of life.
  • Achieving maximum possible potential.
  • Achieving milestones.
  • Promoting normal movement patterns.
  • Improving coordination and balancing.
  • Stretching stiff joints.
  • Increasing muscle strength.

Physical therapy treatment may involve:

  • Varying and correcting positions that enhance trunk and head control, for instance, supporting your minor to sit to develop balance and coordination, rotation, and weight shifting.
  • Muscle stretching, which lengthens muscles, reduces contractures, and increases range of motion.
  • Mirror imaging, which increases the minor’s awareness of where his/her limbs are in space and during proprioception (movement)
  • Exercises that increase mobility and their success of learning to walk depending on day-to-day activities. Physical therapy could also involve hand exercises to improve grasping objects and writing.
  • Exercises that increase control and muscle strength, so the child can balance and shift his/her body weight better.
  • Hydrotherapy treatment, which helps relax stiff joints and muscles and maximize mobility inside water.
  • Advice on supportive devices like using orthotic devices, a wheelchair, or any other adaptive piece of equipment, if need be.
  • Exercises that teach new means of movement or increase the quality of movement.

Benefits of Physical Therapy in Addressing Developmental Delay

There are several benefits to your child after undergoing therapy treatment for developmental delay. They include:

  • Improved confidence.
  • Improved coordination, balance, muscle strength, and posture.
  • Enhanced independence in daily living activities.
  • Achievement of physical milestones like standing, crawling, and sitting.

Prevention of Developmental Delay

It can be challenging to prevent developmental delays when they are not linked to a specific health condition because its causes might remain unclear. But after developmental delay diagnosis, there are various steps you can take that help the minor catch up or prevent further delays. Since the diagnosis has so much variability, the intervention outcomes vary too.

The most critical thing to note is that the earlier intervention is done, the highly likely it is that your minor can improve and not keep on falling behind. Also critical to note is that babies with no or little active “tummy-time” play may be vulnerable to developmental delay; however, “tummy-time” must be supervised when the infant is less that 4-months old secondary to SIDS risk.

Find a Competent Physical Therapist Near Me

At Suarez Physical Therapy, we understand that when a child has been diagnosed with developmental delay, it can be a daunting experience for their parents. Our expert care.experience pediatric physical therapists can evaluate and treat your child to provide them with the best possible chance to achieve their developmental milestones. If you are seeking help in Las Vegas, NV, we can conduct the assessment and treatment at our clinic. Call us today at 702-368-6778 for a consultation or to schedule a full assessment.