This information is purely to allow a reader to identify or empathise with a child’s lack of development concerns they may want to know a little more about.  It is not intended to replace a consultation with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner.

Every child is unique and each and every child develops in a different way and at a different pace.

Babies and children usually learn important skills such as sitting up, rolling over, crawling, walking, babbling (making basic speech sounds), talking and becoming toilet trained as they grow up. These skills are known as developmental milestones and happen in a predictable order and usually at a fairly predictable age. While all children reach these stages at different times, some children may not reach one or more of these milestones until much later than expected.

1-3% of the population have a delay in their development between birth and 18 years.  It is usually noticeable from limited communication in the early years to a lower intellectual functioning than what is perceived as ‘normal’ as they get older.

As a child may be considered as having a delay in their development if they have not reached two or more milestones in all areas of development.


These areas are:

  • motor skills - either gross motor skills like sitting up or rolling over and fine motor skills, for example picking up small objects
  • speech and language - which also includes babbling, imitating speech and identifying sounds, as well as understanding what other people are trying to communicate to them (auditory processing)
  • cognitive skills - the ability to learn new things, process information, organise their thoughts and remember things
  • social and emotional skills - interacting with others and development of personal traits and feelings, as well as starting to understanding and respond to the needs and feelings of others.

Communication is an essential part of life and is fundamental to children’s development.  Children need to be able to understand and be understood – it is the foundation of relationships and is essential for learning, play and social interaction.

Remember communication is not always verbal in nature.  A child’s communication will depend on HOW they communicate and why they are communicating.  It will also depend on their level of understanding so it is important to know what your child can and cannot do. Language is the vehicle for learning. It is the means by which teachers teach and children learn. Imagine trying to learn and understand new information without the ability to listen, understand and talk.

There are a number of warning signs to look out for in your child. These include:

  • A delay in learning to speak or difficulties ‘getting the words out’
  • Difficulties expressing needs and wants
  • Difficulties understanding what people are saying
  • Inappropriate attention seeking behaviour such as whining, hitting or throwing
  • The use of gestural cues or sounds instead of words to communicate
  • A lack of motivation to play with items or other people
  • Problems with concentration or distractability at school
  • High levels of frustration or anger
  • Problems making friends or maintaining friends

Children who are struggling with their communication are more likely to have behaviour difficulties. Many children with identified behaviour needs have previously unidentified speech, language and communication needs. Imagine the frustration of not getting your message across.

Self-esteem and confidence are affected. Children with communication needs often see themselves as less able and less popular than their friends. Young people identify good communication skills as important for feeling confident.


If your child is showing signs of lack of development, you should seek the advice of a doctor or other suitably qualified professional.

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