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Understanding Developmental Delays: How Parents Can Optimize Their Child's Outcome

Updated: May 10

Developmental delays are relatively common. In fact, of the nearly 4 million babies born every year, 20% will have some form of developmental delay condition.

As a parent, this statistic may sound scary and overwhelming. But don’t panic–most delays are not severe and there are many ways that you can help your child reach their full potential.

This article will briefly explain how children develop, address the types of developmental delays, and provide tips on how to help your child thrive in their own developmental journey.

In this article:

How do we measure child development?

Developmental milestones

Developmental screening

What are developmental delays?

What is the difference between a developmental red flag, delay, and disability?

Causes of developmental delay

How can parents support their children's development?

An important perspective

How Pathfinder Health can help

The Takeaway

How do we measure child development?

Developmental milestones

Developmental milestones are tasks or skills that most children can do by a certain age. Generally, children achieve developmental milestones in a set pattern: for example, they crawl, then stand, then walk.

Monitoring milestones is a way of tracking a child's development and making sure that they are progressing neurotypically.

The four developmental domains

Pathfinder Health divides child milestones into four major developmental domains:

(1) motor/movement,

(2) social and emotional,

(3) speech and language,

(4) cognitive.

Each one of these areas is equally important in helping your child reach full developmental maturity.


Motor milestones involve the growth and changes in a child’s body, including physical abilities, coordination, and balance. Gross motor skills involve the large muscles in the body, such as those in the arms, legs, and torso. Fine motor skills involve the small muscles in the hands and fingers as well as those in the mouth, tongue, and jaw.

Speech and language

Speech and language development is the process of building communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal (gestures and facial expressions). It includes acquiring vocabulary (both understanding and using words), learning how to put words together to make sentences, and comprehending others’ communication.

Social and emotional

Social and emotional milestones reflect your child's developing interactions and relationships with others, especially their relationship with you, which provides the foundation of social and emotional development. These milestones also include awareness and understanding of themselves and their own emotions.