Health professionals who see infants and children check for early signs of developmental delays at every well-child visit. Developmental problems can affect how a child can talk, move, concentrate, and/or socialize. Developmental delays affect up to 3% of children and naturally can cause a great deal of distress for parents.

Identifying developmental delays

Developmental delays in children are often from genetic causes or chemical exposures such as chemical exposures include alcohol, illicit substances or medications such as antidepressants or antipsychotic medications. Health professionals start testing for developmental delays at birth when a blood sample is collected from your newborn to screen for various metabolic disorders. This is referred to as “neonatal screening” and provides valuable information regarding metabolic problems that might influence your baby’s development.

Consult your pediatrician or a child neurologist if your baby does not reach the following milestones:

  • No babbling, pointing, or other gestures by 12 months.
  • Saying no single words by 16 months.
  • Saying no two-word spontaneous phrases by 24 months, with the exception of repeating phrases (echolalia).
  • Not walking independently by 15 months.
  • Any loss of language or social skills at any age.

Testing for developmental delays

The American Academy of Neurology recommends the following genetic tests, all done by taking a blood sample, to assess children with developmental delays:

  • Chromosome testing to determine if whole or pieces of chromosomes (which carry genetic information) are missing or duplicated.
  • Chromosome microarray to determine if chunks of genetic material are missing or duplicated.
  • Fragile X DNA testing to determine expansion of a gene that is commonly responsible for developmental delay, attention deficit disorder or autism, especially in boys.
  • MeCP2 testing to determine abnormality in a gene which may cause severe developmental delay and small head size, especially in girls.
  • Testing for specific mutations may be recommended depending on the clinical features and abnormalities found on your child’s exam. To determine the syndrome or condition, your doctor needs to “put the pieces of the puzzle together” and then offer the test that can confirm the diagnosis.

The American Academy of Neurology guidelines also call for the following diagnostic tests in children with developmental delays:

  • Auditory (hearing) and visual (eye) screening.
  • MRI scan of the brain.

The diagnosis of a developmental delay can be an extensive process. With time and testing, your child’s pediatrician or neurologist can help make the diagnosis and find the correct treatment or support.

To make an appointment or learn more about Child Neurology services at ChristianaCare, call 302-623-3017 or visit