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Recognizing Developmental Delays in Your Child: Ages 3 to 5


Motor Skill Delays in Children continued...

Other possible causes of motor difficulties, although most are rare, include:

  • Problems with vision
  • Ataxia, a defect that impairs muscle coordination
  • Myopathy, a disease of the muscles

Types of treatment. For motor delays, your child's doctor may suggest taking certain steps at home to encourage more physical activity. Your child may also need:

  • Physical therapy for gross motor delays
  • Occupational therapy for fine motor delays or sensory integration problems

Warning signs of motor skill delays

Contact your child's doctor if your child has any of these signs of motor delays at these ages. Remember to also watch for any loss of skills already learned.

By 3 years, your child

  • Falls often and may have trouble going up and down stairs
  • Drools often and has unclear speech
  • Has trouble working with small objects
  • Cannot build a tower of more than 4 blocks

By 4 years, your child

  • Cannot throw a ball overhead
  • Cannot jump in place
  • Cannot ride a tricycle
  • Cannot grasp a crayon between thumb and fingers or has trouble scribbling
  • Cannot stack four blocks

By 5 years, your child

  • Cannot build a tower of six to eight blocks
  • Seems uncomfortable holding a crayon
  • Has trouble taking off clothing
  • Cannot brush teeth well
  • Cannot wash and dry hands


Social and Emotional Delays in Children

Social and emotional delays, which usually show up before school, may cause children to have problems interacting with adults or other children.

Possible causes. Some causes of social and emotional delays include:

  • Neglect, such as from early institutionalization
  • Ineffective parenting
  • Weak attachment

Another common cause of social and emotional delays is called pervasive developmental disorder, or PDD. This is a group of disorders that also causes communication problems ranging from mild to severe. PDD includes:

  • Autism, a complex yet common disorder
  • Asperger's syndrome, a condition similar to autism
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder, which typically occurs in children ages 3 to 4
  • Rett's syndrome, which often includes mental retardation and occurs mostly in girls

Types of treatment. There is no known cure for PDD. However, treatment may include:

  • Medication to help with behavioral problems
  • Special types of behavioral therapy

In addition, therapeutic parenting skills may help promote healthy attachment as well as social and emotional skills in your child.

Warning signs of social or emotional delays

Contact your child's doctor right away if your child has any of these signs of social and emotional delays at these ages. Make sure to observe any loss of skills already learned.

By 3 years, your child

  • Shows little interest in other children
  • Has extreme trouble separating from parents or caregivers
  • Has poor eye contact

By 4 years, your child

  • Clings or cries whenever parents leave
  • Ignores other children
  • Doesn't respond to people outside of the family
  • Lashes out when angry or upset
  • Resists dressing, sleeping, or using the toilet

By 5 years, your child

  • Is very fearful, timid, sad, or aggressive much of the time, or doesn't show a wide range of emotions
  • Is unable to separate from parents without difficulty
  • Shows little interest in fantasy play or playing with other children


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