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Recognizing Developmental Delays in Your Child: Ages 3 to 5

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Social and Emotional Delays in Children continued...

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

 

Cognitive Delays in Children

Problems with thinking and cognitive skills may occur due to genetic defects, environmental factors, disease, prematurity, nervous system abnormalities, oxygen deprivation during childbirth, and even accidents. 

Possible causes. Common causes of cognitive delays include:

  • A poor learning environment
  • Institutionalization or neglect during infancy or early childhood
  • A wide range of learning disabilities
  • Exposure to alcohol or toxins during pregnancy
  • One of the pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs), such as autism

Types of treatment. As with most types of delays, early intervention for cognitive delays can make a big difference in the progress your child makes. Depending upon the diagnosis, treatment may include:

  • Medication in rare cases
  • Play therapy or occupational therapy
  • Special education
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