What if You Suspect a Developmental Delay?

Even if your baby was born healthy, unexpected delays and disabilities can appear as your child grows. It can be scary and confusing to discover your child may have special needs. Mighty Mommy has 5 steps to take if you suspect your child isn’t reaching developmental milestones.

Cheryl Butler
6-minute read
Episode #217

After 6 years of grueling infertility treatments and finally adopting our beautiful daughter, there was no bigger relief in the world than to hear the doctor say that my biological son arrived into the world perfectly healthy. I spent the next 2 years reveling in every coo he made and every sacred milestone, such as his first gummy smile, rolling over, sitting up independently, cutting his first two teeth, taking his first wobbly steps—it was all so wonderful. 

Those milestones all came easily and right on target, so I couldn’t wait to start hearing him utter the words “Mama” and “Dada.” My daughter started using words when she was 15 months old, so when my son turned 2 and still hadn’t attempted even one recognizable word, I became cautiously concerned. By age 2 ½, still no words, and it was then that my mother’s intuition told me something wasn’t quite right.

This episode is the beginning of a 4-part series on raising special needs and developmentally delayed children.  Because I have personally experienced developmental delays with 3 of my 8 children, I have firsthand knowledge of how scary and uncertain this experience can be. That’s why today, I have 5 tips to share with you on steps you can take if you are concerned that your child might not be meeting developmental milestones.

Step # 1: Is Your Baby Developing on Target?

As a parent, you naturally monitor your baby's physical growth and development. You keep track of the age at which your baby rolls over, sits up on his own, holds a bottle or cup on his own, and takes first steps. When you take your baby in for regular check-ups, especially for the first few years of life, the doctor will always ask pointed questions to see if your baby is reaching developmental milestones. These kinds of checks are usually done at 9, 18, 24, and 30 months of age. But they can be done at anytime if you have any concerns about your child's development.

The term "developmental milestones" is used by doctors to talk about all types of skills that children should reach within certain age ranges. These milestones cover children's growth in the areas of:

  • Physical skills (such as sitting up, walking, holding an object)

  • Language and communication skills (understanding what is said, pointing at objects he wants, learning and using words)

  • Self-help skills (able to feed self, dress self, use the toilet)

  • Social skills (making eye contact, playing with others, wanting to be around others)

A developmental disability is a chronic problem resulting from mental and/or physical impairments. People with developmental disabilities may find it difficult to perform major life activities such as moving, learning, communicating with language, taking care of themselves and living independently. The disabilities begin between birth and last throughout a person's life. Examples include autism spectrum disorders, brain injuries, cerebral palsy, and intellectual disabilities caused by Down Syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, or any other significant cognitive impairment.


All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Cheryl Butler Project Parenthood

Cheryl L. Butler was the host of the Mighty Mommy podcast for nine years from 2012 to 2021. She is the mother of eight children. Her experiences with infertility, adoption, seven pregnancies, and raising children with developmental delays have helped her become a resource on the joys and challenges of parenting. You can reach her by email.