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Recognising developmental delays in your child: Ages three to five

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Social and emotional delays in children continued...

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

Warning signs of social or emotional delays

Seek advice right away if your child has any of these signs of social and emotional delays at these ages. In addition to these red flags, watch for any loss of skills already learned.

By three years, seek advice if your child:

  • Shows little interest in other children
  • Has extreme difficulty separating from parents or carers
  • Has poor eye contact.

By four years, seek advice if your child:

  • Clings or cries whenever parents leave
  • Ignores other children
  • Does not respond to people outside the family
  • Lashes out when angry or upset
  • Resists dressing, sleeping or using the toilet.

By five years, seek advice if your child:

  • Is very fearful, timid, sad or aggressive much of the time; or does not show a wide range of emotions
  • Is unable to separate from parents without difficulty
  • Shows little interest in imaginative play or playing with other children.

Cognitive delays in children

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

Possible causes. Common causes of cognitive delays include:

  • A poor learning environment
  • Institutionalisation 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.

Warning signs of cognitive delays

Seek advice if your child has any of these signs of cognitive delays at these ages. In addition to these red flags, watch for any loss of skills already learned.

By three years, seek advice if your child:

  • Has trouble copying a circle
  • Cannot understand simple instructions
  • Does not become involved in " pretend" or "make-believe" play
  • Shows limited interest in toys.

By four years, seek advice if your child:

  • Shows no interest in interactive games
  • Does not become involved in imaginative play
  • Cannot copy a circle.

By five years, seek advice if your child:

  • Is easily distracted
  • Is unable to concentrate on a single activity for more than five minutes.

Remember: There is a wide range of normal development in children. Most developmental delays in children are not serious, and most children can eventually catch up. Even children who do have serious delays can make big improvements, when treatment begins as early as possible.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on February 16, 2016

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