According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), infants have developmental milestones according to age. For example, at six months, an infant may crawl and at one year, may walk. Although one infant may develop a few months faster than another, there usually isn’t a reason for concern unless the delays are exaggerated and prolonged.
One of the first delays in motor skill development to watch out for is whether the baby sits up or not. If the baby doesn’t sit up, this could be one of the first exhibited signs of cerebral palsy, a neurological disorder that can paralyze muscular movement.
Statistics indicate that children who can’t sit up unaided by the time they’re 4 years old will never be able to walk and only have a 40% chance of living until age 20. Children who can sit up unaided before 2 years old, however, have a 95% chance of living past age 20 and can have a relatively normal life with an education, career, and relationships.
If your infant is still not sitting up by 6 to 9 months of age, there is no need to panic. However, it’s always a good idea to alert your pediatrician.
A child that doesn’t walk normally could also be suffering from cerebral palsy. Sometimes the child suffers from muscle rigidity which causes a dragged foot (can be treated with Botox and other orthopedic devices). In addition, a child with cerebral may exhibit lack of control over muscle movement.
In some instances, failure to walk may be an indication of a spinal cord injury, sometimes traced to spina bifida. If the child is suffering from nerve damage related to a spinal cord injury externally or a spinal cord injury internally (such as meningitis in the perinatal period), the child may have paralysis in the most extreme form, or difficulty walking attributed to mild nerve damage.
Speech difficulties could be related to any form of brain damage. Sometimes oxygen deprivation causes brain damage from anoxia, hypoxia, Hypoxic Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE), birth asphyxia, or perinatal asphyxia. These various forms of birth injury-related oxygen deprivation can cause a brain hemorrhage, brain ischemia, cerebral palsy, or general brain damage, all of which could have affected the speaking parts of the child’s brain.
If your child is nearly a year old and these speech difficulties appear to be the only symptom your child has, the birth injury may be quite mild, and you child may merely need a speech therapist as he or she develops into school age. Make sure that you still get your child checked out as the speech difficulties may also be a sign of intellectual disability, also a symptom of these brain-and-oxygen-related birth injuries.
As an infant starts to develop motor skills, you may notice legs kicking, arms moving, and hands clasping together. As the infant gets older, fine motor skills start to develop, such as grasping small object or holding a spoon.
Again, not all infants develop in the same manner and at the same age, so if you notice your friend’s baby grabbing a small object whereas your baby still hasn’t, there is no need for alarm. Yet, if you notice that your toddler still hasn’t developed motor skills and is stalling in other developments, it’s recommended to let your pediatrician know.
Lack of motor skills may indicative of several types of disorders; a proper diagnosis is the only way to determine, however, if there is an underlying medical issue.