Motor delay | Symptoms & Causes | Diagnosis

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Motor delay

What is Motor delay?

Motor Delay refers to children showing unusually slow development of fine-motor or gross-motor abilities. Fine motor abilities include things like grasping a pencil or handling a spoon. Gross-motor abilities include things like walking, hoping and climbing stairs.


Motor delay can be caused by learning disabilities, in which case the delay can usually be overcome with time and support - such as with physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and speech and language therapists. Other causes which may cause a permanent delay in development include genetic disorders such as Down syndrome and Fragile X, childhood infections such as meningitis or encephalitis, and metabolic disorders such as hypothyroidism. Metabolic disorders are more likely to cause delayed development in older children as many congenital metabolic problems which are easily managed are screened for in the neonatal period. The use of toxic substances in pregnancy, particularly alcohol, can lead to Motor delay if they affect the neurological development of the fetus, such as in fetal alcohol syndrome. Even though there are many known causes of delay, some children will never receive a diagnosis.

Diagnosis & Tests

If your school-age child is diagnosed with developmental delay, you may be eligible for special services. Specialized services vary according to need and location.

Check with your physician and your school district to find out what services are available. Specialized education, especially when started early, can help your child progress and achieve more in school.

Prevention & Risk Factors

Developmental screening, like a growth measurement, has value as an aide in developmental surveillance, because it enables its user to combine its results with those of parent concerns, child observations, immunizations, and anticipatory guidance to promote the child's development. This process, rather than waiting for the child to be deviant, is a primary prevention approach that aims to assure that every child receiving such surveillance develops to his or her maximum potential.

Treatments & Therapies

Treatments for developmental delays vary according to the specific delay. Some treatments include physical therapy for help in motor skill delays, and behavioral and educational therapy for help with ASD and other delays. In some cases, medications may be prescribed. An evaluation and diagnosis from a pediatrician is crucial to come up with a treatment plan specially designed for your child.