What Are Developmental Delays?
Does your child have developmental delays?
Typical delays are:
- Not rolling over on time
- Not sitting up unsupported on time
- Not crawling on time
- Not walking on time
- Speech and language delays
- Skipping a phase (such as not crawling)
- Never “creeping” (cross-crawling, when a baby crawls on all fours)
- Unusual types of crawling, such as:
- “Army” crawling with the belly on the ground for most or all of the crawling phase. This is an indication of poor muscle tone and core strength.
- Dragging a leg behind when crawling
- “Butt scooting”
- Slouched posture when sitting. Babies who have not received enough neurodevelopmental movements to support proper posture, structural alignment and core strength will slouch when seated.
- “W” sitting: Sitting in the shape of a W with knees on the floor and feet behind them out to the sides. This is an indication of poor core strength.
Not every child arrives at these developmental milestones at the same time, but if your child is struggling or just not responding, what does this mean?
It means that birth trauma and/or neurological toxins, especially heavy metals, may have disrupted your child’s neurological, sensory, immune and nervous systems while in development.
Physically based symptoms often associated with the gastrointestinal-microbiome system, known as the gut/brain axis, are also connected to developmental delays.
Seeking a multi-faceted approach, the earlier the better, may be the most effective solution.
What Your Doctor May Tell You About Developmental Delays
Developmental delays may be difficult to diagnose, especially early on.
Doctors typically believe that children develop at their own pace, so what is considered normal is a wide range.
Your doctor may ask you questions as well as talk and play with your child.
Your doctor may also use a developmental screening process to see if your child is learning basic skills and has reached their developmental milestones in language or speech, vision, movement and motor skills, social and emotional skills, and thinking and cognitive skills.
Your doctor may tell you that there are no blood tests specific to developmental delays.
However, the screening test may indicate delays, and your doctor may refer your child to a developmental pediatrician, developmental psychologist or a pediatric neurologist for a developmental evaluation.
Your child’s doctor may also recommend a physical therapist, occupational therapist, audiologist or a speech and language pathologist in certain cases where needed.
If the delay is in all areas of development, it is called Global Developmental Delay.
Sometimes, doctors may recommend a community early-intervention program and if delays are determined, early intervention services and/or a treatment plan may be recommended.
Your doctor may tell you that your child will always be a slow learner and that their speech, coordination and behavioral problems are unlikely to change.
Your doctor may suggest that your child needs to be medicated especially if there are behavioral issues at school and your child is unable to sit for an expected period.
Major Risk Factors for Developmental Delays
Developmental delays may not always occur due to genetic abnormalities; many times, birth complications and toxin exposure may cause neurological damage that can lead to developmental delays.
Risk factors include:
- APGAR score less than 7 within 5 minutes of birth
- Birth trauma
- Fetal monitor used during labor
- Environmental exposures after birth such as lead, mercury, aluminum or other heavy metals, which can cause neurological damage
- Not enough “tummy time”
- Sleeping on the back instead of the tummy. Back sleeping contributes to an “upside down” neurological system as well as poor core strength.
- Not enough opportunity for gross-motor movement. This typically happens with babies who are constantly in car seats, strollers or toys that restrict their movement.
- Concussion, head injury or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Genetic or chromosomal abnormalities such as Down Syndrome, Fragile X Syndrome, etc.
- Tobacco, alcohol and drug use during pregnancy
- Medical history factors such as anemia, poor nutrition, infections, diabetes and hypertension
- Complications and/or interventions during labor and delivery
- Mother under the age of 18 at delivery
- Gestational age less than 37 weeks (premature birth)
- Birth weight under 5 ½ lbs.
- Multiple births: Twins, triplets, quadruplets
- Congenital abnormality
- Newborn medical condition such as infections
- Lack of care
- Severe poverty
- Failure to thrive
CDC developmental milestone charts:
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has developed charts that show which developmental milestones a child should be achieving by certain ages:
- By the end of 2 months
- By the end of 4 months
- By the end of 6 months
- By the end of 9 months
- By the end of 1 year
- By the end of 18 months
- By the end of 2 years
- By the end of 3 years
- By the end of 4 years
- By the end of 5 years
If your child isn’t progressing normally or shows regression in developmental milestones, it is critical that you seek early intervention as soon as possible.
Most states have early-intervention programs (Birth to Three, Zero to Three, etc.) that can test your child in more detail than your child’s pediatrician typically would.
Even if your pediatrician doesn’t suspect a delay, you know your child best; ask, repeatedly if necessary, your pediatrician for a referral for your child to have an early-intervention program evaluation.
If your child qualifies for early intervention, these state-funded programs will provide services to your child at no cost to you.
Developmental Disorders Related to Developmental Delays
If your child has a developmental delay, there’s a good chance that he or she may develop a neurodevelopmental disorder such as:
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD)
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Learning disabilities
- Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
Parents of children with these conditions almost universally report that their child was developmentally delayed.
In addition, if your child has any of the following disorders, there’s a good chance that he or she may have experienced developmental delays.
- Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD)
- Angelman Syndrome
- Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
- Bipolar disorder
- Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD)
- Cerebral Palsy (CP)
- Down Syndrome
- Expressive Language Disorder
- Fragile X Syndrome
- IsoDicentric 15
- Landau-Kleffner Syndrome
- Learning disabilities
- Mentally challenged
- Neural-tube defects
- Prader-Willi Syndrome
- Phenylketonuria (PKU)
- Seizure disorders
- Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)
- Tourette’s Syndrome
- Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
- Williams Syndrome
Regression of milestones:
Research has shown that 88% of children with autism regressed into autism, meaning they weren’t born with it.
Anecdotally, we know of many children who also regressed into ADD/ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder, as well as of those who suddenly developed seizures, lost muscle tone, developed failure to thrive when they were progressing normally or whose head-circumference percentiles suddenly grew.
Regression sometimes occurs within a few days of trauma or toxin exposure, but in many cases, it is spread out over a period of time.
If your child has slowed down developmentally, such as now only speaking a few words when they had been speaking more words or has a loss of language or loss of gross motor skills, stop and think.
If you’re a busy caregiver, you may not immediately notice regression until you go back and think about it, comparing your child to old photos, milestone charts and doctor’s reports.
One of the best indicators of neurological damage is to look at your child’s eyes, which is what a doctor or neurologist will do if they suspect neurological injury.
Are your child’s teaming (both looking in the same direction) or is one eye now slightly turned in a different direction than the other (strabismus)?
Has your child’s smile suddenly become crooked, with one side up and the other down?
If you answered yes to either of these two questions, your child may have experienced neurological injury, which a neurologist or chiropractic neurologist could help you confirm.
If regression has occurred, think about what happened in the time period preceding the regression: Was there a head injury, toxin exposure, infection, surgery or medical intervention, even a routine one, that occurred?
It may take you days, weeks, months or even years for you to pinpoint the likely cause or causes of your child’s regression.
Understanding the root causes can help your practitioners know what to do to help your child achieve optimal health and regain lost language and motor skills.
Typically, there is no one single cause that causes regression; instead, regression usually occurs after a “perfect storm” of events in which the total load of stressors has built up to the point that one last stressor is the “straw that breaks the camel’s back”.
Another Way to Think About Developmental Delays
Children with developmental delays almost always have retained primitive reflexes.
These reflexes are inhibited during normal infant development, but in developmentally delayed children, they are retained.
This is an indication and a giant red flag that your child’s brain and central nervous systems are not developing properly, usually due to birth trauma and/or toxins, usually heavy metals, that cause neurological damage.
These children will often have:
- Speech delays
- Motor disorders
- Cognitive issues
- Behavioral problems
- Mitochondrial dysfunction
- Low muscle tone
Children with developmental delays typically may also have issues such as:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Abnormal stools
- Chronic constipation
- Dark circles under the eyes
- Red ears or cheeks after eating
- Processing problems
- Poor coordination
- Abnormal gait
- Poor growth
- Sleep disruption
- Decreased need for sleep
- Rapid heart rate
- Heat intolerance
- Frequent infections
- Cradle cap
- Delays in potty training
- Acid reflux
- Projectile vomiting
- Tongue tie
Early intervention is your child’s best ally: the earlier the better, and the greater the chances are of improved outcomes or even recovery.
Children with developmental delays often have specific deficiencies and imbalances that require an individualized therapeutic and nutritional protocol.
Medication is only a band aid that masks symptoms. Don’t let your school or healthcare practitioner bully you into giving your child medication. There are better, safer ways to address symptoms.
If you are thinking of medicating your child, STOP… think again. Your child may have underlying issues that can be discovered and addressed.
When these root issues, such as nutritional deficiencies, are addressed, your child’s symptoms may reverse.
In addition, medications often exacerbate nutritional deficiencies.
While lab tests cannot identify developmental delays, they can pinpoint potential root causes of your child’s delays.
Laboratory testing may include blood, urine, stool or saliva with the intent on:
- Correcting underlying deficiencies and dysfunctions
- Restoring body and brain functioning
- Improving problematic behavioral or developmental symptoms
so that the child may attain their greatest potential and have the best quality of life possible.
Important testing of various contributing factors include:
- Heavy-metal testing
- Mitochondrial dysfunction
- Food sensitivities and intolerances
- Environmental allergies and excessive histamine
- Poor digestion and processing of foods, especially carbohydrates
- Leaky gut and malabsorption
- Intestinal dysbiosis, including SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacteria Overgrowth), yeast overgrowth and bacterial imbalances
- Abnormal intestinal flora
- Impaired ability to detoxify
- Oxidative stress
- Toxic overload from heavy metal toxicity, pesticides, chemical preservatives, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and other environmental pollutants
- Immune dysregulation
- Low muscle tone
- Nutrient and mineral deficiencies
- Persistent pathogens – virus, bacterial, fungal, parasitic
- Neurotransmitter imbalances
- MTHFR genetic mutation and poor methylation process
- Automatic dysregulation – sympathetic overdrive “fight or flight”
- Insufficient fats in the brain
- Biochemical stress
- Developmental vision problems
- Auditory and language processing difficulties
- Speech delays and speech deficits
- Abnormal gait
- Low cholesterol
- Imbalances in the right and left hemisphere of the brain
Developmental Delays Checklist
Heal the gut:
The first step is to heal the gut – the gastrointestinal tract and its microbiome – which is the hub of the good bacteria (probiotics) in the body.
By healing the gut, the immune system can be improved because 70% of the immune system is found in the gut.
Mothers who use preconception antibiotics may have babies with serious gut issues, which can lead to behavioral problems and developmental delays.
A baby’s microbiome can be disrupted by a mother’s poor diet, antibiotics, NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and usage of birth control pills because mothers transfers their poor microbiome to their baby.
Antibiotics kill bad bacteria but also good bacteria (probiotics) as well as white blood cells, which protect the immune system, in the process.
Antibiotics don’t discriminate, causing the intestinal flora and good bacteria to be destroyed, leaving the immune system compromised and unable to protect the body from future infection.
Constant usage of NSAIDs, which are common anti-inflammatories such as Motrin, Tylenol and ibuprofen, in either the pregnant mother or child can result in leaky gut syndrome and/or SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Organism), which can lead to autoimmunity.
Leaky gut and SIBO can lead to an inability to absorb nutrients and minerals needed for the brain and the body.
If the gastrointestinal tract and the microbiome have too many pathogenic viruses, bacteria, yeast and/or parasites, then the vagus nerve may transport these pathogens to the brain, causing the brain to have imbalances in the neurotransmitters and delays in the child’s development.
A compromised immune system before three years of age can cause developmental regression.
Chronic infections, such as Lyme disease, viruses, pathogenic bacteria and mold, compromise the immune system, causing excessive inflammation, disrupting development and affecting the brain and a child’s development.
Make dietary changes:
Is your child craving and eating primarily a refined carbohydrate, high sugar, trans-fatty acids and fast food diet?
Eliminate all processed foods, and eat a whole foods diet.
- Eat whole foods
- Buy organic foods
- Remove all GMO foods
- Remove all fast and processed foods
- Remove all foods with:
- Artificial colors
- Artificial ingredients
- With an elimination diet, remove potentially inflammatory foods such as:
- Strictly limit:
- Refined salt
- Refined carbohydrates
- Consider implementing a low glutamate diet and/or the Feingold diet
Include plenty of good quality fats, such as:
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil
- Wild salmon
- Organic chicken
- Organic turkey
- Grass-fed ghee
- Pasture-raised eggs
- Grass-fed beef
- Essential fatty acids from:
- Cod liver oil
- Hemp seeds
- Flax seeds
- Evening primrose oil
- Borage oil
- Walnut oil
Remove vegetable oils such as:
Include plenty of high-quality proteins with every meal, such as:
- Pasture-raised eggs and chicken
- Grass-fed beef
- Wild-caught fish
Heal the gut with special diets such as:
- GAPS (Gut And Psychology Syndrome) diet
- Paleo diet
- GF/CF (gluten-free/casein-free) diet
- Body Ecology Diet
- Modified Atkins Diet (replaces the Ketogenic diet)
Learn more about healing diets and foods.
Clean up your environment:
Environmental exposures, especially before the age of 3, are a significant factor that can contribute to developmental delays.
Exposure to the following are toxic to the brain and central nervous system:
- Heavy metals
- Organochlorine pesticides
- Round-up, a pesticide containing glyphosate, can cause elevated levels of Clostridium difficile, a microbe that has been linked to autism and that can cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms, leading to inflammation. Glyphosate negatively affects the gut microbiome and mitochondria. Eating organic and non-GMO foods can reduce exposure to pesticides.
- Flame retardants: Research at the University of California, Berkeley has shown that exposure to PBDE, a type of flame retardant, is associated with:
- Neurodevelopmental delays
- Inability to stay focused
- Poor fine motor coordination
- Lower cognitive abilities in school-aged children
- Chemical preservatives
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
Have you identified and removed possible toxic exposures in the home from purchased products, such as detergents, soaps, lotions, and other cleaning and personal care products?
- Make sure your household products such as soaps, cleaning fluids and all self-care products are environmentally safe and clean
- Buy organic and green building materials, carpeting, baby items, mattresses and upholstery to reduce overall PBDE exposure
- Remove animals (both live and stuffed!)
- Remove carpets
- Use non-toxic cleaners
- Use non-toxic building materials
- Green your home
Increasing exposure to electromagnetic fields (EMFs) has created environmental “electromagnetic smog” that escapes no one and that can disrupt the body’s sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
You can reduce EMF exposure by:
- Limiting all interactive screen devices and the TV
- Turning off WiFi in your home, especially at night
- Making sure your cell phone has an electromagnetic neutralizer attached to it
- Requesting that your electrical provider change your Smart Meter to the old meter
Ask your pediatrician to run some laboratory tests for:
- Heavy metals with a heavy-metal hair test
- Possible food sensitivities and allergies
- Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) IgG, IgA, IgE and IgM
- Nutritional deficiencies in vitamins and minerals. The NutrEval by Genova Diagnostics Labs covers the following areas:
- Cellular energy
- Mitochondrial metabolism
- Neurotransmitter metabolism
- Vitamin deficiencies
- Toxin exposure
- Detoxification need
- Bacterial and yeast overgrowth
- Gluten and casein sensitivities
- Organic acids: The organic acid test by Great Plains Laboratory for:
- Yeast overgrowth (Candida)
- Other microbial infections
- Comprehensive Stool Analysis by Genova Diagnostic Labs to identify:
- Altered gastrointestinal function
- Bacterial/fungal overgrowth
- Chronic dysbiosis
- Neurotransmitters: Neurorelief (Neurosciences Laboratory) is a specialty lab that tests neurotransmitters to determine chemical imbalances in the brain
- Genetic mutations such as MTHFR, CBS and SUOX, which may interfere with your child’s ability to detoxify.
- The MTHFR defect in the methylation process means that the body is unable to excrete toxins and pathogens very efficiently due to reduced glutathione, which is the master antioxidant in the body. If your child has the MTHFR defect, it is best to provide nutrient support for the methylation process through methylated B vitamins such as methylB12, folate and P5P. An effective way to support your child’s methylation process is through the skin where there is maximum absorption of nutrients.
Add fermented foods and probiotics daily:
These foods can keep the gastrointestinal system and microbiome healthy and strong, which in turn will keep the immune system strong:
- Kefir yogurts
- Fermented vegetables
- Umeboshi plums (very alkalizing)
- Miso soup, if soy is tolerated
Some good probiotics are:
- Gut Pro
- Dr. Ohirra’s Live Cultured Probiotics
- Garden of Life
- Klaire Labs
Use the prebiotic inulin to populate the small intestine with good bacteria that can overtake bad bacteria that produce proprionic acid.
Use herbs and natural supplements with your practitioner’s guidance:
Mitochondria are the power cells to the body; they break down fats, carbohydrates and protein, supplying power to the ATP in our cells that gives the body energy.
This energy is needed for muscle tone, brain liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, heart and lungs to function appropriately.
The following supplements can help with mitochondrial dysfunction:
- Cod liver oil
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Coconut oil
- Vitamin E
In addition, the following supplements can be added to this “mito cocktail” to address nutritional deficiencies identified with lab test:
- Zinc picolinate or glycinate: Too much copper toxicity causes delays. Increase zinc levels to offset copper. Zinc is important for the gastrointestinal system, the endocrine (hormonal) and the overall immune system.
- Methylcobalamin B12
- Folinic acid or 5MTHF
- Trace minerals
- Vitamin B6 (P5P)
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM)
- Epsom salt baths
Use digestive aids with your practitioner’s guidance:
Digestive enzymes and bile acids can help with digestion and malabsorption:
- Betaine hydrochloric acid
- Digestive enzymes with DPP-IV for gluten and casein intolerances
- Proteolytic enzymes
Do not microwave food (or even water) because natural enzymes are destroyed, reducing or eliminating nutritional value.
Help your child detoxify:
- Ionic foot baths can help detox unwanted pathogens and are easy to do with children
- Infared saunas can detox heavy metals through the skin by sweating. However, this form of detoxification may not be suitable for young children who lack the ability to sweat.
Learn about retained primitive reflexes:
Most, if not all, children with neurodevelopmental disorders including developmental delays, have retained primitive reflexes.
Find a therapist that is trained in integrating primitive reflexes, which can cause imbalances in the way your child’s brain performs.
See a chiropractic neurologist at a Brain Balance Center:
The Brain Balance program can help balance the right and left brain hemispheres and make neural connections to extinguish primitive reflexes.
See a neurofeedback practitioner:
Neurofeedback is approved as a level-one intervention by the American Academy of Pediatrics for ADD and ADHD, which are learning disabilities.
Even if your child doesn’t have ADD or ADHD, they may still benefit from neurofeedback.
Find a practitioner that can perform a QEEG (quantitative electroencephalograph) brain map first so you can understand how your child’s brain works.
See a sensory-integration occupational therapist (OT):
These OTs address a variety of sensory issues with a child using hands-on equipment.
This type of therapy calms down the nervous system to help integrate the senses; however, primitive reflex integration is typically not achieved with this type of therapy.
Ask about using brushing therapy to calm down the nervous system.
See a chiropractor:
A chiropractor can perform spinal cord adjustments, which can improve communication in the nervous system.
See a craniosacral practitioner:
Craniosacral therapy can reestablish central nervous system functioning.
These practitioners use approaches rich in vestibular, proprioceptive and tactile input and may also do oral motor therapy.
See a behavioral/developmental optometrist:
A developmental optometrist can check for convergence and tracking problems with your child’s vision.
He or she can correct these issues with vision therapy, lens and prisms.
Doing so can improve hand-eye coordination and school performance.
See an auditory therapist:
Many children with developmental delays have auditory processing problems that may be causing problems with focus and concentration.
An auditory therapist can devise a listening program that is specific to your child’s needs.
Auditory Integration Therapy (Berard) or Sound Stimulation (Tomatis) can retrain the brain, calm down the nervous system, reduce sound sensitivities.
Find a therapist doing Brain Gym:
A Brain Gym practitioner can have your child do exercises for sensorimotor coordination, self-calming and self-management.
See a homeopath or naturopath:
These practitioners can diagnose and treat gastrointestinal disorders naturally so that the child’s immune, sensory, neurological and nervous systems develop without being compromised.
See a well-trained acupuncturist:
Acpuncture can help lower stress and anxiety associated with developmental delays and sensory processing issues.
See a NAET or BioSET practitioner:
Children with developmental delays typically also have food allergies and/or food sensitivities and intolerances.
NAET (Namudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique) and BioSET are two non-invasive methods of allergy elimination.
Still Looking for Answers?
Visit the Epidemic Answers Provider Directory to find a practitioner near you.
Sources & References
Aguilera, M., Cerda-Cuellar, M., Martinez, V. Antibiotic-induced dysbiosis alters host-bacterial interactions and leads to colonic sensory and motor changes in mice. Gut Microbes. 2015;6(1):10-23
Darling, A.L., et al. Association between maternal vitamin D status in pregnancy and neurodevelopmental outcomes in childhood: results from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Br J Nutr. 2017 Jun;117(12):1682-1692.
Egset, K., et al. Magno App: Exploring Visual Processing in Adults with High and Low Reading Competence. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research. 07 Jan 2020.
Morris, C.R., et al. Syndrome of allergy, apraxia, and malabsorption: characterization of a neurodevelopmental phenotype that responds to omega 3 and vitamin E supplementation. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. Jul-Aug 2009;15(4):34-43.
Ozonoff, S., et al. Onset patterns in autism: Variation across informants, methods, and timing. Autism Res. 2018 Mar 10.
Warner, B.B. The contribution of the gut microbiome to neurodevelopment and neuropsychiatric disorders. Pediatr Res. 2019 Jan;85(2):216-224.
Zablotsky, B., et al. Prevalence and Trends of Developmental Disabilities among Children in the United States: 2009-2017. Pediatrics. 2019 Oct;144(4):e20190811.
Zaigham, M., et al. Prelabour caesarean section and neurodevelopmental outcome at 4 and 12 months of age: an observational study. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. 2020 (20)564.
Brandes, Bonnie. “The Symphony of Reflexes: Interventions for Human Development, Autism, ADHD, CP, and Other Neurological Disorders“. 2016
Goddard, Sally. “Reflexes, Learning And Behavior: A Window into the Child’s Mind : A Non-Invasive Approach to Solving Learning & Behavior Problems“. 2005
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Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential: Developmental Delay – Pervasive Developmental Disorder
Julie Matthews Bioindividual Nutrition recipes
My Child Will Thrive: Primitive Reflexes Cheat Sheet
Nancy Tarlow DC: Unraveling Neurodevelopmental and Behavior Disorder with Dr. Steve Tullus