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What to do if there's a developmental problem

Here’s what to look out for, and where you can go for help and advice. Please note that if a child loses a skill they had already developed, this is a cause for concern. You should take them to their GP or contact our Health Hub.

If they keep turning their head to the same side when they’re awake:

  • Follow our Tummy time advice sheet
  • If things don’t improve in a month, please contact your health visitor. They will then refer to another specialist if they feel it is necessary.

If their head is flattened on the back or one side:

  • Many babies have misshapen heads following delivery, and this should correct itself as the baby develops
  • Follow our Tummy time advice sheet
  • If things don’t improve in a month,  please contact your health visitor. They will then refer to another specialist if they feel it is necessary.

If the baby is born with one or both feet turned inwards:

  • This is often corrected by a professional after birth, but if it still doesn’t seem right, please contact your health visitor. They will then refer to another specialist if they feel it is necessary.

You should contact your health visitor if: 

  • They don’t try to keep their head upright when you move them from a lying to a sitting position:
  • They keep turning their head to the same side when they’re awake
  • Their arms and legs feel stiff when they’re being held, dressed, moved or having a nappy change

If they dislike being placed on their tummy:

  • Follow our Tummy time advice sheet
  • If things don’t improve in two months, please contact your health visitor. They will then refer to another specialist if they feel it is necessary.

If they get upset when their position is changed – for instance, when they’re picked up from a lying position:

If they’re always distressed when they’re feeding or straight afterwards (they may also vomit a lot or draw their legs up as if in pain):

  • Contact your GP

If they don’t respond to sound, or they appear startled if you suddenly appear at the side of their cot:

  • Contact your GP and ask to be referred for a hearing assessment

If they don’t show ‘defensive blink’, or follow adults’ movements with their eyes:

  • Contact your GP and ask for an eye test

If they can’t lift their head and prop themselves up on their forearms when you put them on their tummy:

  • Follow our Tummy time advice sheet
  • If you do not see an improvement within a month, please contact your health visitor. They will then refer to another specialist if they feel it is necessary.

If they can’t roll to either side:

If they mostly use the same side of their body to reach for toys:

  • Follow our hand skills advice
  • Contact your health visitor if you do not notice an improvement within a month.

If they don’t respond to sounds, or make any sounds:

  • Contact your GP and ask to be referred for a hearing assessment
  • Follow our Baby talk and Babbling advice

You should speak to your health visitor if:

  • They don’t reach out for toys, objects or people
  • When lying or standing they either hold their legs in a stiff position or in a very relaxed ‘froglike’ position
  • They keep their hand in a fist, and you have to prise it open
  • They can’t keep their head in the middle when they’re lying on their back

If they can’t temporarily hold a sitting position when you put them on the floor:

If they lift their legs up when you place them in a standing position:

If they have trouble coping with solids – perhaps gagging or choking on lumps:

If they babble and it’s all on one note, and isn’t tuneful:

  • Contact your GP and ask to be referred for a hearing assessment.

If they haven’t started babbling yet:

You should speak to your health visitor if:

  • They’re lying on their tummy and they can’t prop themselves up on their arms to look around
  • They can’t hold toys to play, or transfer toys from one hand to the other
  • They gag on smooth puree, yogurt or custard.

If they can’t get from a lying to a sitting position:

  • Follow our rolling and sitting advice 
  • If things don’t improve in one month, please speak to your health visitor, who can refer you to another professional if necessary.

If they find it difficult to pull up into a standing position because their legs are stiff or they walk on tiptoes:

  • Contact your health visitor.

If they can’t use their hands to eat finger foods or hold a beaker to lift it to their mouth:

If they avoid or get distressed by messy activities like finger painting:

If they won’t eat or they dislike certain food textures, such as lumps:

  • Follow our trying new foods advice 
  • If there’s no improvement after two months, please speak to your health visitor.

If they resist or dislike being cuddled:

If they don’t move around the room by crawling or bottom shuffling to explore and play:

  • Speak to your health visitor.

 

If they can’t walk while holding on to furniture:

  • Follow our standing and stepping advice sheet
  • If there’s no improvement after two months, contact your health visitor who can refer you to another professional if necessary.

If they stand and walk on tiptoes:

  • Speak to your health visitor.

If they can’t help to dress themselves – for instance, by pushing their arm into a sleeve:

  • Follow our dressing skills advice sheet  
  • If there’s no improvement after two months, speak to your health visitor.

If they’re extremely distressed by certain self-care activities, such as teeth or hair brushing:

If they become extremely distressed by loud noises such as thunder, sirens, the vacuum cleaner or hairdryer:

If they rarely or never interact, or respond to their name or to other single words or they may not recognise familiar routines, or pretend when they play:

  • Follow our baby talk and basic communication strategies advice sheets
  • You should also contact your GP and ask to be referred for a hearing assessment
  • If there’s no improvement after three months, speak to your health visitor.

If they’re not yet babbling:

  • Contact your health visitor who can refer you to another professional if necessary.

If they’re not yet using single words:

  • Follow our Toddler talk advice sheet

If they can’t walk independently:

  • Speak to your health visitor.

If they can’t stand from the floor without using furniture for support:

  • Speak to your health visitor.

If they get anxious when they walk barefoot on certain surfaces – such as grass or sand:

If they dislike large play equipment and soft play such as swings, slides, roundabouts and ball pools:

If they show little or no interest in communicating and interacting; they might not pretend much when they play, they may have a poor attention span, or fail to respond to simple questions such as ‘Where’s your coat?’:

  • Follow our Toddler talk advice 
  • If you don't notice an improvement within two months, please contact your health visitor.

If they pretend when they play, can concentrate for short spells and respond to instructions but have few or no words:

If they can’t pick up small objects between their thumb and index finger:

  • Follow our hand skills advice 
  • If you don't notice an improvement within two months, contact your health visitor.

If they can’t squat to play and get back up again:

  • Contact your health visitor.

If they can’t jump with two feet together from a low step:

  • Contact your health visitor.

If they can’t use a spoon to feed themselves independently:

  • Follow our cutlery skills advice 
  • If there’s no improvement after three months, speak to your health visitor.

If they show little or no interest in interacting and communicating, or have few or no words; they may struggle to understand simple instructions like ‘Give the ball to Daddy’; you might find it hard to understand them, and they may be unable to join words together:

If they are stammering – repeating parts of words several times, ‘stretching’ sounds in a word, or finding it difficult to start a word:

  • Follow our stammering advice
  • If you don't notice an improvement within two months, contact your health visitor.

If they can’t pull their pants up and down:

  • Follow our dressing skills advice 
  • If there’s no improvement after four months, speak to your health visitor.

If they find it more difficult than other children their age to use their hands – for example in threading or crayoning activities:

If when they talk, they only use one word or two word combinations, they echo adult language or learnt phrases, or they say words in an unusual order:

  • Speak to your health visitor.

If they have a poor understanding of spoken language, and have trouble following instructions or answering simple questions:

  • Speak to your health visitor.

If they are unintelligible (they can’t make themselves understood) most of the time to family or in a pre-school setting:

If they are stammering – repeating parts of words several times, ‘stretching’ sounds in a word, or finding it difficult to start a word:

  • Follow our Stammering advice sheet
  • If you don't notice an improvement within three months, contact your health visitor.

If they’re not interested in playing with other children, or they become fixed on certain toys or objects, or get distressed at a change in routine:

  • Speak to your health visitor.

If they have difficulty with balance and movement skills compared to friends of the same age – they might fall often, or be unable to jump with two feet together:

  • Follow our balance advice 
  • If there’s no improvement after four months, speak to your health visitor.

If they find it hard to walk as far as other children their age, and may complain of leg pain:

  • Speak to your health visitor.

If they can’t fasten buttons or zips:

If they can’t use a fork and spoon together:

  • Follow our using cutlery advice
  • If there’s no improvement after six months, speak to your health visitor.

If they can’t pedal a tricycle:

If they can’t hold a crayon or pencil to draw straight, vertical and circular lines:

If they can’t say simple sentences, or they say words in an unusual order; they might not be able to take turns in a conversation, or they might echo or repeat what they say:

  • Speak to your health visitor.

If they often can’t understand everyday instructions; they may find it hard to interact and play with others:

  • Speak to your health visitor.

If their speech is difficult to understand, or they only use a small range of sounds:

  • Follow our Unclear speech advice
  • If there’s no improvement after two months, speak to your health visitor.

If they dislike large play equipment such as swings and slides:

If they become extremely distressed by textures of clothing or messy play:

If they become extremely distressed by loud noises such as thunder, the hair dryer or the vacuum cleaner:

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