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:

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

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

You should speak to our CYPIT Team 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:

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):

  • If this happens you should 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:

If they can’t roll to either side:

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

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

  • You should contact your GP and ask to be referred for a hearing assessment
  • Follow our Baby talk and Babbling advice sheets

You should speak to our CYPIT Team if:

  • They don’t reach out for toys, objects or people
  • Your baby is 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 our CYPIT Team 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:

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

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:

If they resist or dislike being cuddled:

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

 

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

If they stand and walk on tiptoes:

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

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:

If they’re not yet babbling:

If they’re not yet using single words:

  • Follow our Toddler talk advice sheet

If they can’t walk independently:

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

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

If they refuse to try new foods, or become faddy at mealtimes:

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?’:

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:

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

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

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

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:

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

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:

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

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:

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:

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:

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

If they can’t fasten buttons or zips:

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

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.

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

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

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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