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):

  • 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:

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

You should speak to our CYPIT Team 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 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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