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Is my child different?

Early detection of abnormalities


Developmental delays: What are the signs?

Every baby, every child develops differently. Each takes its time, its own pace. But parents are quick to worry. Rightly so? There's no doubt that it's not always easy to tell whether individual developmental steps are within "normal" limits. "What is 'normal'? ", you may ask. How can abnormalities and delays in development be noticed in time? For all your questions, concerns and fears, your pediatrician's office is the first place to turn. The earlier, the better. With the right support or therapy, many developmental delays can be alleviated or caught up.

What are developmental delays?

Child development is divided into these five areas:
  1. Motor development: Here it is about the movement processes.
  2. Language development: This is about speaking and understanding language.
  3. Intellectual development: Here it is about thinking and understanding contexts.
  4. Emotional development: Here it is about the emotional life.
  5. Social development: Here it is about the behavior towards other people.

If, apart from the fact that each child has its own pace, there are significant deviations in development within usual limits, there may be a delay or disability. Parents should know that developmental abnormalities in children can vary widely and range from mild to severe. If you discover abnormalities or observe evidence of a developmental delay in your child, you should seek medical attention.

Motor development

Walking, running, jumping, balancing: Children love it. But some children are noticeably slower and more immobile than their playmates. Some seem clumsy in their movements or in grasping and holding objects. Some show little body awareness, becoming increasingly insecure and anxious. If your child is clearly lagging behind in his or her motor development compared to others, if he or she is constantly "fidgeting" or shows no desire to move at all, this is a reason for clarification in the pediatrician's office. The causes will certainly be found quickly there and you will receive suggestions for early intervention and therapeutic treatment.

Speech and language problems

Parallel to discovering movement, speech and understanding begin from the middle of the first year of life. Children form their first own words as early as about nine months of age, but again, each child has his or her own pace in the desire to move from babbling to speaking. It is not easy to tell whether a child's language development is seriously inhibited and delayed. If many children handle language as a matter of course, there are others who speak barely or slurredly, do not form complete sentences, and do not quite understand what is being said to them. Get advice and help as early as possible. Language disorders can lead to learning delays and a more difficult start in school. Your pediatrician or pediatrician will know ways to find appropriate language support for your child and where to find it.

Mental development

The symptoms of a mental development disorder can be manifold: Affected children often learn later to crawl, to speak, to walk. They may react very slowly to stimuli or not appropriately to playful stimuli, appear mentally sluggish, passive and disinterested. Early detection is particularly important. The regular preventive check-ups or U examinations in childhood are therefore enormously important appointments. The pediatrician can determine, for example, through small mental tasks and other tests, whether there are any abnormalities that indicate developmental delays and impairments. In this way, therapeutic measures can be initiated at an early stage.

Emotional conspicuities

Children need a reliable, responsive and predictable living environment. If this is lacking, children can react very differently. But what is normal, what is tolerable, what is conspicuous, what needs help? It is a sensitive web when it comes to recognizing emotional conspicuities in children. You know your child best: Do they show strong anxiety, lack of drive, sadness? There is a wealth of child behavior that can be addressed with patience and understanding. If negative behavior becomes entrenched, it is quite important to diagnose the problems. Do not be afraid to seek and accept help from doctors and therapists.

Social conspicuousness

An important human ability is to establish relationships with other people, to show consideration for the needs of others, and to find one's way in a group. A young child has to learn all of this in the course of time. If a social behavior disorder is present, it usually manifests itself through conspicuous behavior. Symptoms that may indicate a social development disorder include aggressive behavior, frequent outbursts of anger, bullying people in a relationship, destroying objects, or lying frequently. The ability to appropriately control one's own behavior is not developed or is poorly developed. Affected children need prompt medical, psychological and therapeutic help.

More information

U examinations: Early detection and prevention

For information on developmental delays and disabilities, visit the Child Health Info portal of the German Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA)


The children's network KNW is the umbrella organization of self-help of families with children and young adults with chronic diseases and disabilities. The website offers information for those affected and help for self-help.

Information on the prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and integration of socially disadvantaged, chronically ill and disabled children and adolescents is provided by the German Society for Social Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine on its website.

The German League for the Child, together with partners, has published ten fact sheets and films on the subject of "Growing up emotionally healthy", which you can access free of charge via the internet platform.

For more information on early intervention options for children with abnormalities, seehere on the Familienportal.NRW.