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Finding Your Way - Developmental Delay

You may have heard the term developmental delay – it is used to describe when your child is taking longer to reach a milestone than many children their age. 

It can feel worrying knowing what this might mean for your child and what services are there to help you. 

Some babies born early, or with some health conditions will have their growth and development followed up by a local hospital paediatrician - (a children’s doctor).  

Sometimes a delay is noticed during an assessment later in their life or by a professional who knows your child. 

It might be that you feel worried your child is not developing in the same way or at the same rate as other children their age - you can call Just One Number to talk to a health professional, or talk to your child’s school or early years setting about this.

There is lots of information to help you support your child’s development here on Just One Norfolk too.

  • All children develop at their own pace. The Healthy Child Programme offers developmental assessments to all children at certain ages in their childhood. There are two different assessment tools which we use;

    • Ages & Stages questionnaire - which can give us an idea of whether your child needs further support.
    • Schedule of Growing Skills (SoGS) - this is a play based assessment and gives us a picture of your child's strengths and areas which might need further support.

    One of the team will discuss with you which tool(s) might be most suitable for your child. You can watch the videos below to see these assessments taking place.

    If your child attends settings like nursery, school or has support from other health services they may also carry out assessments that check out your child’s development and they will explain this to you. 


  • If there are worries about your child’s movement, for example not being able to sit up or put weight on their legs at the expected time, we would ask you to make an appointment with your GP.

    The GP would examine your child and decide if any further investigations to find out what the problem might be are needed. They will talk to you about this.

    Sometimes a referral to a children’s physiotherapist is made and a plan of support put in place.



  • There are lots of ideas for supporting communication, speech and language development on our Talk and Play pages *here*.

    If you are worried about your child’s speech it might be recommended that they have a hearing test. Hearing problems can affect speech and communication development. You would be sent an appointment for this.

    If your child is already attending a nursery or childminder and there are worries about speech and language development they can refer you to a speech and language therapist. 

  • If your child is under 6;

    If after you have been given advice and support there are still some worries about your child’s development, you will be offered a referral to a community paediatrician.

    These doctors specialise in child development. There can be quite a wait to get an appointment. However during this time you can still be given support and advice on how to help your child.

    At the appointment;

    The team will ask all about your child. They will ask you about what you and/or the professionals who know your child are concerned about. If there are things you want to remember or ask about it is a good idea to write them down.

    They will talk to you about any tests and investigations they think would help them get all the information they need to get a clear picture of your child’s strengths and challenges.

    If your child is over 6;

    Referrals about developmental concerns noticed once your child has reached school age are usually made by education services. The referral is made to the Neurodevelopmental Service.

    The referral needs to be made by a specially trained Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO) or a Speech and Language Therapist or a Clinical Psychologist after their own assessment of your child.

    School will discuss this referral with you and, with your consent (permission), they may gather information from different people and services who know your child.

    Our Healthy Child Programme cannot make a referral of a child over the age of 6 years independently but may be able to contribute relevant information to the referral alongside other services if requested.

    There may be a wait for the appointment, the services already known to you and your child will still be able to support and advise on how to help your child in the meantime.

    At the appointment;

    The team will ask all about your child. They will ask you about what you and / or the professionals who know your child are concerned about. If there are things you want to remember or ask about it is a good idea to write them down.

    Your child will be assessed and they will talk to you about any other observations they think would help them get all the information they need to get a clear picture of your child’s strengths and challenges.

  • Getting a Diagnosis

    Assessments can sometimes take a very long time or the team might quickly be able to tell you the outcome of their investigations.

    Even if you have been expecting it, it can still feel like a big shock to get a diagnosis. It might take time to take on board what this might mean for you and your child.

    • The team will be there to answer any questions you might have and may be able to signpost you to useful organisations and information.
    • You might find that you have more questions in the days and weeks to come. The services your child uses, nursery or school or the health professionals at Just One Number will try to help you with these.
    • You may find websites and support groups for the particular diagnosis your child has. Norfolk Community Directory may have details of local charities and services.

    The diagnosis can be used to make sure that your child accesses the right support to help them make progress and reach their potential.

    Global Developmental Delay

    If your child is under 5 years the paediatrician may tell you that your child has global developmental delay. In the pre-school years it is difficult to tell how much progress a child will make and whether or not the gap between them and their peers is growing or if things are improving.

    Some children will have special educational needs as a result of this delay and will need additional help in nursery and school.

    We will ask your permission to tell our partners in Education that we think your child might need help in their nursery or future setting. 

    Not Getting a Diagnosis

    You might feel relieved that the assessment does not show a reason for your child’s delay. The assessment team may be able to reassure you that your child will reach their milestones in their own time.

    • It might feel really disappointing as you see your child still struggling with challenges and don’t know the reason why.
    • It may be that in the future a reason for the problems might be found. Experts are learning more about the causes of developmental delay all the time.

    In the meantime the team are there to support you and your child with the difficulties they face right now - to help them reach their potential.

Things You can do To Help

If there are developmental concerns about your child it can make parents and carers feel worried.

Remember you know your child best. Parents are the best and first teachers of their child and have an important part to play in helping them reach their potential.

  • Spend time playing and talking with your child. Look at our ‘talk and play’ pages *here*.
  • Share your worries – keep asking for help until you feel your child has the support they need.
  • Get support for yourself. Talk to family and friends about your worries.
  • Talk to people with similar experiences – self help groups exist for families of children with many developmental concerns. You can search on Norfolk Community Directory.

Children learn a lot from other children and spending time with friends, family and their children can encourage development. This can be hard for you and your child if they are at a different stage to their peers and / or struggle in some situations.

If this is the case a member of our team can discuss other options for further support, such as;

There are many other charities and organisations who offer support to families with children with additional needs. Most services can be found on the Norfolk County Council Local Offer.

Who Can Help?

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

The Patient Activation Measure (PAM) Health Questionnaire will help you to think about your knowledge, skills and confidence in understanding and supporting your baby or child’s health. The results of this can help us, to support you, in setting goals and priorities in a way that is right for you and your family. On completion of the questions you will be signposted to some self care resources which are tailored to your responses. This will help you to take steps to improve your family's health and wellbeing. *Click Here* to find out more. 


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