Gross motor delay is an umbrella diagnosis for children who may not be rolling, sitting, crawling, walking, or performing other age-appropriate coordinated movements of their arms, legs, and trunk. When pediatricians ask parents if their baby or child is meeting developmental milestones, it is to check whether there is a delay. Although every child develops differently, there is an age range that is considered normal for acquisition of certain skills. For example, a baby can typically roll by 4-5 months, crawl at 9 months, and walk by 12-15 months old. Toddlers can usually kick a ball by 2 years and walk up and down stairs by age 3. Four year olds can usually hop, and 5 year olds can normally swing and climb. For a more complete list of motor, cognitive, and social/emotional milestones, please see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC’s Developmental Milestones) or the American Academy of Pediatrics (Ages & Stages).
There are a number of causes for gross motor delay. Some cases are mild and may resolve on their own. Others may require targeted therapy and may be a result of prematurity, Down’s Syndrome, or another condition that is known at birth. Still other delays are early indicators of a possibly undiagnosed underlying issue such as thyroid dysregulation, autism spectrum disorder, or Duchane’s muscular dystrophy. Most pediatricians recommend physical therapy as early as infancy to help babies and children with gross motor delays develop optimally.
Physical Therapy for gross motor delays will consist of an individualized treatment that may include:
- Showing you how to help your child move better
- Teaching age-appropriate motor activities and exercises
- Training for gait and balance
- Functional strengthening
- Sensory integration exercises
- Manual cueing for appropriate muscle activity
- Facilitating efficient movement patterns
- Assessing progress toward goals
- Progressing an individualized home exercise program
- Communicating openly with your pediatrician and/or specialist
If you think your child has a gross motor delay, please schedule an evaluation with one of our pediatric physical therapists. Early treatment yields more rapid results. Call us at (703) 372-5716.