The main focus of birth injuries caused by lack of oxygen and lack of blood flow tends to be on cerebral palsy. However, cerebral palsy, a neurological condition characterized by impaired motor function, is separate and distinct from developmental delays. During the first three years of their lives, children tend to advance and meet milestones very quickly. All children advance at different paces, but children with developmental delays are often far behind other children in their age groups.
Caring for a child with brain damage resulting in developmental delays or cognitive deficits is emotionally and financially draining. If your baby’s developmental delay occurred because of obstetrical negligence, you may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit.
To arrange a free initial consultation about your potential case, please contact our Ohio developmental delay attorneys by email or call (440) 252-4399.
What Are Developmental Delays?
There are many ways to calculate whether a child is meeting his or her milestones. All children are unique and advance at different rates, so it is important to evaluate a child’s milestones by conferring with a doctor, like a pediatrician or pediatric neurologist, to determine whether appropriate milestones are not being reached.
Developmental delays are typically thought of as mental, but they can affect a number of other areas:
- Gross motor skills: ability to use large groups of muscles for sitting, standing, running, walking, and maintaining balance
- Fine motor skills: using hands to eat, dress, play, write, and handle small objects
- Language skills: ability to speak, use gestures, communicate and understand language
- Cognitive ability: ability to learn, understand, problem-solve, remember, and reason
- Social skills: ability to interact with others, feel empathy and sympathy, cooperate, and have relationships
Sometimes one area may be affected, or numerous areas may be delayed. The degree of delays varies and can be directly related to the extent of the original birth injury.
There are no universally-agreed upon ages for children to meet these milestones. Indeed, failure to meet milestones is not necessarily an indication of a problem; rather, it is something to be considered by physicians along with other evidence before a clinical diagnosis can be made. Below are some milestones that pediatricians and other doctors will want to know about.
- Begins to smile
- Turns head toward noise
- Begins to follow objects with eyes
- Holds head up when lying on stomach
- Smiles at people
- Copies facial expressions and movements
- Begins to babble
- Reaches for toys and other objects
- Follows moving objects with eyes
- Recognizes familiar people/objects
- Holds head unsupported
- Can shake toys
- Brings hands to mouth
- May roll over from stomach to back
- Pushes with legs on the floor
- Begins to play with others
- Responds to sounds by making sounds
- Makes vowel sounds
- Responds to own name
- Brings objects to mouth
- Moves objects from one hand to another
- Rolls over in both directions
- Begins to sit without support
- Begins to crawl, sometimes moving backward first
- Clingy with parents and familiar people, afraid of strangers
- Understands “no”
- Copies sounds and movements
- Points with fingers
- Plays peek-a-boo
- Picks up objects with thumb and index finger
- Stands while holding onto something
- Puts arms and legs out to help with dressing
- Responds to simple requests
- Gestures (i.e., waving, nodding head)
- Tries to repeat words
- Finds hidden objects
- Drinks from a cup
- Follows simple directions
- Begins walking
- Plays pretend (i.e., feeds a doll)
- Speaks several words
- Knows names of common objects
- Can point to and identify body parts
- May walk up steps
- Eats with a spoon
- May undress self
- Copies others
- Shows independence and defiance
- Begins to play with other children
- Speaks in small sentences
- Repeats words
- Begins to identify shapes and colors
- Follows two-step instructions
- Identifies animals
- Walks up and down stairs while holding onto a rail
- Throws ball overhead
- Shows affection for friends
- Takes turns
- Shows sympathy for others
- Understands possession
- Dresses/undresses self
- Talks well enough for strangers to understand
- Speaks in sentences
- Uses toys with moving parts
- Plays with small puzzles
- Turns pages in books
- Opens jars and turns door handles
- Can pedal a tricycle
- Can walk up and down stairs with one foot per step
Every child develops at a different pace, and missing these milestones is not definitive evidence of an intellectual disability. However, parents should keep a close eye on milestones and report variations to their pediatrician. The doctor can then decide if further testing is required.
Did Obstetrical Caregivers Cause Your Child’s Developmental Delay?
The Becker Law Firm represents clients in cases in which obstetrical caregivers—including obstetricians, radiologists, and anesthesiologists—should be held accountable for brain damage in infants. These problems may be profound and obvious at birth. In other cases, these injuries can be more subtle, resulting in failure to meet early childhood developmental milestones.
Some types of developmental delays are genetic. These medical conditions, like Down syndrome and cystic fibrosis, are passed to a child from his parents. These types of conditions cannot be caused by negligence or medical malpractice. However, doctors and other healthcare providers may have an obligation to identify these medical conditions early in the pregnancy when the mother has the option of making a decision to legally abort the fetus. Lawsuits over failure to diagnose genetic abnormalities are called wrongful birth actions.
Other types of developmental delays are caused by events surrounding pregnancy, labor, and delivery. These types of delays are sometimes caused by the negligence of doctors or other healthcare providers. In particular, prolonged lack of blood and oxygen to the brain during the labor and delivery process can kill brain cells and cause developmental delays. This is one reason why doctors must be vigilant in monitoring the condition of a baby during the labor and delivery process.