What does it Mean to Have a Maturational Delay

A maturational delay when he does not act or does not develop at the same rate as other children his age This may be temporary and unimportant, or it may be a red flag for other, more serious conditions that need a specific approach. That is why it is important to know its origin.

The psychomotor development is an ongoing process in which the child is acquiring an orderly and progressive a number of skills in different areas: language, psychomotor, communication, sociability and manipulative ability. There is a margin of normality for these acquisitions and, the further it is from the average age, the more likely it is that we are faced with a case of maturational delay.
Maturational delay can be a relatively common diagnosis in the pediatric clinic, but fortunately in most cases there is no serious problem that justifies it. In fact, the problem is usually solved with adequate stimulation and by offering developmental opportunities appropriate to the child’s age.

Causes of maturational delay

If the child does not present alterations in communication, difficulties in socialization or behavior and learning problems, it may be an indicator that the maturational delay is not serious and will be reversible with adequate stimulation.
The maturation delay may be due to:
  • Simple Maturation Delay.
  • Developmental or autism spectrum disorders.
  • Asperger syndrome.
  • Other genetic syndromes such as Down syndrome.
  • Prematurity: favors the maturation process to be slower.
  • Little stimulation of the child: If the child does not have adequate opportunities to develop, he will not do it. Children with chronic or serious illnesses may experience delayed maturation due to intensive treatment or hospital admissions. On the other hand, if the family has a little stimulating upbringing with the little one, autonomy habits such as toilet training, eating or dressing may be delayed.
  • Unknown cause: many children have a slower rate of maturation for reasons that we cannot always explain.

Maturation Delay or Simple Psychomotor

It refers to a slower evolution than usual in the acquisition or achievement of psychomotor development milestones. It occurs in the first 3 years of life and, with early stimulation and adequate support, is reversible.
This type of delay must be differentiated from Global Psychomotor Delay, which affects the psychomotor as well as the social and communicative part, being an important disorder and with a worse evolution.
Although the child improves, follow-up should be continued since, on occasions, psychomotor retardation is the predecessor of other conditions such as language disorders or ADHD.

Autism spectrum disorder

The autism spectrum is a group of disorders of genetic origin and with great variability of affectation among patients that cause difficulties in communication with others (verbal and non-verbal), limitations in socialization capacity(inability to relate to others) and repetitive and inflexible behaviors.
We can find very mild cases and other very serious and the prognosis of these children will depend on the severity of the picture. Unlike Simple Maturation Delay, it is not irreversible and they will always have this disorder, but with early and adequate intervention they can improve some aspects of behavior and development.

How is maturational delay diagnosed?

During routine check-ups, the pediatrician can show whether the child is meeting the developmental milestones that are due to age and, if not, they should be referred to the pediatric neurologist and the early care team in their area.
Assessment scales are normally used, such as the screening test, which allow to identify very quickly and easily if the child is within the standards. In addition, depending on age, some symptoms will be given more importance over others. In USA, the test is used in children from 1 month to 4 years old, where 97 items referring to five areas are evaluated:
  • Socialization
  • Language
  • Mathematical logic
  • Handling
  • Postural control
After the result we can determine the severity and the most appropriate treatment, but for this it is important to have identified the origin or cause.

What are the treatments?

Children with maturational delay are referred to an early care center or a neuroprediatrist if the case is more serious.
The early care centers are formed by multidisciplinary teams and provide appropriate therapies to each patient based on stimulation to try that neural connections necessary to acquire certain skills occur.
Despite working with professionals such as psychologists, speech therapists or physiotherapists, the role of parents is very important to follow the guidelines at home and help the child in their day-to-day life.
The areas that are usually worked on are:
  • Autonomy: self-care, grooming, clothing, food and personal safety.
  • The language and the communication.
  • Motor skills.
  • Cognitive functions: solving problems, identifying, associating, classifying or serializing, in addition to attention, memory and perception.
What you should know…
  • Maturational delay can be a relatively common diagnosis in the pediatric office, but fortunately in most cases there is no serious problem that justifies it.
  • The most important step once the maturational delay has been detected is to know the cause, as they can be mild or severe.
  • Children with maturational delay are referred to an early care center or, if seriousness is evident, to a pediatric neurologist.

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