The Signs of Cognitive Delay


A cognitive delay can present difficulties with your child's ability to interact with you, their friends or the outside world. Specific warning signs can help you identify this condition early. The condition generally presents within the first 36 months of your child's life, and is almost four times more likely to occur within a boy than a girl.

13 to 18 Months

  • Children between 13 and 18 months of age should be expressive and communicative. While communication is on a very basic level, expression should be noticeable and immediate. Look for an unwillingness to interact, delayed responses during your play time, an unwillingness to play with multiple toys, or failure to mimic your actions. These are all signs that your child may have a cognitive delay.

19 to 24 Months

  • Between 19 and 24 months, a child begins to interact more easily with those around her, while spending more time using her imagination. Watch her reaction with other children, especially a failure to notice others playing with her. Also, watch for a lack of imagination in her play time; if she is not pretending to answer the telephone, drive a car, or other things she sees you doing, she may have a cognitive delay.

25 to 30 Months

  • During the 25 month to 30 month period, a child begins to make connections between pictures and the world around him. A child may show a cognitive delay during this period if he shows a general lack of interest in pictures. Read to your child regularly and interact by asking questions about the pictures he sees. Listen carefully for his response and compare it to the pictures you are looking at.

31 to 36 Months

  • Within the 31 to 36 month period, a child should be communicating with you in increasingly sophisticated ways. Look for an inability to recognize and express physical sensations, such as hunger or pain. Complex instructions may seem confusing, such as instructions with two or three steps. Also, pay attention to the words she uses; if she is having difficulties communicating beyond specific needs, there may be a problem.


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