Developmental delays are sometimes not caught until the teen years.

How to Know if a Teen Is Developmentally Delayed

by Anita Holmes

Developmental delays are tracked in a number of areas: gross and fine motor abilities, speech, adaptive or life skills, academics, and social and emotional maturation. When a teen routinely functions in any of these domains at a level below that of their peers, it may be a red flag for a developmental delay. While most spheres of concern are caught in grade school, for kids whose delays may be marginal and cause little concern in previous years, high school can become a nightmare. For instance, reading difficulties may have slid through the cracks in lower grades, but with increased academic rigor in upper grades, your teen may founder. There is a means to determine if your teen is in any way developmentally delayed. It begins with parental observation.

Informal Assessment of Possible Developmental Delays

Watch your adolescent daily. Observe how he interacts with his peers, how he does playing basketball in the driveway, even his attitude towards academics. Are his skills in any developmental area lagging? Does he exhibit frustration and avoidance of any academic subject? Should you observe a pattern of delays in any growth area, note your concern, describing what you see and why you believe it is less than the norm.

Establish regular lines of communication with school staff. Make sure you're making contact with appropriate personnel -- counselors, coursework teachers for any subject she's floundering in, and special education staff including the school psychologist. Record the best way to reach each person; direct phone or email is often the most effective means of communication.

Express your concerns. Meet with appropriate staff so that all folks are on board with any potential developmental issues. Even should there be one or more developmental delays -- such as math and reading challenges -- a team of teachers may be able to create customized teaching strategies to help your teen close the growth gap. However, if concerns are more serious than simple classroom tactics, consider a more formal assessment plan.

Formal Assessment of Developmental Delays

Monitor your teen's progress -- or lack thereof -- in areas of concern. Are the informal classroom strategies helping? If so, then while you're aware that he progresses more slowly than typical peers, he'll also most likely eventually close the growth gap. However, if your child is still lagging, touch bases immediately with school personnel.

Request a formal assessment of your teen by the school. This will entail special education staff administering appropriate assessment tools. After the evaluation process is completed, they will organize a formal team meeting to share results.

Support school staff in implementing learning programs custom-tailored to your teen's needs. Should he qualify for special education services based on his development delay(s), be ready to become more involved on the home-front in implementing additional practice opportunities in areas of concern. Odds are that if your adolescent has made it to the teen years without being formally diagnosed with developmental delays, then with extra help from family and school staff he'll be on equal footing with his peers by the time he graduates.

Items you will need

  • Access to computer or paper and pencil for recording observations
  • List of school personnel with contact information
  • Transportation, as needed, to meet with school personnel

About the Author

A retired teacher, Anita Holmes is an experienced seamstress, wood worker and home decor specialist. She's designed and constructed new homes, gardens, remodeled multiple homes, built furniture, decks and cabinets and sewn everything from custom drapes to intricate quilts. Holmes holds a Master of Public Administration degree.

Photo Credits

  • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images