Common developmental delays in twins can make it seem like your twins aren’t progressing as you’d expect or when compared to siblings or peers.
Many parents of twins worry about developmental delays in twins. As a parent, I always want to know if my kids are on track.
Why? Perhaps it is because I am an engineer at heart and want to measure everything.
Whether you are an engineer or not, you’ll likely worry about your twins’ development and if they are “normal.”
Do twins have developmental delays? Always? It depends…
You will notice that your twins are different from the very beginning. Even in utero they are different sizes and show different behaviors, and this continues after they’re born. Your twins are going to be different sizes, different shapes, and have very different individual needs.
I’ve even heard from some twin parents that say “one of my twins is developing slower than the other”. Yes, that can happen too. Let’s find out why.
Early Birth Means Complications
Since twins tend to be born early, it is common for them to have developmental delays since they just didn’t have enough time to fully develop in the womb.
Depending on when your twins were born, their development will vary. For example, if your twins are born prematurely as compared to the average 36 to 38 weeks of the twin pregnancy, they may have more complications.
(RELATED: Love podcasts? Check out the entire Dad's Guide to Twins Podcast archive for additional twin tips and interviews with twin dads.)
There are several common developmental delays in twins. These include physical development, speech, social, and cognitive abilities.
Don’t worry too much about the twins’ developmental delays. They will work themselves out over time. But if you are going past what you feel are standard milestone dates and your twins are not progressing, you should definitely talk with your doctor.
Here we’ll discuss common developmental delays in twins and your options for dealing with them:
Your twins’ ability to speak and understand your language is key to their developmental growth.
Do twins develop language more slowly? According to research, speech delay in twins is more likely to happen than to their peers. However, they do tend to catch up by age four.
Speech development is something that you can foster in the home. Work individually with twins on their skills, read to them daily and encourage them to try new words and sounds.
Physical abilities can be grouped into two classes: gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Your twins may demonstrate delays in either of these areas.
Gross motor skills involve large movements of your body like walking, crawling, rolling over, etc. Since your twins may be behind here, it is important to help and encourage them to move and exercise their muscles to help develop their gross motor skills.
(RELATED: Don't reinvent the twin parenting wheel. Get my 7 Things Every Dad of Twins Needs to Know.)
Fine motor skills are those used for small, more precise movements. This includes things like picking up small objects, turning the pages of a book, and other hand-eye coordination tasks.
Do twins develop slower? Not necessarily although your twins may have their own types of physical delays.
Intellectual development involves the mental processes that help your twins solve problems. This could be learning to explore the world around them as infants. As they grow it becomes the ability to learn cause and effect, or solving a puzzle.
Different Milestone Timing
Your twins are going to reach milestones at different times as they continue to grow. These differences are natural and should be expected. You may very well have one twin developmentally delayed while the other is progressing at a faster pace.
Your twins will start talking at different times, walking at different times, crawling at different times, sleeping through the night, growing teeth, losing teeth, etc. All of these twin development milestones are going to come at different times. You’ll surely see one twin developing faster than the other. This is totally normal.
If you see or are worried about any of these delays in your twins, talk with their pediatrician. Since twins are typically born early, you may hear about them having an “adjusted age” that accounts for their premature delivery. The adjusted age of your twins can help you reset expectations on when certain milestones should be hit.
Early intervention services can also help your young twins (18 months – 3 years) overcome the delays they are experiencing. These services are available in most locations to children who have been diagnosed with a delay or disability.
Here’s a great overview of early intervention and what it could offer for your family.
(RELATED: Check out the Dad's Guide to Twins Youtube channel for additional helpful twin tips and tricks videos.)
Occupational therapy is another option for helping your twins develop their cognitive, physical, sensory, and motor skills. While kids don’t have an occupation in the traditional sense, they are typically playing and being active as children. Occupational therapy for kids can help them fully participate in the activities of childhood.
No matter which common developmental delays in twins you experience, be patient with your children. Most twins’ delayed development can be overcome with time and effort. Work with them. Encourage them. Support them through their growth and struggles. Love them.
Your twins will each come with their own set of trials. Your job as a parent is to help guide and direct them through those.
If you’ve had developmental delays in your twins, let us know in the comments section below so we can all learn from your experience.
Original picture by Donnie Ray Jones