Delayed motor and mental development

Alternative names
Motormental retardation; Retardation - motormental; Psychomotor retardation

Motormental retardation is described as delayed or decreased development of both mental and motor skills.


Motormental retardation in children is generally related to significant central nervous system damage or abnormality. The term refers specifically to delayed development of cognitive skills (like speech) and delayed development of motor skills (such as walking).

There can be various degrees of mental retardation, which include failure to meet certain normal developmental milestones.

Infants can be born with conditions that cause mental retardation and delayed or absent motor development. Motormental retardation may also develop AFTER birth with deterioration of both mental and motor function related to disease or accident.

Common Causes

BEFORE BIRTH causes include:

  • asphyxia (insufficient oxygen before or during birth)  
  • cerebral hemorrhage  
  • congenital rubella syndrome  
  • congenital toxoplasmosis  
  • chromosomal abnormalities (excessive numbers or reduced numbers), such as trisomy 13, trisomy 18, trisomy 21 (Down syndrome)  
  • abnormalities of the chromosome (with normal number of chromosomes), such as Fragile X syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Angelman syndrome  
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome

INFANCY/CHILDHOOD causes include:

  • infection - meningitis and/or encephalitis (Organisms can include virus, bacteria, or parasites. Some infectious agents include: HIV infection, Herpes Simplex virus, toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, listeria, H. influenza)  
  • traumatic - Head injury, shaken-baby syndrome, asphyxia (such as near drowning)  
  • non-genetic metabolic disorders - kernicterus, hypoglycemia, Reye’s syndrome, congenital hypothyroidism (untreated)  
  • genetic metabolic disorders - phenylketonuria (if untreated), histidinemia  
  • intraventricular hemorrhage (as seen in very premature infants)  
  • other heritable disorders - Tay-Sachs disease, Aicardi syndrome, Niemann-Pick disease.  
  • environmental or toxins - lead poisoning, methyl mercury exposure (Minamata disease)

Home Care

Home care varies with the cause, type, and severity of retardation.

Call your health care provider if

  • your child does not seem to be developing appropriately (see the developmental milestones document for your child’s age). What to expect at your health care provider’s office An infant with motormental retardation generally has other symptoms and signs that, when taken together, define a specific syndrome or condition. Diagnosis of that condition is based on a family history, medical history, and thorough physical evaluation. Medical history questions documenting motormental retardation in detail may include:
    • What aspects of the child’s development seem to be delayed?  
    • What specific skills have you noticed that seem to be delayed or absent?  
    • What other symptoms are present?

    Note: For information on development, see the following documents.

    • infant - newborn development       o developmental milestones record - 2 months       o developmental milestones record - 4 months       o developmental milestones record - 6 months       o developmental milestones record - 9 months       o developmental milestones record - 12 months  
    • toddler development       o developmental milestones record - 18 months       o developmental milestones record - 2 years       o developmental milestones record - 3 years  
    • preschooler development       o developmental milestones record - 4 years       o developmental milestones record - 5 years  
    • schoolage children development  
    • adolescent development

    Physical examination may include periodic testing of your child’s development to help determine appropriate therapy.

    The type of diagnostic testing done is entirely dependent on the suspected diagnosis. Laboratory studies, such as chromosome studies, enzyme assays, X-rays, and metabolic studies may be ordered to confirm the presence of a suspected disorder.

    Although your health care provider maintains records on your child, it may be helpful to maintain your own records. You should add findings that you notice at home. Bring your records to the health care provider’s attention if you notice any abnormalities, or if you have questions about your baby’s development.

    Johns Hopkins patient information

    Last revised: December 3, 2012
    by Gevorg A. Poghosian, Ph.D.

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    All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.