Understanding Your Child's Developmental Milestones

Child Development MilestonesDevelopmental milestones have been created as guidelines for healthcare professionals as an assessment tool to evaluate your child's development. Realizing that each child is unique and develops at their own rate, age ranges have been "built into" the milestones. Based on studies, the "average" child will reach a particular milestone by the time they reach the specific age. For example, by three months of age, your child will react to sounds you make whether it be cooing or shaking a toy with a rattle.

But what do these milestones have to do with preparing your child for their doctor's appointment?

By being aware of these milestones, you can provide valuable information to your child’s physician. You can also help your child reach these milestones. The more you understand about child development milestones, the better it is for both you and your child. Using the example of how your child should react to sounds by three months of age, if you notice your child does not meet this milestone, it may indicate a hearing deficit.

Let's go over a few common questions regarding developmental milestones.

What are developmental milestones?

Developmental milestones are tasks or skills children are able to do at certain ages. The milestones are broken into five areas: gross motor function (i.e. crawling), fine motor skills (i.e. stacking blocks), language which includes both speech and comprehension, thinking skills/cognitive and social skills.

Is "development" the same as "growth"?

The "growth" of your child is different from your child's "development". Growth focuses on the height and weight of your child. Your child's physician will have a growth chart which also acts as a guideline for your physician. Your child may start out "smaller" than average in height and weight but may suddenly pass up their "peers" a month later. Remember, the growth charts, like the developmental milestones are only guides!!!! The beauty of each child is their uniqueness!!

What does it mean to be "developmentally delayed?"

Keeping in mind that your child may reach each milestone quicker than the average child or, could be a bit slower in some areas, a "delay" in their development is when your child demonstrates ongoing, major delay in one or more area of development. You, your child's teacher or others who have been trained to be aware of developmental milestones may bring this to the attention of your child's doctor for confirmation and diagnosis. Early intervention is key here!!!!

Developmental delays can be caused by many factors including genetics (Down Syndrome) difficulties at birth (prematurity) or something as simple and common as ear infections. An ear infection, for example, can delay your child's language development.

Even a well-intentioned new parent can delay their child's development by holding their bundle of joy all the time. Holding a child too much can delay a child's reaching the very important gross motor developmental milestones of rolling over or crawling.

If you are concerned that your child may be developmentally delayed, you can ask that a developmental screening be performed. I will say this again, the earlier the delay is identified the quicker your child can receive care to help them progress.

Is there something I can do as a parent to help my child “reach” these milestones?

The best way to start helping your child reach their milestones is to become familiar with them. Once you are familiar with the milestones, you can help guide your child in their development.

Stacking Blocks

There are so many wonderful websites and books available to help you not only understand the developmental milestones from birth to the age of 18 but many of these same sites and books give wonderful tips on how to develop effective parenting skills, understanding your child and so much more!!!!

Of the resources I have listed on another page, I am most impressed by the comprehensive information provided by Laura E. Burke in her book entitled Infants, Children and Adolescents. Each of the websites listed in the resource section is as unique as your child providing you with developmental screening tools, parenting do's and don'ts, information and support groups if your child is developmentally delayed and so much more!!!!!

I strongly encourage you to make time to become more familiar with the stages in your child’s development!!!

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