As a parent, you rejoice with all child development milestones and accomplishments he or she achieves. The many hours you spend together train you to become the ultimate expert on what your child can and can't do. We especially watch closely for those auspicious first milestones - rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking, first tooth, first word and more. We celebrate when they happen and mark the occasion with photos, phone calls and dates in baby books.
But what happens when these developmental milestones are delayed or don't happen when you are expecting them to? Some of us may fret silently and make quiet comparisons to other young children. Some of us panic quickly and start asking other parents about their children and when certain events occurred. We may turn to the internet and hope to find reassurance from blogs, parenting forums or social communities. Or, we may just wait it out. No matter what your approach, rest assured that almost all parents have questions about whether or not their kids are hitting all the normal developmental milestones in their journey of raising a child.
Understanding Developmental Stages & Milestones
We can say with some certainty that child development follows typical timelines and certain developmental stages will happen in a usual progression; however, there is a lot of variation from child to child within these timeframes.
There are many excellent sources available to help you learn when typical developmental milestones will occur. An outstanding source of information about development can be found on the Zero to Three website. This is a national, nonprofit organization that provides parents, professionals and policymakers the knowledge and know-how to nurture early development. In addition, Pathways is another excellent organization whose mission is to empower health professionals and parents with knowledge of the benefit of early detection and early intervention for children's sensory, communication, and motor development. Their site offers a wealth of information on typical and atypical development including videos, charts and checklists in a variety of languages. Both of these sites can provide you with guidance around timeframes for reaching developmental milestones.
Learn the Signs of Developmental Delays & Act Early
Statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) report that 17% of all children have a behavioral or developmental or behavioral disability. As surprising as that number might be, the CDC finds that through early recognition of a problem, strategies and services can begin and these help each child reach their full potential. Learn the Signs. Act Early is a noteworthy CDC program for parents that shares information on child development, as well as developmental milestones. Their advice to learn the signs and act early can help guide you to take the next important steps.
Seek Professional Advice
Typically that next step is best addressed by first speaking with your child's doctor. Doctors have seen many, many young children and can guide you in further exploring your concern regarding child development stages. If your child is under three years of age, your local early intervention services can provide support and a thorough developmental screening in which a closer look is taken in a play situation. If your child is over three years of age, this step is undertaken by your local school district. You can call the district coordinator for special services and request an child development assessment.
Although these can be difficult steps for a parent to take, the results are most often beneficial for your child and yourself as well. If your child is offered services, you have taken important steps to address your concerns and help your child reach his/her full potential during each child development stage. If your child is not offered services, these professionals can offer their advice on how to best address the developmental challenges you and your child are facing. Sharing these tips with your child's early education teachers would be essential for consistency of care.
Remember, you are the expert on your child and should always trust your instincts. If you have a concern, dig down and try to understand as much as you can about it, as well as what your child needs next. Involve professionals and learn to become your child's best advocate. You will discover much along the way and soon be celebrating milestones along your child's unique timeline.
- Find out the general speech development milestones and when you should be concerned about your child's language development.
- Kris-Ann shares why music therapy is a great addition to her son's individualized education program (IEP) in our Family Room blog.
- Learn the importance of pretend play for child development and how to encourage it with activity ideas for children!
- Kate worries when her toddler is slow to speak, especially when all his child care friends are way ahead.
- Tips for how to host a playgroup for children with special needs.
- Find support and advice from fellow community of parents on Bright Horizons if you have any specific child development and milestone questions.