Developmental Delays in Children
Developmental milestones are a set of behavioral and physical skills and capabilities that children are expected to have when they reach certain ages. Examples include things like crawling, walking, or saying their first words. It's important to keep track of your baby's milestones and to stay-up-to-date with AAP's recommended checkups to make sure that your baby's development is on track. At our office, we monitor your child's development and growth and perform screenings. If there are any delays, detecting them early is crucial to getting early intervention.
There are different types of developmental milestones to monitor. These include motor, sensory, communication, and feeding. Motor milestones are the physical skills your baby develops such as using their hands to support themselves, sitting up, crawling, standing, and walking. Sensory milestones are the development of the senses, such as visually tracking objects, noticing and being able to make sounds to express feelings, and investigating shapes, textures, and sizes of objects. Communication milestones are language and social skills such as saying their first words, developing vocabulary and speech, recognizing words, and using gestures like nodding. Feeding milestones include latching onto the nipple for breastfeeding and starting finger foods.
For a list of milestones to expect during each age group of the infant and toddler years, check out this resource from Pathways. If you have any concerns that your child is not meeting their milestones, contact our office so that our providers can evaluate your child, perform screenings, and advise you on the best course of action to take if needed. There are different ways to help children with delays, including physical, occupational, and speech therapy. Pathways also has a list of activities and games to use with your child to support their growth and development. Check them out here.
There is no one cause of developmental delays but some of the risk factors can include complications at birth, environmental issues, or other medical conditions.
The most common type of developmental delay is language. Sometimes speech delays can be temporary and resolve on their own. By interacting and playing with your child often, encouraging them to make gestures and sounds, reading to them, and limiting their screen time, you can help grow their communication skills. But in some cases, your child will need help from a speech or language therapist.
Speech delays could be a sign of hearing loss or autism spectrum disorder (ASD) too. Keep in mind though that developmental delays and developmental disabilities are not the same. Developmental delays can be outgrown over time, while developmental disabilities are lifelong. (However, with intervention, children can still lead healthy lives and thrive.) The best way to know if your child has a development delay or disability is to have them evaluated and screened at our office.
If your baby was born prematurely, you will need to adjust their age when tracking their development. The developmental milestones they should reach should be within the age range that they would be in if born after full term. To calculate their corrected age, simply take your baby's actual age in weeks and subtract it from the number of weeks they were preterm. For example, if your baby was born 8 weeks ago but 2 weeks earlier than their due date, the corrected age is 6 weeks. Therefore, you can use the developmental milestones expected at 6 weeks instead of 8 weeks to assess your child.
To make tracking easier, use CDC's free milestone tracker app which you can download here.