Watching your child develop new skills during the first months and years can be exciting. However, it’s natural to worry if something could be wrong if your child is not doing something as quickly, or as well as, a sibling or neighbor’s child.
As you watch your child grow, remember that each child is unique and the range of typical developmental progression is broad. Differences among children do not necessarily indicate a problem. However, it is important to watch for signs of delays in development and to get help early if you suspect a problem.
Development occurs across various areas: gross motor (sitting, crawling, walking), fine motor (grasping objects), communication/language (waving, babbling, following directions), social/emotional (eye contact, playing with others), and self-help (dressing, toileting). The term developmental delay is used when a child fails to reach milestones within the broad range of what is considered typical. The delay may be in one or more of these areas. Several warning signs should alert you that your child may be experiencing a problem. If you notice any of these, you may want to consult your pediatrician.
By 4-5 months:
By 7 months:
By 1 year:
By 18 months:
By 2 years:
At any time, no matter the age:
If you notice one or more of these warning signs, you should consult your child’s physician. Developmental screening procedures can potentially be done in the physician’s office, which may show that the child’s development is actually within the range of what is typical.
If there is a problem, your physician can refer your child for a formal developmental assessment. Early intervention and therapy is available for children with all types of developmental delays and is most effective the earlier it is put into effect.
You are the person who knows your child best. If you have concerns, act early.
Gretchen Meyer, MD, is a neurodevelopmental pediatrician with Mercy Children’s Hospital St. Louis.