Early Detection and Intervention is Critical in Helping Kids Develop Important Skills
“How old was yours when she first rolled over?"
“Mine has been talking in complete sentences for months!”
Conversations about meeting milestones such as walking and talking are common among proud parents. It’s exciting to watch your child learn new things and explore the world, and you’ll want to share the news with friends and family. It’s not uncommon to compare what your child is doing to other kids, even older siblings.
But it can also be nerve-racking to see or hear about other children passing milestones before you see the same developments in your child. You may be concerned about delays, and what they can mean. We have some helpful information that you should know to get started.
THE FIVE AREAS OF SKILL DEVELOPMENT
Meeting developmental milestones at a different rate from other children isn’t always a cause for concern. These developmental time lines are not without wiggle room. For example, some babies can start walking as early as 9 months, while others don’t take their first steps until 15 months. Both of those babies are within the range of typical development.
Kids develop in five main areas:
Cognitive (or thinking) skills: This is the ability to think, learn and solve problems. It’s how kids explore the world around them with their eyes, ears, and hands. In babies, this looks like curiosity. In toddlers, it also includes things like learning to count, naming colors, and learning new words.
Social and emotional skills: This is the ability to relate to other people. That includes being able to express and control emotions. In babies, it means smiling at others and making sounds to communicate. In toddlers and preschoolers, it means being able to ask for help, show and express feelings, and get along with others.
Speech and language skills: This is the ability to use and understand language. For babies, this includes cooing and babbling. In older children, it includes understanding what’s said and using words correctly and in ways others can understand.
Fine and gross motor skills: This is the ability to use small muscles (fine motor), particularly in the hands, and large muscles (gross motor) in the body. Babies use fine motor skills to grasp objects. Toddlers and preschoolers use them to do things like hold utensils, work with objects, and draw. Babies use gross motor skills to sit up, roll over, and begin to walk. Older kids use them to do things like jump, run, and climb stairs.
Daily living activities: This is the ability to handle everyday tasks. For children, that includes eating, dressing, and bathing themselves.
Minor differences in these milestones usually aren’t cause for concern. For example, a baby who isn’t rolling over by 4 months may be just a little behind in that one skill. But babies at that age who, for example, aren’t rolling over, can’t hold their heads up, don’t push up when lying on their tummy, and aren’t babbling are behind in more than one area of development. That could be a sign of a developmental delay.
If your child isn’t meeting multiple milestones as quickly as expected, it is likely a good idea to do an early intervention evaluation to get a better sense of what’s going on. The results can guide the types of services and supports that could help your child if your child needs them.
And as one mother shares, even though it can be “heartbreaking” to hear the results of an evaluation, in the end, it’s better to focus on next steps and ways to help, to start improving now.