When should I be concerned about my child’s development? by Dr. Katy Dorendorf

A child’s development is gauged not only by physical growth, but also by how they play, speak, and learn. Parents and professionals measure a child’s developmental progress by tracking developmental milestones. Developmental milestones are measured across different skill areas and include motor behaviors such as rolling over and walking, language skills such as saying their first word, and social behaviors such as smiling at others or playing next to other children (CDC, 2012). Since every child’s development is unique it is impossible to determine the exact age a child will develop a skill. In fact there is a wide range of “typical” development (e.g., one child may speak their first word at 9 months of age another at 14 months [Dedrick, 2000]). However, all children go through a similar developmental process, so the typical age range when most children develop each skill can serve as a guide to measure developmental progress and highlight areas of concern (CDC, 2012). A child’s growth and development should be monitored through a collaborative relationship between parents and the child’s pediatrician by tracking the child’s achievement of each developmental milestone (Hagan, Shaw, & Duncan, 2008). The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a variety of free materials to assist parents in tracking their child’s development at www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly.

Children can experience developmental delays in a variety of areas including language development, motor development, social development, and learning. Although all children show a unique pattern of development, some differences may indicate a broader range of concern than others. When children are not meeting developmental milestones within the typical range it may indicate a slight developmental delay or a larger developmental concern that could require intervention to ensure positive development (Schroeder & Gordon, 2002). It is important to remember that the majority of the time a developmental delay is not something a child will “grow out of” with time (CDC, 2012).

When you note your child is not meeting multiple milestones within one area such as language or a variety of milestones across different areas (e.g., motor, social, and language) you should contact your child’s pediatrician or another developmental specialist such as a pediatric psychologist to request a developmental screening (CDC, 2012). If you notice your child is not reacting to sounds, visually following moving objects, responding to their name, using eye contact, showing interest in others, acquiring language, using gesture to indicate their wants, or becomes upset by minor changes in their environment or routine raise these concerns with your child’s medical providers immediately and request further investigation (CDC, 2012). Moreover, if at any time you note a regression of loss of a previously acquired skill contact your child’s pediatrician immediately. You know your child best and if you have concerns regarding their development or changes in their developmental skills, don’t wait. Speak to the professionals that can help to ensure your child has every opportunity to meet their full potential.