Developmental Milestones

Full Video – 11 minutes

Let’s talk about early childhood development.

Child development refers to how a child becomes able to do more complex things as they get older. This includes physical, mental, social, and emotional development

Developmental milestones are a set of skills or tasks that most children can do at a certain age range, such as crawling, talking, and walking. 

Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving “bye bye” are called developmental milestones. Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, act, and move.

For example, by the age of two years your child should be able to point and look at things when they are mentioned and should be using sentences of 2-4 words. If by a child is not able to do this, it raises some red flags and causes for concern.

We’ll go into more detail on specific milestones by age a little bit later.  

There are three levels of tracking and measuring your child’s developmental progress, each level being more structured than the one before it.

The levels are Developmental Monitoring, Developmental Screening, and Developmental Evaluations.

 Let’s talk first about level one, Developmental Monitoring.

When you keeping track of how your child is progressing on milestones, it is called  is called Developmental monitoring.

It is very important for you to do this.  

You observe how your child grows and changes over time and whether your child meets the typical developmental milestones in playing, learning, speaking, behaving, and moving.

Parents, grandparents, early childhood providers, and other caregivers can participate in developmental monitoring.

You will use a brief check lists of milestones to see how your child is developing.

If you notice that your child is not meeting milestones, talk with your doctor or nurse about your concerns.

Although each milestone has an age level, the actual age when a normally developing child reaches that milestone can vary quite a bit. Every child is unique.

However, there are also very clear guidelines that doctors have developed that all children should be following.  

Although all children meet these milestones at different rates, they allow you to monitor your child’s progress and seek out help if they are not being met.

The table we just reviewed is only a small sample of the milestones you should be tracking for your child.

In fact, there are specific milestones you should be tracking from as early as two months.

Milestones are defined for

2 months

4 months

6 months

9 months

1 year

18 months

2 years

3 years

4 years

And 5 years

The CDC.gov website, in the child development section, is an excellent resource for learning more about developmental milestones.

The CDC.gov website has some great resources including a free Milestone Tracker mobile app, a free downloadable checklist of milestones to see how your little one is developing, and a library of photos and videos showing developmental milestones.  

We’ve discussed Developmental Monitoring, Now let’s talk about Developmental Screening, or screening.

Developmental screening takes a closer look at how your child is developing. Your child will get a brief test or you can complete a questionnaire about your child yourself.

These tools are available online for you to use at no cost

The tools used for development screening are questionnaires or checklists that have been developed by doctors.

They are based on scientific research that ask questions about a child’s development, including language, movement, thinking, behavior, and emotions.

Developmental screening can be done by a doctor or nurse, but also by other professionals in healthcare, early childhood education, community, or school settings.

You can complete the screening tools yourself to gauge how your kiddo is doing.

Developmental Screening is more formal than developmental monitoring and normally done less often than developmental monitoring.

Your child should be screened if you or your doctor have a concern. However, developmental screening is a regular part of well-child visits for all children even if there is not a known concern.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, the group that sets standards and guidelines for doctors who specialize in treating children, has set a standard for doctors that  developmental screening for all children should be done during regular well-child visits at these ages:

  • 9 months
  • 18 months
  • 30 months

In addition, AAP recommends that all children be screened specifically for autism during regular well-child visits at:

  •  18 months
  •  24 months

 

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If your child is at higher risk for developmental problems due to preterm birth, low birthweight, environmental risks like lead exposure, or other factors, your doctor or nurse may also discuss additional screening.

If your child has an existing long-lasting health problem or a diagnosed condition, they should still have developmental monitoring and screening in all areas of development, just like those without special healthcare needs.

If your child’s healthcare provider does not periodically check your child with a developmental screening test, you should politely insist that it be done.

As a parent or caregiver, it’s very important for you to understand what you should expect from your pediatrician or health care provider when it comes to screening for autism.

As mentioned earlier, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children receive screening for autism at their 18 and 24-month well-child visits.

These screening services are deemed a preventive health service are covered virtually all insurance plans, including Medicaid.  

The guidelines for which children get screened are crystal clear. All children should be screened. It is unambiguous.

Despite what some people may tell you, even including some health care providers and pediatricians, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations are crystal clear. All children should receive screening. No exceptions.

Let’s hear from Dr. Michael Kelley, a highly recognized expert in childhood development exactly why this time period in infants and toddlers is so crucial to monitor.

Dr. Kelley explained why the early childhood development years are so crucial and why early intervention is so important.

For screening, most doctors or nurses use the M-CHAT, a short questionnaire filled out by parents that most families find easy to complete.

As a parent, you can also complete the MCHAT. It is available for free online at M-Chat.org.

Using MCHAT screening tool, a child’s risk level for autism can be checked, which will prompt follow-up conversations about monitoring your child’s development, as well as possible next steps – which may include a formal diagnostic test.

Remember, you can access a free online version of the MCHAT at M-Chat.org.

 I cannot over emphasize the importance of developmental screening for all children. Studies show screenings are accurate. And research shows treating children earlier for autism can help mitigate its effects.

Screening can identify at risk children early, when they may benefit most from intervention.

And please remember, all children should be screened for risk – not just those with symptoms.

As a parent  myself, I understand that it can be overwhelming to sort through all the information and advice you receive about health care for your child. So please be aware that screening isn’t the same thing as diagnosis.

Screening occurs prior to an evaluation or diagnosis. And just because your child has a positive screen for ASD, it doesn’t mean he or she will actually be diagnosed with autism. 

Please remember the information in this program is not meant to diagnose or treat. It should not take the place of consultation with a qualified healthcare professional.