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How to Understand Developmental Milestones When Your Child has a Delay

It is important for parents to learn about and understand children’s developmental milestones. Some children may be diagnosed in their earliest years as having a developmental delay. If development delays are identified in your child, what can you expect next? Here you will find information about developmental milestones as well as developmental delays.

Stuffed animal being held over baby

Developmental milestones are skills that build on one another as a child grows. All children develop at various rates, learning and mastering skills in different ways from one another. This is why there are ranges of skills expected throughout development and at various ages. For example, a newborn first learns how to suck and swallow before learning to stick out her tongue. Those developmental skills are eventually paired with sounds to start babbling, which then turns into words, and eventually sentences. There is no exact age when a child will develop specific skills. Helping children with the building blocks for each area of development will help them master important skills for lifelong success.

When looking at developmental milestone charts, remember to focus on the skills, not the age range. First, find where your child’s current skills are. From there, look at the other skills expected in that age range to determine if your child is demonstrating those skills as well. If not, those are the areas you will want to work on with your child. If your child is showing skills across multiple age ranges, then begin with the skills in the youngest age range to start building a strong foundation while also continuing to support your child’s higher-level skills. Lastly, you’ll want to preview the next age range to help prepare your child for the next stage of development and skills.

The different areas of development in your child can progress at different rates as well. For example, your child may demonstrate the language skills of a two-year-old while having the motor skills of an 18-month-old. Look at developmental milestones specific to each area of development – social-emotional, language/ communication, cognition, and/or movement/physical development – to better understand your child’s unique skills.

If you think your child might have a serious delay, disability, health issues, or mental health condition, you should seek a doctor's help immediately. Trust your instincts – no one knows your child better than you!

If your baby was born prematurely, check out our page about prematurity for more specific information.

Parent Tip: No one would expect a newborn to walk or talk. Likewise, a child can’t be expected to demonstrate a specific skill without having the developmental foundation to do so. If your child appears to have a developmental delay, meet her where she is and move forward from there.

First 5 California
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First 5 California
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