When I found out I was pregnant, I read everything I could get my hands on about pregnancy and then started in on the books on early childhood development just for fun. Ok, so I may have gone a tad bit overboard if we’re being honest and when my doctor specifically told me to walk away from Google, I did try to cut back on my exhaustive research (for a while). One of my favorite reading subjects was about developmental milestones – what my baby was doing in utero and then what I had to look forward to as she grew into a newborn/toddler/preschooler etc.
Developmental milestones can be helpful in gauging how your child is progressing as they grow – and weren’t created simply so your neighbor Sue could talk about how her little Jimmy will be going to the baby Olympics for cruising since he did it at 6 months and not 8. Milestones can be broken down into four different types: physical, cognitive, social & emotional and language/communication.
Physical milestones can be further broken down into large and fine motor skills. Babies usually develop the large motor skills first – things like crawling, standing and ultimately walking. Fine motor skills require more precision and tend to come a little later, such as being able to grasp things like small objects, a spoon or crayon (or your earring – OUCH).
Children with neurological problems or developmental delays may have difficulty with fine motor skills and can benefit greatly from occupational therapy.
Cognitive development refers to how a person perceives, thinks, and gains understanding of his or her world through the interaction of genetic and learned factors. Your baby is born and it can feel like all he/she does is eat/sleep and poop (oh and cry!), but what’s actually going on in there? At this early stage, it may not seem like they are doing much, but they are already starting to take in the world around them by using their senses. At around 3-4 months, they can start to recognize faces, focus on objects and imitate sounds. The first year is actually a time of great cognitive growth!
Social and Emotional Milestones
Social and emotional milestones refer to the ability to be able to interact, engage and play with others. If you are like most parents, you anxiously await that first smile (usually around 3-4 months old) as a reward for the sleepless nights! You and your partner go bananas making all sorts of funny faces, jumping up and down and playing the ever popular peek-a-boo in hopes that you’ll be graced with even the tiniest of smiles (trust me – it just gets harder when they turn 14). That’s when you first begin to see a glimmer of your child’s personality and it’s exciting (why is there always that ONE relative who insists it’s just gas?) While it’s not unusual for some children to develop a little faster or slower than others, delayed social and emotional milestones could be an early warning of future problems.
Language and communication milestones refer to both verbal and non-verbal communication. If you think about it, your child starts to communicate with you almost immediately by crying! Babies will begin to recognize the voices of their parents at an early age and by 6 months, most recognize the basic sounds of their native language. The first three years of brain development are critical for acquiring speech and language skills. Consistent exposure to sounds and language is invaluable during this time. Sometimes when a child is delayed in their development of language it may actually be a hearing issue or as described in our last blog post, it can also be a sign of a speech or language disorder. By the teen years, if your child is anything like mine, her language and hearing are fine – she just chooses to put on headphones and provide mono-syllabic responses to get me to make those funny faces again.Every child is unique, and while milestones are there as guidelines, they may also be a helpful tool in recognizing developmental warning signs. Early intervention is key in helping to address any delays and so here at Galvin Therapy, we’ve added this helpful, interactive, online Developmental Screener that is available to you as a resource. It’s quick and easy to use and we’re here to help you review results, answer any questions and create a customized plan for your child to address any needs.
Encyclopedia of Children’s Health – http://www.healthofchildren.com/C/Cognitive-Development.html
Michigan Medicine Gateway – https://www.mottchildren.org/posts/your-child/developmental-milestones
National Institute of Health – https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/speech-and-language
Stanford Children’s Health – https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=your-childs-social-and-emotional-development-1-4521
verywell family – https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/facts.html
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