According to the CDC, approximately one out of every six children has some type of developmental delay. And many delays go unidentified until the child starts school, especially if a child does not receive regular care.
Parents may not recognize the signs of a developmental problem, which is why it’s important to work with a primary care provider to track your child’s milestones, especially from birth through age 5. Identifying developmental delays early can help a child reach their age-appropriate milestones and be prepared as they start, and progress, through school.
Developmental milestones categories
A developmental milestone is when the majority of children in a certain age bracket will develop certain skills. There are five main categories of developmental skills that are tracked. These are:
- Gross motor skills: large muscle movements such as sitting, standing, walking, balance, as well as hand-eye coordination and core strength.
- Fine motor skills: smaller muscle movements of the hands that require precision. Includes buttoning, dressing, eating, grooming, and using pencils, scissors, etc.
- Language skills: Vocabulary development, spoken and written language, as well as gesturing and body language.
- Cognitive skills: Learning, thinking, problem-solving, memory, and attention.
- Social skills: Communication with others, cooperative play, social etiquette, interactions at school, etc.
How to know if your child is on track
Developmental milestone checklists such as this one by the CDC are helpful for giving you an understanding of what skills to expect in your child and at what ages. Knowing where these mileposts are can help you better understand your child’s health and appropriate developmental stages.
Please note, the pace of development can vary from child to child. Your child may be slower at developing some skills and faster at others; that’s fine and healthy!
Your child’s primary care provider is a supportive ally to help educate you and track milestone progress as they grow and develop.
Health issues that contribute to developmental delay
In early childhood, health problems can directly contribute to a developmental delay. Examples of these health concerns include premature birth, problems with feeding, being underweight, genetic disorders, autism, trauma, and more. Be sure to discuss these concerns with your child’s primary care provider when milestones are being assessed.
What to do if your child is not reaching their milestones
If your child is not reaching every milestone, it may be a temporary delay or could be an early sign of a disability. In either case, talk to your child’s primary care provider to assess the problem. They’ll be able to not only identify the specific milestone delays, but also educate you on the potential causes, effects, and treatments.
If a delay is identified, your child may be referred to developmental support. This could be in the form of occupational, physical, or speech therapy. Up to age 3, early intervention services may be available for free or at low cost to families. After age 3, services may be available at school or an outpatient therapy center.
These therapies can help your child catch up so that their future development and health are on track with their peers.
By identifying potential delays early, intervention can have a significant impact on supporting children’s development as they grow. Catching up and staying on track with milestones increases a child’s confidence and well-being, and maximizes their ability to continue gaining new skills, especially as they enter school.
While Western Washington Medical Group’s family medicine providers offer primary care for the whole family. Request an appointment to assess your child’s developmental milestones and set them on track for success in the formative years and beyond.