Paying attention to your child's development
4/25/2019 by Dr. Jessica Davis
No one knows your child as well as you do. Your child's provider and care team rely on your observations of your child, as well as those from family and anyone who cares for your child. While every child develops at their own rate — some leap ahead, some make slow-but-sure progress — there are general milestones your child should reach around certain ages.
The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) offers checklists for following your child's developmental milestones from ages two months to five years, including tips for how you can help them learn and grow and when to talk with your pediatrician if they seem to be falling behind.
Some developmental issues to watch for include:
- Speech delay. Children usually say their first word between 12 and 15 months. By 18 months they should be saying a few words. For the next six months, your child will undergo rapid progress in their speech.
- Gross- or fine-motor delays. Walking usually gets underway by 15 to 16 months of age. Your child also should be starting to put on their clothes, fasten buttons and pick up small items.
- Non-typical behaviors. These can range from throwing long tantrums a number of times a day and not calming down afterward to being more aggressive or over active to making unusual body movements like hand flapping or head banging. Typically these behaviors are daily struggles for parents, not just once in a while.
- Sensory sensitivities. The issues include being sensitive to sounds (covering their ears when the toilet flushes or the blender runs), clothes/shoes (don't like tags or the feel of certain fabrics) and foods (texture, temperature, etc.).
One of the best things you can do for your child's health and development is to keep your eyes open, be sure to go to all the recommended well-child visits and speak up if you sense something isn't quite right with your child.
If there is a problem, the earlier your child's care team is notified, the better the outcomes. They may decide to watch it for a while and document it to see if it persists. Ideally, a diagnosis is made by the time your child is two or three.
Employee and Community Health (ECH) has an Integrated Community Specialties (ICS) clinic especially devoted to helping parents and kids (ages nine months to four years 11 months) address developmental delays. The ICS connects them with the appropriate resources and therapies, whether it's speech, physical or occupational therapy or behavioral training for parents. Depending on the concern, your pediatrician may refer you to this clinic, where the specialists will do an initial assessment to determine if more in-depth examinations are needed.
Dr. Jessica Davis is a general pediatrician in Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine (CPAM). She completed her MD at the University of Texas-San Antonio and residency at the military program in San Antonio. She has a strong interest in caring for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and developmental delays.