Does My Child Have Developmental Delay? Signs I Need to Watch Out For

"My baby can stand at 4 months!" It's quite common for moms to be proud of their baby's developmental milestones, sometimes, even at the expense of other moms. So to clear the air, what milestones can we logically expect from our kids at each stage? 🤔

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One of the common concerns parents ask, other than first aid for physical illness or symptoms, is whether or not their child’s development is on track. With parents posting photos or videos of their children’s milestones – sitting up at 4 months, walking at 8 months or reading at the age of 2, others cannot help but compare, wonder or even feel pressured about their own child’s progress. To get the facts straight, I consulted with Dr. Pauline Camposano, a Developmental Pediatrician at ManilaMed (UN Avenue) and QualiMed Bulacan.

According to Dr. Camposano, developmental delays are sometimes challenging to detect because some of the symptoms are found in most children at developmentally-appropriate times in their life. It is important therefore to understand what is normal for the child’s age and given context and to spot the absence of normal behaviors rather than to watch out for what is abnormal.

So what then is normal? Here is a comprehensive list of what to expect in the different domains of a child’s development: motor/physical, language, socio-emotional, and cognitive.

For Motor or Physical Development For Language Development For Socio-Emotional Development For Cognitive Development

(Learning, Thinking, Problem-solving)

Newborn to 3 Months

 

  • Can hold head up
  • Begins to push up during tummy time
  • Coos, makes gurgling noises
  • Turns head towards sounds
  • Begins to smile at people
  • Briefly calm himself (hand or thumb-sucking)
  • Looks at parent
  • Pays attention to faces
  •  Follows things with eyes
  • Acts bored (cries, fussy) if activity doesn’t change
3 Months to 6 Months

 

  • Holds head up steady and without support
  • May roll over
  • Pushes down on legs when feet are on hard surface
  • Brings hands to mouth
  • During tummy time, pushes herself up to elbows
  • Begins to babble
  • Babbles with expression and copies sounds he hears
  • Cries in different ways to show hunger, pain or being tired
  • Smiles spontaneously, especially at people
  • Copies some movements and facial expressions (smiling, frowning)
  • Responds to affection
  • Uses hands and eyes together (e.g. seeing a toy and reaching for it)
  •  Follows moving things with eyes from side to side
6 Months to 8 Months

 

  • Rolls over in both directions (front to back, back to front)
  • Begins to sit on his own
  • When standing, supports weight on legs and might bounce
  • Crawls
  • Responds to sounds by making noises
  • Babbles (using consonant-vowel blends repetitively)
  • Begins to respond to own name
  • Likes taking turns with parent while making sounds
  • Knows familiar faces and begins to know if someone is a stranger
  • Likes to play with others, especially parents
  • Likes to look at self in mirror
  • Responds to other people’s emotions, often seems happy
  • Brings things to mouth
  • Shows curiosity about things and tries to get things that are out of reach
  • Begins to pass things from one hand to the other
9 Months to 12 Months

 

  • Pulls to stand
  • Stands, holding on
  • Begins to walk holding on to furniture

 

  • Understands “no”
  • Makes string of sounds “mamamama” or “babababa”
  • Copies sounds and gestures of others
  • Uses fingers to point at things
  • Afraid of strangers
  •  Clingy with familiar adults
  • Has favorite toys
  • Watches the path of something as it falls
  •  Looks for things he sees you hide
  • Enjoys peek-a-boo
  •  Picks up small things between thumb and index finger
12 Months
  • Takes first steps
  • Walk alone
  •  Stand alone
  • Responds to simple spoken requests (“Come here”, “Give”)
  • Uses simple gestures (waving bye)
  • Makes sounds with changes in tone (sounds like speech)
  • Says mama and dada to refer to parents
  • Tries to say words parents say
  • Cries when mom or dad leaves
  • Has favorite things and people
  • Shows fear in some situations
  • Hands you a book when he wants to hear a story
  • Repeats sounds or actions to get attention
  • Puts out arm or leg to help with dressing
  • Plays simple pretend (e.g. feeding a doll)
  • Explores things in different ways (shaking, banging, throwing)
  • Finds hidden things easily
  • Looks or points to familiar pictures when names
  • Copies gestures
  • Uses things correctly (brush for hair, cup to drink)
  • Bangs two things together
  •  Puts things into and takes things out of container
  • Can release objects (instead of dropping or throwing)
  • Pokes with index finger
18 months
  • Walks alone
  • May climb up steps
  •  Begins to run
  • Pulls toys while walking
  • Drinks from cup
  •  Eats with spoon
  • Says several single words (apart from mama or dada)
  • Says and shakes head “no”
  • Points to show someone what he wants
  • Can follow 1-step command without gestures (e.g. sits down when you say “sit down”)
  • May cling to caregivers in new situations
  • Points to show others something interesting, tries to get adult to pay attention
  • Explores alone but with parent close by
  • Knows what ordinary things are for
  • Points to one body part when asked
  • Scribbles on his own
24 Months

 

  • Stands on tiptoe
  • Kicks a ball
  • Runs
  • Climbs onto and down from furniture
  • Walks up and down stairs holding on
  • Throws ball overhand
  • Says sentences with at least 2 words
  • Follows simple instructions
  • Repeats words overheard in conversation
  • Points to things in a book
  •  Follows two step instructions
  • Copies others, especially adults and older children
  • Gets excited when with other children
  • Shows more and more independence
  • Shows defiant behavior
  • Plays mainly beside other children
  • Begins to sort shapes and colors
  • Completes sentences and rhymes in familiar books
  • Plays simple make-believe games
  • Builds towers of 4 or more blocks
  • Might use one hand more than the other
3 Years Old

 

  • Climbs well
  • Runs easily
  • Pedals 3-wheeled bike
  • Walks up stairs, one foot on each step
  • Imitates 3 figures – line, circle, cross

 

  • Understands 3 prepositions (like “in”, “on” or “under”)
  •  Tells 3 things about himself (first and last name, age)
  • Speaks in 3-word phrases
  • Carries out 3-step commands
  • Names a friend
  • Says words like “I” “me” and some plurals (cars, dogs)
  • Talks well enough for strangers to understand
  • Carries on conversation
  • Shows affection for friends without prompting
  • Takes turns in games
  •  Shows concern for a friend
  • Understands the idea of “mine” or “yours”
  • Shows wide range of emotions
  • Separates easily from parents
  •  May get upset with changes in routine
  • Dresses or undresses self with supervision
  • Uses 3 types of utensils: spoon, fork, cup (pours)

 

  • Counts 3 objects
  • Can work toys with buttons, levers, moving parts
  • Plays make-believe with dolls, animals
  • Does simple puzzles
  •  Copies circle
  • Turns book pages one at a time
  • Builds towers of more than 6 blocks
  • Builds 3 cube structures: tower of 8-10 cubes, train, bridge
  • Screws and unscrews bottle cap or turns door handle

 

 

4 to 5 Years Old

 

  • Hops and stands on one foot
  •  Catches a ball
  • Pours, cuts with supervision
  • Sings a song or says a poem from memory
  • Tells stories
  • Can ask and answer simple “Wh” questions (Who, What, Where)
  • Can say first and last name
  • Enjoys doing new things
  • More creative with make-believe play
  • Would rather play with others than by himself
  •  Cooperates with other children
  •  Talks about what she likes and what she’s interested in
  • Names some colors, numbers, letters
  • Understands the idea of counting
  • Starts to understand time
  • Remembers parts of a story
  • Understands the idea of “same” and “different”
  •  Draws a person with 2-4 body parts
  • Uses scissors
  • Starts to copy some letters
  •  Tells you what he thinks is going to happen next in a book

 

Thomas And Friends, Toy Train, Boy

Observing your child’s behavior and it’s frequency and appropriateness for his age and the situation are key to watching out for red flags. These red flags indicate that professional help may be needed.

Here are some of the red flags to watch out for, regardless of age.

  • Persistent repetitive movements (blinking, cycling feet, etc)
  • Arching back while lying down (even when not crying or upset)
  • Consistently preferring using one hand or one leg over another (before 2 years old)
  • No response to sounds around him
  • Loses skills he once had

Among the most common developmental problems in children are Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit-Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Autism is a neurobehavioral disorder that is diagnosed by a pattern of significant deficits in social skills and social understanding, with these red flags: reduced social attention, reduced joint attention, decreased response to one’s name being called, and atypical use of objects. ADHD on the other hand is characterized by a persistent pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsitivity that interferes with functioning or development. Common symptoms are inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. While all these characteristics are common and normal in children, it is important to first ask ourselves these questions before we jump to conclusions:

  1. Is it appropriate for the age?
  2. Is it appropriate for context?
  3. How frequent / severe / intense / pervasive are these symptoms?

At the end of the day, parents and guardians must always remember that social media or the internet are not our sources of truth when it comes to diagnosing a child’s possible developmental delays. When in doubt, it is always best to seek professional help. But no matter what a child can or cannot do, they are deserving of our 101% love and care.

Crayons, Coloring Book, Coloring, Book

References:

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