Child development is the study of how children grow and change. From birth to age 18, experts divide developmental stages into five periods. Healthcare providers anticipate that children will reach certain developmental milestones at each stage. Identifying and understanding the cause of any delays can help provide proper support.
What is Child Development?
Child development is how your child grows and changes over time. Experts classify child growth and development into four categories:
Child physical development indicates strength and physical skills.
Cognitive development refers to thinking and problem-solving.
Language development is concerned with communication and comprehension.
Social-emotional development influences how children interact with others and process their emotions.
What are developmental milestones?
Developmental milestones are behaviors that indicate stages of normal growth. Every child develops at their own rate. However, most children go through certain developmental stages at roughly the same time.
The physical development of a child in their first year of life may include the following milestones:
- Smiling on purpose.
- Sitting without help.
- Waving goodbye.
- Moving objects from one hand to another
- Making the transition from crawling to walking.
A child’s developmental milestones as they grow older may include:
- Knowing the names of people or body parts.
- Use two to four-word sentences.
- Recognizing shape and colours
- Memorizing and singing familiar songs or poems.
- Telling stories.
What are the developmental stages?
Child development stages are typically divided into five periods by healthcare providers:
Birth to 18 months: Children learn to recognize familiar people, use basic utensils, and respond to facial expressions. They might also learn a few words and be able to stand and walk on their own.
18 months to 3 years: Children start to play games, interact with other children, or follow two-part instructions. They may call out familiar names, throw balls, or run.
3 to 5 years: Children start to name their likes and dislikes, count to ten, and recognize colours. They may be able to recite nursery rhymes, know their name and address, and play independently on a playground.
12 to 18 years: Adolescents gain more and more independence. They typically form their own opinions, go through puberty, and develop an interest in dating and sexuality.
How do you measure a child’s development?
Some experts use child development checklists to track your child’s progress. Of course, children develop at their own pace, but checklists can serve as a guideline for typical growth and development.
It is crucial to avoid using developmental checklists as diagnostic tools. Instead, if your child has not reached a developmental milestone, this information should signal that it is time to consult with a healthcare provider. A specialist may be able to provide more detailed evaluations of your child’s development.
What signs indicate developmental delays?
Developmental delays occur when children do not have the skills that experts expect children their age to have. You may notice developmental delays in any area, including those affecting:
- Crawling or walking much later than expected.
- Difficulties communicating, talking, or socializing.
- There are issues with linking actions to consequences.
- Inability to perform daily tasks without help, such as dressing or using the restroom.
- Instructions are difficult to remember.
- School-based learning difficulties.
What causes developmental delays?
Some developmental delays have no known cause, while genetic factors cause others. Some children are predisposed to developmental delays due to environmental factors such as:
- Prenatal exposure to toxins such as alcohol or lead poisoning.
- Low birthweight.
- Premature birth.
- Severe trauma, such as abuse.
If you suspect a developmental delay, what should you do?
Consult your child’s pediatrician if you notice any signs of developmental delays. The pediatrician may recommend a developmental evaluation. This evaluation may include the participation of specialists such as:
- child psychologist.
- A developmental pediatrician (a doctor who specializes in child development).
- Occupational therapist.
- speech-language pathologist.
- physical therapist.
An evaluation may include observations of children at play, structured tests, and parent questionnaires. The results will determine whether or not your child would benefit from special interventions or therapies.
What are the available treatments for developmental delays?
There is no cure for developmental delays. Certain types of therapy, on the other hand, can help your child function well or keep up with peers. Among the treatments available are:
- Behavioral therapy for children who struggle with appropriate behavior at home or in social situations.
- Occupational therapy to improve fine motor skills and independence in performing daily tasks.
- Support for learning disabilities and social skills through special education.
- Speech and language therapy treats problems producing or understanding speech and language sounds.
- Physical therapy treats gross motor skill delays, such as physical changes that affect how a child walks.
Why are developmental screenings important?
It is estimated that 13% of children in the United Kingdom’s schools have some form of developmental delay. In addition, according to research, 5% of children starting school in the United Kingdom have some form of speech, language, or communication delay or difficulty. When healthcare providers detect a developmental delay early on, they can intervene. These interventions help your child learn to communicate, achieve academic success, and connect socially.
The Bottom Line
Child development refers to all the developmental milestones that experts anticipate children will reach by certain ages. These developmental milestones include how children grow physically, socially, emotionally, and mentally. If children do not reach expected developmental milestones, a healthcare provider can assess them for developmental delays. Although there is no cure for developmental delays, certain therapies can help your child flourish.
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