The early years of a child’s life are very important for his or her health and development. Healthy development means that children of all abilities, including those with special health care needs, are able to grow up where their social, emotional and educational needs are met. Having a safe and loving home and spending time with family―playing, singing, reading, and talking―are very important. Proper nutrition, exercise, and rest also can make a big difference.
Skills such as taking a first step, smiling for the first time, and waving "bye-bye" are called developmental milestones. Children reach milestones in how they play, learn, speak, behave, and move (for example, crawling and walking).
Children develop at their own pace, so it's impossible to tell exactly when a child will learn a given skill. However, the developmental milestones give a general idea of the changes to expect as a child gets older.
As a parent, you know your child best. If your child is not meeting the milestones for his or her age, or if you think there could be a problem with your child’s development, talk with your child’s doctor and share your concerns. Don’t wait.
Developmental Monitoring and Screening
A child’s growth and development are followed―or monitored―through a partnership between parents and health care professionals. At each well-child visit, the doctor looks for developmental delays or problems and talks with the parents about any concerns the parents might have. In addition, doctors conduct developmental screening. Developmental screening is a short test to tell if children are learning basic skills when they should, or if they might have delays.
Children with special health care needs should have developmental monitoring and screening just like those without special needs. Monitoring healthy development means not only paying attention to symptoms related to a child’s condition, but also to the child’s physical, mental, social, and emotional well-being.
If a child has a developmental delay, it is important to get help as soon as possible. When a developmental delay is not found early, children must wait to get the help they need. This can make it hard for them to learn when they start school.