Understanding Milestones and Delays
It’s amazing how a once helpless and totally dependent infant can over time become a skilled and independent individual. Every adult including you has passed through some developmental stages i.e infancy, childhood and adolescence. Through these stages, you have acquired skills and built capacity to function and respond efficiently to the demands of everyday life. However, some individuals are not capable of this due to some gaps in infancy and childhood.
Child development is the pattern of change that occurs between birth and the end of adolescence. It is a multidimensional concept that encompasses physical, cognitive, language and socio-emotional aspects. Children develop through different stages in a relatively predictable time and pattern known as developmental milestones. Developmental processes in childhood are very critical and have a huge impact on a child’s capability later in life. When children experience a significant lag in attaining age expected developmental milestones, it is called a developmental delay. Simply put, developmental delays occur when a child does not reach specific developmental milestones for his or her age. For example, if the normal age range for a child to begin walking is between 9-18 months and a 24 month old child is not able to walk, it can be considered as a motor developmental delay.
Two factors play major roles in child development. These are:
- Heredity: A child can be born with a chromosomal abnormality if such is present in the genes of either or both parents. These abnormalities cause developmental delays.
- Environment: Environmental influence occurs in cases of exposure to harmful agents during pregnancy and/or after birth thus causing delays in the child’s development.
Below are some warning signs of a developmental delay at different stages of childhood.
INFANCY (0-12 months) : Most children start to speak their first words by 18 months of age and by age 3, most of them can make short sentences. However, if a child is unable to speak words or make short sentences by age 3, this is considered as a language developmental delay.
TODDLERHOOD (1-3 years): Children at 12 – 30 months are usually adventurous and playful as a result of their increased energy and curiosity but when children at this age exhibit the opposite, it may indicate a developmental lag.
PRESCHOOL (3-5 years): Preschoolers are usually calmer and less dependent than toddlers. They are learning to become more independent, imaginative and creative. However, if the opposite is displayed by a child within this age range, it may be a sign of developmental delay.
SCHOOL AGE (6-12 years): At this stage, a child is expected to be able to solve basic problems, distinguish between right and wrong thereby making somewhat independent decisions. However, a child that does not exhibit this competence might be experiencing a developmental delay.
It is expedient that parents monitor their child’s development and seek help when they notice some of these signs so as to enable the child undergo a thorough professional evaluation in order to ascertain the presence of a developmental delay and proffer necessary interventions.
Don’t delay when a developmental delay is noticed in your child or any child you know. Early interventions go a long way in alleviating the effects of developmental delays.
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