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New parents tend to worry about their child’s development. They eagerly await the youngster’s first words, first steps and other milestones. But when those actions don’t occur around the age the parents expect them, they start to worry that their child is falling behind, and suspect that something may be wrong. Parents that have more than one child may compare the new child with his or her siblings. Even parents with only one child may compare the child’s development with the children of friends or relatives. It is important to realize each child is different and develops at his own pace. However, parents do know their children best, and should contact their pediatrician if they suspect delayed development in their toddler.
Developmental delays can be caused by conditions such as premature birth, Down’s syndrome, illness or infection. In many cases, the cause is unknown. Premature children usually require some time to catch up, and pediatricians often gauge their development accordingly, taking both their due dates, and actual time of birth into account. However, it is important for parents to become familiar with developmental milestones and the typical ages when they occur.
For instance, at the end of two months of age, an infant typically begins to smile at people and tries to look at the parents. The child should also make cooing and gurgling sounds. At the age of four months, the child responds to affection, follows things or people with their eyes, and reaches for toys with one hand. The child may be able to hold his head steady without support, and roll from stomach to back. At six months, a child should respond to his name, roll over, and begins to sit up without support. At nine months of age, a child begins to point at things, crawls and pulls himself up to a standing position. He may also cling to his parents and show fear of strangers.
By one year of age, the child is saying “Mama” or “Dada.” He or She follows simple directions and may begin taking a few steps. By 18 months, the child drinks from a cup, uses a spoon to eat, says several words and walks alone. At age two, a child begins to display more independent and defiant behavior, such as temper tantrums. He or She speaks in simple sentences of two to four words.
There are many more milestones that take place at these ages, however, these are just a few to indicate typical development. There is a broad time frame for what is considered normal during the child’s developmental stages. Just because a child is lagging behind a bit doesn’t mean he has a developmental delay.
Delays can occur for language, motor skills or social and thinking skills. If a child is developing slowly, it may be best to consult with the pediatrician. Common signs of a developmental delay include not laughing or smiling, and not responding to sounds by six months of age. Language or speech delays could indicate a hearing impairment. Other signs include not responding to their own name and not saying “Mama” or “Dada” by age one. If a child is unable to sit up by age one or walk by age two, there may be a developmental delay, that would best be evaluated by a physician. Parents should ask their pediatrician about general screening for development if they have any reason to believe that their child is not developing at a reasonable rate.
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