Crawling, walking and talking are just a few of a child’s developmental milestones. With the information overload all around us, it’s easy for parents to become anxious about their own child’s progress. So when should you be concerned?
Brian Tang, M.D., a specialist in behavioral and developmental pediatrics at the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, understands parents’ anxieties about their children’s development.
“Think of developmental milestones as guideposts rather than definite targets your child should reach,” Dr. Tang says. “Much as each child has his or her own unique personality, each child has a unique pace for reaching developmental stages. In fact, there is a wide range in what’s perfectly normal.”
Dr. Tang explains that the way a child develops is not a linear process. Instead, there are plateaus when nothing much seems to happen and spikes when a child may suddenly learn to do several things at once.
Regular well-child examinations with your child’s doctor are an important way to make sure your child is on track. At each visit, your child’s doctor will ask you questions about your child’s development and screen your child’s physical and behavioral abilities. Your doctor is not looking for your child to have achieved every milestone by a certain age. Rather, doctors look for patterns that may indicate a developmental issue that needs further evaluation and possibly treatment.
“Early detection of any developmental delays, especially in children under three, can make a tremendous difference in your child being able to catch up,” Dr. Tang says. “Most importantly, trust your instincts when it comes to your child’s development – you know your child best.”
Parents can get a lot of information from simple informal observations of a child, especially when the child is around other children. Dr. Tang says extremely disruptive behavior can also be a red flag for an underlying developmental issue.