Many times when you take your child to the doctor, read a parent magazine or log onto a parent website you are asked to measure your child’s development against a set of age-related standards. As you answer the doctor’s questions, or compare your child to the charts in magazines or on websites, you may start to worry what your child can or can’t do at his age. It is very natural to wonder whether your child is developing at the same rate as other children. In fact, every parent does this. So what are these comparisons, and should you be concerned about what they tell you?
These comparison tools are called developmental milestones. They can help you compare your child’s development with what is considered “normal” for a given age. Experts have compared thousands of babies and children to come up with a rough way to measure how children should act and the skills they should have by a certain age. Examples include what age a child starts to walk or starts to talk.
Before you consult them, it’s important to understand what developmental milestones can and cannot tell you. It is good to be aware of milestones because your child’s doctor will probably ask you about them during scheduled checkups. On the other hand, no two children develop the same way. For instance, some children get advanced skills in one area before they even get basic skills in another area. In fact, if you compare several developmental milestone tools, you will see that most skills are set in a range of months, not on just one specific age. And there are even differences between some of the different milestone guides.
So the milestones are intended to give you a general sense of whether your child’s development is on track. By themselves, they can’t tell you or your doctor for sure that your child is OK or whether there is something wrong. Medical and developmental experts you consult will never use milestones by themselves. They will also take into account their own evaluations and tests and information from you to determine if your child may have a delay in development or a disorder.
But milestones can tell you and the doctor if your child should be evaluated further to see if his development is on track.
The links below will take you to developmental milestone tools that will help you see what your child is able to do and what may happen next. As you use these milestone measurements, try to focus on what your child is doing and not on what they should be doing at that age or what they can’t do.
Developmental Milestones is an online milestone measurement resource from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Track Your Child’s Developmental Milestones (PDF), also from the CDC, is a very simple downloadable milestone chart.
Down Syndrome Developmental Milestones (PDF) is another downloadable milestone guide specific to that syndrome.
Developmental Milestones by Age, from Autism Speaks, is a useful online guide if your child is on the Autism spectrum, or you suspect he or she may be.
Texas Early Learning Pathways (PDF) illustrates how very early development relates to school readiness with ideas to support your child's development.
Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive has resources for caregivers on child development, screenings and support for families.