What Should I Do if My Baby is Not Meeting Developmental Milestones on Time?
And how an expert can help
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Babies grow and develop on a certain, well-known path, with some variability in the age that they learn new skills. These skills are called developmental milestones and they are typically met within a particular window of time.
There are milestones for your baby’s motor skills, language, social interaction, cognition and self-help skills. Sometimes, things don’t move along according to plan, and there can be delays in reaching certain developmental milestones.
If you have noticed and are worried about a delay in your child’s development, it’s important to talk to your pediatrician about your concerns, even if they are small. Well-child visits are quick check-ins during which a pediatrician covers a lot of issues and relies on you to communicate any worries you may have. Trust your intuition and ask questions, or seek out specialty evaluations on your own.
Intervention: The Sooner, the Better
It can be difficult to learn that your child is experiencing developmental delays or challenges, but the sooner intervention is introduced, the better the outcome will likely be. This is true of both minor and major delays, as even a minor delay may have the potential to build into a more significant one later.
An infant can benefit from intervention as soon as possible, whether she has experienced a brain injury, medical illness or just seems to be struggling with certain skills. Early intervention can help your child learn new skills, achieve developmental milestones, enhance development, overcome challenges and support future success.
A child’s earliest experiences play a critical role in his brain development. The human brain changes and develops rapidly in the first few years of life. Infants and very young children are constantly creating neural connections — more than a million per second. These neural connections lay the foundation for function, learning, skills and behavior. Brain development builds on itself. It relies on this foundation to build increasingly complex circuits. A strong foundation will provide the base for building future skills.
Issues in the early foundational development can lead to problems down the line. This system is most plastic, or capable of change, during the first three years of life, when the brain is creating so many new connections. The brain rewires itself in response to experiences.
Brain structures are like muscles that can be strengthened by repeated use, but also weakened or lost if not used. High quality, early intervention can help build a strong brain structure foundation, fill in holes and retrain poor patterns that may have already developed, thereby improving your child’s developmental outcome.
How an Expert Can Help
Any area of development may show signs of delay relating to motor skills, language, social interaction, cognition and/or self-help skills. Physical delays, such as difficulty reaching, rolling, sitting, crawling or walking, are often the first delays parents notice, but all areas of development are closely related at this young age.
Pediatric physical therapists can evaluate and treat the aforementioned physical delays. Pediatric occupational therapists can evaluate and treat delays in fine motor skills, visual skills, sensory skills and self-help skills such as handling and playing with toys, hand-eye coordination, feeding and dressing. Pediatric speech therapists can evaluate and treat language delays.
Early intervention services can be provided through a state program (learn more at beearly.nc.gov) or private providers of physical, occupational and/or speech therapy. Seeking out high quality, early intervention for a variety of developmental needs can help put your child on a path to success, improve her quality of life and teach you, as parents, how to support your child as she continues to grow and develop.
Rebecca Quinones and Rachel Gandy are founders of Babies On The MOVE, a Cary-based organization committed to helping children excel in motor development with in-home pediatric physical therapy and community-based infant movement classes for children of all abilities. Learn more at babiesonthemoverdu.com.