Early childhood development is a journey unique to each child. Your child’s development is never linear and any developmental issues can be tricky to identify across social, physical, emotional and cognitive areas. Early detection and intervention mean better outcomes for your child and help to prevent any potential challenges becoming worse. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as your child goes through stages of development.
Developmental milestones are set out progressively from birth to five years of age of a child’s life. Being aware or staying on track with these milestones can help to identify any signs that call for early intervention. Communication, social or emotional developments, and fine motor, cognitive and gross motor skills are areas where these signs can arise. Some age-appropriate examples are:
o 6 months: doesn’t smile or squeal in response to people (social/emotional)
o 9 months: cannot sit without support (gross motor)
o 12 months: cannot pick up small items (fine motor)
o 2 years: cannot say two-word phrases (communication)
o 3 years: doesn’t play with other children (social/emotional)
o 4 years: unable to follow two-step directions (communication
o 5 years: cannot make simple drawings (fine motor)
o 6 years: cannot hop five times on each leg (gross motor)
Lack of eye contact, not reaching significant developmental milestones, lack of response to audio or visual stimuli, poor interaction with others, limp or rigid movements are some of the signs that can present across all ages.
(Source: Queensland Health – The “Red Flag” Early Intervention Referral Guide)
While there’s a wealth of resources out there, reaching out to trained professionals for feedback or input is an effective way to spot or address any concerns. This can help you to ensure your child receives the best support possible to reach their full potential.
Your child’s educator at kinder, family day care or early childhood service is trained to identify signs and pay attention to different areas of learning. Ask your educator where your child sits in reference to ‘age and stage’. Moreover, another set of eyes can spot what you may miss. Your educator can say if your child is not within the range and offer support strategies.
It’s not unusual for a child to fall within a sliding scale of development. Your child could be a great athlete but behind in language. An educator could implement intentional teaching such as having conversations and singing songs with your child to help reach the developmental milestone.
It’s important to stay connected with your maternal health nurse. At three and a half years of age your child is eligible for an assessment to track development ahead of starting school. The eligibility ends at four years of age offering a small window to use the assessment. Picking up on irregular or mild to moderate issues will help your child have the best chance at school.
If you have concerns, it’s always best to contact your pediatrician or maternal health nurse without delay. If the need for early intervention is identified, your health provider will refer your child for screening tests and evaluation. This will help to ensure your child’s needs are supported as early as possible.
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