Is Your Child "Normal" -- or Could There Be a Delay?

Nearly every parent wonders at some point whether her child is on track, or if she might have a developmental delay. These guidelines will help you make sense of milestones.
baby crawling

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You've read the child development info on websites (and read it again). You've practically memorized the What To Expect series. But still, you may worry whether your child is acing milestones as he should be. Betty Reckard, vice president of child development services at Easter Seals, Southern California and a spokesperson for the organization, spells out what's normal -- and what could be a delay.

It's normal if...

A child doesn't meet a milestone at the same pace as siblings or other kids. For instance, kids typically say their first word, often "mama" or "dada," anywhere between 11 to 15 months of age -- so, yes, even 15 months is normal! Try not to compare your child to other children.

It might be a delay if...

A child is not meeting a milestone, be it walking or talking, more than a month out of the typical range.

It's normal if...

A child reaches one milestone quickly, but takes a little more time to reach another. Some kids start crawling at about 7 months of age, for example, but wait until about 13 months of age to take their first few steps. All kids develop at their own pace. Think about it: They're developing lifelong skills in a very short amount of time. Try to have patience!

It might be a delay if...

Your child is developing spoken language and then mostly stops talking, or quits saying words he was previously using to communicate.

It's normal if...

There's occasional eye-crossing in a baby's first few months. It's common, and nothing to worry about; it should naturally stop around 3 to 4 months.

It might be a delay if...

An infant has difficulty focusing his eyes on a face. Even as young as 2 to 3 months of age, babies start watching for their caregiver's eyes and mouth.

It's normal if...

A 3-year-old has pretend friends or plays a lot make-believe games -- it's an important part of development, and appropriate at this age.

It might be a delay if...

Your child isn't taking notice of other children around age two or engaging in interactive play at age 3 by taking turns, sharing toys and playing together.

It's normal if...

A 2-year-old uses sound substitutions such as "w" for "r" (like saying "wabbit" instead of "rabbit") or "p" for "f" (like saying "pish" for "fish"). There are many sounds for a child to learn; speech development happens continuously up to 8 years old.

It might be a delay if...

A toddler's struggling with expressing and understanding simple language. Communication delays are the most common developmental delay. At age 2, a child should be combining words to make simple two-word phrases such as "My dog." Receptive language is also key; a 2-year-old should point to pictures in books when named.

It's normal if...

A child is meeting physical and self-help milestones, but then has a blip.Say a child learns to use the toilet at 18 months. Right when you think she's scored potty perfection, oops, there's an accident! Or your child may have been able to get herself to sleep, but then for three naps in a row she screams for several minutes before settling down. Occasional lapses happen. Be observant, but don't get upset; your child will most likely get back on track. Just like adults, every child can have a difficult day or two.

It might be a delay if...

No matter what, you have a nagging feeling that something isn't quite right when it comes to your child's development. A parent's intuition is a powerful thing! You know and understand your child better than any other person. Check the free Easter Seals' online screening tool Ages and Stages Questionnaire, and talk with your health care provider about any concerns.

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