By: Nina Chesno
Parents are often concerned about whether their child is developing at the expected rate. As parents, you know your child best, and if you are concerned that your baby or toddler’s milestones are delayed, we recommend that you consult your pediatrician, who will perform a developmental screening test. This will better inform you regarding your child’s difficulties. If necessary, the pediatrician will refer you for early intervention to a speech, occupational or physical therapist.
At The Therapy Place, our therapists are highly trained and available to assist you with any concerns that you may have regarding your child’s early developmental stages. We work with infants up to school-aged children, listen to your concerns, provide information regarding the developmental stage that your child has reached to date in their speech, motor, social-emotional, and cognitive development, and provide the appropriate therapy where needed.
Stages Of Early Development
There are 5 stages of early development, beginning with infants and continuing to babies, toddlers, and school-aged children. Some professionals describe more than 5 stages of early development, but we’re going to focus on the 5 most commonly described stages.
Despite this, every child needs to move from one developmental stage to another, in each area.
- cognitive skills
- speech and language skills
- fine motor skills
- gross motor skills
- social and emotional skills
It is not possible to separate each stage as they develop concurrently at each age. It is necessary for babies, toddlers, and children to develop through this range of developmental stages. Some reach particular skills more quickly than others, which indicates their strengths and weaknesses, however, it’s important that they achieve them within the range of normal development.
The first five stages of development are the most important to enable children of all abilities to receive health care to grow and develop. All children need to be able to reach the social, emotional, speech, motor, and educational milestones required to live a full and functional life.
This is the first stage of development, and it actually starts before a baby is even born. In utero, a baby can hear sounds and music. As they develop, they may kick in response to the mother’s voice or music. Any abnormalities during the pregnancy may result in developmental delays.
At birth, a baby has very close vision and is able to see their mother’s face. It is important to talk to your baby from birth and make eye contact to develop bonding.
Sometimes your pediatrician may find specific features in your baby that may indicate the need for investigation. Remember, the earlier you know what your baby needs, the sooner you can arrange for early intervention for them to go through the five early developmental stages that are so important for their future.
At one month your baby will be listening to you talk and look at close objects or people. Many parents purchase a musical mobile, which is the beginning of developing auditory and visual skills.
By two months, your baby is beginning to recognize you, smile, and make sounds (cooing, vocalizing (using vowels) to get your attention. This natural interaction is beginning to develop their listening skills by singing and talking to them. These activities stimulate the early onset of speech and language development.
By three months babies move their hands to their faces, using their thumb and fingers together. They usually put their fingers in their mouths, which not only soothes them but stimulates sucking. Babies who do not go through this stage of “mouthing”, may have oral motor difficulties.
The movement of their hands is the beginning of fine motor development to bring their fingers to the midline and is also important for future speech development. It is important for you to be aware of your child’s development. If you notice any of these features, an occupational or speech therapist can give you ideas on how to encourage your baby to meet these early developmental stages.
Their tactile senses are being stimulated when they reach for the parent and feel the different parts of their face. To stimulate physical development, “tummy time” is important, so that your baby strengthens their back and neck muscles.
By four months, your baby will be interacting more with you. They will laugh when they are happy or scream if you take something away from them. Physical stimulation at this stage can consist of bouncing your child on your lap. It is not recommended that you lift your baby up to “ fly “ as if their neck or back muscles are not strongly developed, they may get injured.
By five months your baby’s visual and speech skills should develop rapidly. Their vision is more advanced, and they can see bright colors and follow objects. Their first meaningful speech is when they call dad: “dada”. Parents are so excited that they give their babies a reason to communicate with them. Singing to your child, playing music, and pointing to large colorful pictures in books also stimulate both auditory, visual, and speech skills.
By six to eight months your baby will be sitting independently. This is a very important early developmental stage. Remember that if your baby is not sitting or if he begins sitting by 8 months, this is still within the normal range of development. If not, a physical therapist visit is recommended.
This is an exciting stage as they see the world from a new perspective. Their hands are free to grab toys and put them in their mouths. Be careful not to leave small toys lying around that could result in them choking. Mouthing toys is an important prerequisite for oral- motor skills.
By seven to nine months, the most single progress in their development is in their fine motor skills. They no longer grab toys with both hands. Now they can pick up toys with a “pincer grasp” (using their thumb and pointer fingers). At this stage, your baby will communicate using body language and gestures.
By eight months, the baby should pull themselves up to standing. Although this is an exciting developmental stage for your child to reach, it can be exhausting, and it is vital to remove stools and lower their crib to prevent accidents in the home. As far as their speech development is concerned, they understand “No” and can wave goodbye. The first words “mama”, “dada” create great excitement for parents.
At nine months, your baby starts using its pointing finger to touch your face and laugh at your reactions. Parents can stimulate their children’s physical development by rolling a ball or crawling over them and under a table. Patting each other’s hands and singing “pat-a-cake” also develops listening skills.
To stimulate their cognitive development, get on the ground at their level, making eye contact when talking to them. Play games that will enhance your relationship and bonding, using puzzles with small handles. Talk about taking the puzzle out and talk about the pictures.
Ten months is the age of object permanence, where your child develops the ability to find people and toys when they cannot see them. This is an extremely important indication of your baby’s cognitive skills! If your baby becomes distressed when they see you take your handbag, it is a good sign as they know you are going out.
This is also called the time when they become clingy. As parents, continue to stimulate your baby’s language and auditory development by pointing to body parts, anything you see inside the house or outside in the garden. Take them shopping, and talk, talk, talk, about what you see and where you are. This stimulates language development. Playing “peek-a-boo” games is another great way to stimulate them.
Speech and language skills develop more when your child is saying many words. Language stimulation will speed up your child’s speech development, by talking to them about everything they do. Talk to them in the kitchen giving simple steps of what you’re doing. This develops sequencing skills.
At one year old, some children are walking and say a few words. Mama, Dada, up, come. They can express their needs by pointing to an item accurately and approximations of words may emerge. They are now little people who interact with people whom they know. They may be wary of strangers.
Toddlers are between one to three years old. The greatest development occurs in their gross motor skills, where they begin to run, jump and climb independently.
Speech development increases with them saying more words and joining two or three words together to form a sentence. They may be able to follow simple instructions. For example, “ give me the hat”.
Their fine motor skills become more developed, where they can hold crayons firstly with a complete hand and later with the pincer grip.
3 to 5-year-olds attend preschool, where all their skills are developed in a more structured setting. If your preschooler is sensitive or afraid of people, it is advisable to select a preschool with a small class.
During these years toddlers become more proficient at jumping, running, and drawing pictures.
They may resist getting their hands dirty in the sandpit or with finger- painting, which may indicate tactile sensory issues. If the teacher is concerned, she will recommend that you visit an occupational therapist.
Their speech now develops at a rapid rate, with an increase in words, sentences, and the ability to talk in longer sentences.
This stage brings the task of potty training. Toilet training is often a challenging time for parents. The range of development for achieving independent toilet habits is usually between 3 to 4 years.
Between 6 and the end of middle school, children are now independent, make friends and they mature in their social and emotional skills. They may battle with inconsistent emotional outbursts, which the teacher, school counselor, or psychologist can assist them with.
Their language skills develop rapidly, with increased vocabulary, and the ability to express themselves effectively. The teacher will refer to the child who has difficulty pronouncing words, delayed language, or auditory processing difficulties. to a speech therapist.
Causes Of Early Developmental Delay
There are many reasons why a child might have early developmental delays, and sometimes you may not be able to find out the source. Here are some examples or possible explanations:
- Physical, emotional, or social abuse
- Family stress, such as depression, alcoholism, and neglect.
- Environmental factors, where the child’s basic needs are not met, such as living in an unsafe community.
- Prematurity, medical problems, such as genetic syndromes, deprivation of oxygen at birth resulting in cerebral palsy, or chronic ear infections, resulting in hearing loss.
Therapy Treatment For Developmental Delays
At The Therapy Place, speech therapists and occupational therapists are available to help your child to reach the appropriate stages of development. They may refer you to a physical therapist if they have gross motor delays, such as the development of crawling, standing, and walking.
A psychologist may be required if your child has developmental delays in their social-emotional skills. Play therapy with a psychologist can be extremely effective in helping a child to express their emotions through play.
Once a child is able to deal with their social and emotional issues, there is a greater chance of them catching up on some developmental delays. The therapists will take a detailed case history and do home visits, from as early as birth to three years old.
An individual therapy plan will be created and a home program is usually given so that parents can carry over the skills required for their infant, baby, toddler, and child, to reach each developmental stage.
Play & Creative Therapy
When your child attends play therapy or creative therapy, they get a unique approach to developmental therapy that is fun for them. They get a holistic education, which gives them the ability to make choices and think for themselves. Through play & creative therapy, children are able to work on a range of skills, such as academic, physical, speech, emotional and intellectual skills. Children are allowed to be themselves, and express their feelings and emotions in a safe environment.
Clinics that offer this kind of therapy encourage children to explore their interests and develop social and emotional skills. This helps to develop their confidence so that they believe in themselves and can behave appropriately with their teachers. They’re given opportunities to work independently and learn through hands-on experiences.
This kind of therapy can be done through art therapy, music therapy, play therapy, one on one counseling sessions, which all help children to safely express their feelings. They provide stimulation for developing children’s early development stages, as well as providing them with the opportunities to take part in drama, music, and exercises classes.
Early intervention may begin with an infant in the hospital, for feeding difficulties. At birth, if the child has a cleft palate, a speech therapist will assist the mother by providing her with the correct teat to feed her baby. It can look like a toddler going to occupational therapy to work on their grasping skills. It looks like a lot of different things, but the idea is that the earlier a child starts their development education, the greater their chance of closing the gap between their development and what is expected at each early developmental stage.
Enjoy your child’s first 5 stages of life, as they are so precious and are the most important years to create the foundations required for coping academically, emotionally, and in all areas of speech and motoric skills. And if you notice that your child is developing at a slower rate and does have a developmental delay, reach out to The Therapy Place. We specialize in helping children with developmental delays, and we’re ready to help support you and your family.
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