What to do if you have questions about your child’s development

When you think of your child and how he or she is growing, you notice things like how soon he or she smiles, sits up, rolls over, or how well he or she walks, talks, holds a spoon, and feeds himself or herself. Children learn naturally during this time: by watching you and/or other children, and by being taught how to do different things. Because you know your child so well, you might notice that he or she is growing or developing differently than a cousin, brother or sister at that age. What you are noticing are changes in development.

Children develop in five primary areas:

  • ability to move, see, and hear – physical development
  • ability to talk, understand, and express needs – language and speech
  • developmentability to relate to others – social and emotional development
  • ability to eat, dress, and take care of oneself – self help (or adaptive development)
  • ability to think and learn – cognitive development

While all children grow and change at their own rate, some children can experience delays in their development. Sometimes this can be cause for concern. Parents know their children best, and will see changes in their child’s behavior or development that others might not see.

Here are some tips to get you started:

1. Take a look at a developmental checklist and compare your child’s development. Remember, children develop at their own pace, so they may not hit every milestone at the times indicated on the checklist.

  • Pennsylvania’s Early Intervention Services’ “Watch Me Grow” brochure has checklists for developmental stages from birth through age five. If your child can complete two of the items listed under each bullet, you check off that bullet.
  • The Pennsylvania Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Project developed a short fact sheet on Understanding Developmental Differences that may be helpful.

2. Share your questions with your child’s doctor and child care teacher. They may recommend that you schedule some tests or developmental screenings for your child which can help identify any issues and get you on the path to some support and information.

If your child has behavior issues and is enrolled in Keystone STARS program, the teacher may also ask for help from the Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation program. This program will provide a consultant to the teacher to review the classroom and provide training and tips to help the teacher and family address the behavior concerns.

  • Check out the Be Your Child’s Champion chapters on talking to your doctor and with your child’s teacher for some tips on how to start this conversation.
  • Call the CONNECT hotline at 1-800-692-7288. They can connect you with help with screening and, if need, with your local Early Intervention program.

3. Get support and developmental screening. Pennsylvania offers Early Intervention services for free to all eligible children. Early Intervention provides developmental screening to determine if your child may need further evaluation and specialized services to children from birth to age five with developmental delays or disabilities and their families. The services will vary by each child depending on your child’s needs, and may take place in the home, in a child care program, or other setting. Call the CONNECT hotline at 1-800-692-7288 to get started and get connected to an early intervention agency for developmental screening or evaluation.

4. Get connected. Parent to Parent Pennsylvania is an organization that matches parents of children and adults with disabilities to support each other.

Also, check out What’s Happening in Your County page for listings of other parent support groups in your community.

Here are other great resources:

  • Bob Lowe says:

    Thanks for the post. I like the idea to get a checklist to compare my child’s development. I think that can help me to know where he should be at with his development. It can be hard to know at what level he needs to be, but a checklist can be really helpful.

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