Fort Worth, Texas,
09:23 AM

So what IS normal anyways?

Pediatric developmental milestones and their ranges

“You are you. Now isn’t that pleasant?” Dr. Seuss.

From birth, your child is undergoing changes at a rapid pace and many factors may influence these changes, including your child’s genetic makeup, the environment in which you raise your child, nutrition, and medical care, to name a few. 

Though there are ranges in which kids attain developmental milestones, a delay in achieving certain skills does not necessarily mean that your child is ‘developmentally delayed.’ One should remember that "normal" is expressed in many different ways.

A child’s body systems can be categorized into motoric, sensory and cognitive components and can encompass a wide variety of changes, not to mention the defining personality and emotional changes that are occurring at the same time.

Typical development does occur in stages and can help you track your child’s progress, as listed below:

  • Developmental milestones by age/dimension:
    • 3 months:
      • Physical development: Your baby is beginning to explore his/her environment and will start to push up on his/her arms and lift the head up against gravity for a short period of time.
      • Speech development: As you feed your baby, you will notice he/she will refine his/her ability to suck and swallow, will coo to the sound of your voice and smile, and turn his/her head in response to sound.
      • Play development: When playing with your baby, you will notice he/she will be able to follow toys with his/her eyes and reach for them. Your baby will also be able to position his/her head in the middle during interaction with people/environment.
    • 6 months:
      • Physical development: As your baby gets stronger, he/she will be able sit up with the use of his/her hands, will be able to explore his/her environment with rolling from back to stomach. When you hold your baby, notice that your baby can tolerate supported standing with full weight through his/her legs.
      • Speech development: What an exciting time for progress with your baby’s communication! Your baby will now start to babble in order to get your attention. Make sure to keep cereals and pureed foods handy, as your baby is now ready to eat these items.
      • Play development: ‘Tummy’ time is important during this stage of development and you will notice your baby reaching for objects when placed on his/her stomach, and will be able to hold onto his/her feet during play when placed on his/her back.
    • 9 months:
      • Physical development: Your baby is getting stronger during this age and should be able to sit up and reach for toys without a loss of balance, can transition from the floor to sitting, and can crawl using opposite hand/knee movement.
      • Speech development: During this time, your baby will be able to visually recognize familiar people and toys when named; and will now begin eating mashed table foods.
      • Play development: At this time, your baby will use both of his/her hands to play with toys, and will start mimicking others.
    • 12 months:
      • Physical development: During this time of rapid growth, your baby’s leg strength will truly begin to progress with pull-to-stand movements and walking alongside furniture with two-handed support. Your baby may begin to stand independently and take a few steps!
      • Speech development: Get ready to hear ‘mama’ and ‘dada’ frequently as your baby now will be able to call you by name and will be able to follow 1-step instructions!
      • Play development: With play, your baby will be able to use a pincer grasp to hold onto tiny objects/toys, and be able to grab and release toys/objects; at this time, your baby will also be able to start feeding himself using his/her finger.

Though the above characteristics of movement, speech, and play development are TYPICALLY observed in normal developing babies, do not be alarmed if milestones are not met right on time. Some kids develop at a more rapid rate while others may take more time.

There are some red flags to watch for and may indicate a possible need to make an appointment with your baby’s pediatrician, and potentially be referred to a developmental therapist (physical, speech, or occupational). These include (not inclusive of all signs):

  • Stiff movements that are consistent throughout the first 3-6 months
  • Decreased arm movement or asymmetrical arm movements that lasts through 9 months
  • Rounded back
  • Difficulty with or inconsistent visual tracking or lack of turning towards auditory stimuli
  • Difficulty putting full weight through legs or needed hand support during sitting at 12 months
  • Frequent toe-walking at 12 months onwards

Remember, each child is unique and though it is crucially important to monitor your child’s development, it is also important to allow your child to develop at his/her own pace and realize that ‘normal’ can be defined differently for each child.

[Source: Developmental milestones handouts (Cook Children’s), Pathways Awareness Foundation 2006, endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, revised 09/10]

About the author

Radhika Trivedi, PT, MSPT, DPT, is a physical therapist at Cook Children's. Physical therapy focuses on large motor and functional skills to enhance development restore function and prevent disability from pediatric conditions, illness or injury. Cook Children's offers Rehabilitation Services in Fort Worth, Hurst and Mansfield.

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