By: Dr Khushboo Shah Sawant
As mentioned earlier in this column, the birth of a child in the family brings along with it joy, hope and happiness for the family, but it also brings along with it a whole lot of responsibilities on the part of the parents. Just after the child is born, parents often fret about the weight of the child being healthy and look out for various means by which they can improve the weight of the baby. But, is just the weight of the baby being normal the indicator that all is well? Is that a validation that the child is developing normally? The answer is ‘no’. So how does a parent know whether their child is developing normally or not? Today, there are various means to keep a track of the child’s importance. The best and most important way is by keeping track of the child’s developmental milestones.
That brings us to the question, what are developmental milestones? These are set up by experts as markers from early childhood to compare and identify a child’s growth in primary areas of development like, speech and communication, intellectual, social, emotional and gross motor development etc. To specify further, gross motor development means using many muscles of the body to do activities like; sit, stand, keep balance etc. Fine motor development means using finer skills like to use hands to write eat play etc. Language or communication means using or learning signs and signals to communicate emotions to other people using body language, gestures, and also understanding what they say. Cognitive skills include the ability to think, learning, understanding and memory. Social development means interaction with others, bonding with family and friends etc
Developmental milestones are markers along with which one can compare the growth of a child to ascertain the child’s normal development and growth. But why is keeping a track of a child’s developmental milestones so important? Along with it being important to keep a check on the child’s normal development, it also helps to identify in case if the child has abnormal functions and helps in timely observation and diagnosis, thereby giving the child and doctors a chance for timely management of the special need of the child. Assessing a child’s milestones is importance and requires keen observation towards the child. A child achieves most of his milestones on his own by natural instinct however to observe them and make a note of it helps in confirming the child’s progress. However, we move on to the next question, what is the child does not achieve the milestones on the specified time or misses them completely? If the child is not meeting any of the milestones as noted by the parent or the doctor concerned, then the child needs to be encouraged in the direction of those milestones. However, if the milestones continue to be missed, it ought to be marked as red flag. A ‘red flag’ acts as an early indicator that early intervention may be required on the part of the parents as well as the doctors concerned who can support in the cause.
Given below are some basic developmental milestones for parents to keep a track of:
At Birth: Lies in foetal position, reacts to bright light, unable to hold neck, bonds with mother, makes eye contact and cries to indicate need.
3 months: Able to hold up neck when held in sitting position, grasps objects, turns head to observe things, gives a social smile, takes interest in surroundings, playthings, attentive to sounds made, cries differently for different needs.
6 months: Sits up with support, enjoys standing and jumping, visual sense is well established, responds to mother, shy in front of strangers, starts making verbal sounds like ‘mama, baba’ etc
9 months: sits unsupported, wriggles and crawls, holds bottles, claps hands, shows intrest in pictures, books, communicates with sounds etc
1 year: Stands holding furniture, takes a couple of steps unsupported, waves good bye, understands simple commands, babbles simple 2-3 words
15 months: can crawl upstairs, can place objects corrects, indicates soiled or wet clothes, very curious, can communicate needs
18 months: can walk alone, begins to jump on both feet, drinks from a cup with both hands, repeats adult’s last words, and imitates action
2 years: Can kick large ball, tries to run, throws tantrum, tries to speak in sentences, talks to self, uses own name to refer to self etc.