Because ASD is diagnosed based on observation of behavior and not on a medical test, and symptoms are often first noticed by parents or caregivers, it is important to understand what is meant by childhood development.
Information that parents need regarding their child’s development goes beyond height, weight, and body mass index for age. There are developmental milestones and developmental screening tools used to determine a child’s development at ages 3 months, 7 months, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, 4 years, and 5 years. A child’s failure to reach certain milestones may mean the presence of a developmental delay or a disorder such as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Development encompasses the physical, cognitive, social and emotional, and language skills of children. Because these skills develop on a continuum, milestones are guidelines or approximations of where a child should be at a certain age.
Physical development encompasses actions such as rolling over, sitting, crawling, standing without support, walking (forward and backward), running, jumping on one leg, climbing stairs, carrying objects, and throwing and catching a ball. Obviously, these skills build on each other over time.
Cognitive development encompasses how the brain processes information. Starting at about 6 months, babies explore things with their hands and look for hidden objects. This progresses to imitating gestures and experimenting with how their actions affect objects. Testing parental reaction to their actions, beginning to follow directions, sorting colors and shapes, playing make-believe and pretend games, and solving puzzles are all cognitive skills.
Social and Emotional
Social and emotional development is measured by things such as baby’s smiles, reaction to tone of voice, imitation of others, a sense of “mine” and “yours,” taking turns during play, being excited to be around other children, becoming independent in doing things like dressing oneself, negotiating solutions to problems, and developing a sense of oneself as a whole: body, mind, and emotions.
Language development encompasses first coos and babbling, then the “telegraphic” language of toddlers that is often two-word sentences, repeating words, recognizing names, understanding what is said and being able to follow directions, using pronouns correctly, and ultimately being able to speak so that anyone outside of the family can understand.
Talk to your child’s healthcare provider about what is appropriate development for your child’s age. Not all children develop exactly alike, and there is room for variation within the guidelines. Not meeting certain developmental milestones does not automatically mean your child has a delay or disorder. For more information on developmental guidelines, visit the Centers for Disease Control’s page here.