Standard guidelines for infant development are used to assess whether a child’s cognitive, emotional, and physical development is appropriate for his or her age. While these are guidelines, not rules, knowing what behaviors a child should exhibit and what constitutes normal development can help parents to determine if their child is developing normally or has a developmental delay.
Parents should keep in mind that development happens on a continuum, and a possible delay in one area of development does not necessarily make for a developmental delay. However, delays in some developmental areas can be indicative of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), so knowing what the warning signs are can help parents to secure early screening, diagnosis, and treatment if warranted.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are warning signs of developmental delay, broken down into 3-month, 7-month, and 1-year of age categories.
At 7 months, some warning signs of a developmental delay include a baby who seems to have tight muscles or who is stiff, or one who seems floppy (his or her head may flop back when you pull baby to a sitting position). A baby who reaches with just one hand, refuses to cuddle, or shows no affection for his or her caregiver may have a delay. Lack of response to sounds or a lack of enjoyment for being around people may be indicative of a delay, as may be sensitivity to light or eye drainage or tearing that is persistent.
Babies who do not bear weight on their legs by 7 months may also have a delay. No interest in “peek-a-boo” games or failure to babble by 8 months may also be signs of developmental delays. At this, or any age, a dramatic loss of skills once had may be a warning sign of a delay or disorder.
At one year, normally developing babies should crawl and stand when supported. They should also search for objects that you hide while they are watching, and use gestures such as waving. Babies at this age who are developing normally should also be able to use single words like “dada” or “mama” and point to pictures or objects.
Between 7 months and 1 year, babies are developing an interest in social play and using their voices to express displeasure and joy. Babies can tell emotion from the speaker’s tone of voice and are beginning to understand the word “no.”
Although not all delays are indicative of a developmental delay, if your child exhibits any of the following “red flags” for developmental delay around age 6 months, consult your pediatrician right away:
- Baby does not try to attract attention through actions by 7 months
- Baby does not babble by 8 months
- Baby does not learn to use gestures, such as waving or shaking head
- Baby does not point to objects or pictures
- Baby cannot stand when supported