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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 1, Lesson 4

Signals of Possible Developmental Delays

As Infant Toddler Developmental Specialists (ITDS), it is important to be vigilantly observant of developmental milestones and to express or show concern when significant differences in reaching developmental milestones are observed. Allen and Marotz (1999) identify the following developmental alerts at significant ages when a health care provider or early childhood specialist should be consulted.

  • If by the end of 1 month of age the infant does not:
    • Startle to loud noises
    • Suck or swallow easily
    • Make eye contact with caregiver
    • Cease crying when held
  • If by the end of 4 months of age the infant does not:
    • Socially smile
    • Track moving objects
    • Turn head toward sounds heard
    • Reach out
    • Raise head while on stomach
  • If by the end of 8 months of age the infant does not:
    • Explore hands
    • Look for hidden objects
    • Pick up objects using pincer grip
    • Sit unaided
    • Appear interested in new or unusual sounds
  • If by the end of 12 months of age the infant does not:
    • Independently pull to a standing position
    • Crawl
    • Repeat simple sounds
    • Have an interest in looking at pictures
    • Respond "yes" or "no" to simple questions
    • Show understanding of new words
    • Attempt to feed self
  • If by the end of 24 months the child does not:
    • Identify familiar objects
    • Enjoy listening to someone read to them
    • Walk with little tumbles or falls
  • If by the end of 36 months the child does not
    • Begin the process of toilet training
    • Show signs of empathy and caring
    • Generally undress themselves
    • Speak with 75% intelligibility

Difficulty Identifying Possible Developmental Delays

It is not always easy to identify a possible developmental disorder or delay. Some problems are easily identified, particularly if the problem is evident as a physical characteristic (e.g. Down syndrome). Many other developmental delays are not as obvious or easily recognized. The signs of a possible delay may not be obvious making it hard to determine if the child is actually exhibiting a developmental delay. According to Allen and Marotz (1999), difficulty in identifying possible delays, entail the following:

  • Certain areas may appear to be delayed yet the child continues to develop typically in other areas
  • Variations in children's achievements exist as well as uneven maturation and constantly changing conditions in the child's environment.
  • Parenting patterns differ significantly across cultures as well as perception of developmental milestones.
  • Delays may not be immediately noticed (e.g., vision/hearing loss).
  • Health problems that can affect children's performance are sometimes intermittent (e.g., ear infections)

At any time the parent or caregiver feels or perceives a child is experiencing a developmental problem, help should be sought. It is possible that the child would benefit from a developmental screening to determine potential delays or problems. Sometimes just consulting and discussing concerns with an ITDS can ease the parents or caregivers mind or validate the need for some type of early intervention.


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