Developmental milestones & checklists


Toddlers and developmental delay

Developmental milestones & when to use them

Developmental milestones continue to be something that many parents ask me about. Don’t get me wrong, developmental milestones serve an important purpose; enabling mums and dads to understand and know what to expect at certain ages, assisting with early identification of delay.

However, in my experience, some mums and dads can get really caught up with these developmental milestones, which causes panic and anxiety for them. Especially when they already know that their child is behind their peers.

Speech therapy developmental delay

When I am working with parents who have a child that is delayed, I use developmental milestones and normative data primarily during the initial consultation, to explain where their child’s skills lie as compared to other children of the same age. However, I rarely focus on developmental milestones during ongoing therapy. This is because it can create negativity towards their child’s progress & abilities, which is not healthy for anyone, and focuses on weaknesses instead of strengths!

Focus on your child’s strengths

Instead, I try to focus on their child’s strengths, to help mums and dads see what their child CAN DO NOW. Once we know what a child can do in regards to their communication (i.e., uses gestures to communicate requesting, help, gaining attention), it’s much easier for parents to see what their child could realistically progress towards in the near future (i.e. 6-8 weeks).

As such, there is less focus on the longer-term goal of being a “fluent communicator”, which more often than not, is an unachievable short term goal.

Focusing on short term achievements (goals), that are realistic for your child’s current ability, causes less anxiety, and stress for parents and more importantly prevents a child from developing a ‘ fear of failure’.

Developmental milestones & normal developmental range

How many times have you turned up to a birthday party or a parent group and couldn’t help but compare your little one to others their age, and thought – “He’s doing that, she’s doing that, he’s not doing that…….”.
You’re not alone. It’s hard not to compare your little one to others!

‘Normal’ development (aka typical) and associated milestones are just a rough guide of what to expect at each age. They are a guide to follow and check on sporadically, especially during the first 3 years of your child’s life.
Just remember, that ALL children will have varying strengths and weaknesses. They will develop their communication, motor & cognitive skills in their own unique pattern.

Typical or normal developmental range

Firstly, I like to use the term typical development. I do not believe that there is such a thing as ‘normal’. There is not a single child that is exactly the same.

Here is an easy way to explain varying differences among children. Find out how typical development is determined on standardised assessment tools.

All or most standardised assessments use developmental data from large cohorts of children grouped into each age range (e.g. 24-26 months) and specify the typical range using percentile ranks. A percentile rank is essentially a score out of 100. Regardless of the assessment tool used, a child is within the typical range when they have a score between the 16th and 85th percentile. This way, percentile ranks allow assessors to interpret and compare assessment data very easily.

typical range of development

This typical range from 16th and 85th percentile immediately demonstrates the huge variability of child development and skill acquisition!

So, if you do find yourself comparing your child to other children (yes it’s human!). OR you have a child identified with a developmental delay or disorder, make sure to keep this all in mind. Focus on the positives and the small wins. There are lots of things your child CAN do, and your child will reap the benefits from your positivity.

So try not to compare too much!

YOU will know when things are not quite ‘right’ for your child. The best thing you can do is have access to signs/symptoms and the risk factors of developmental delay.

AND most importantly, find ways to incorporate teaching & learning through your everyday.

Mums and dads, don’t beat yourself up. Try not to get too hung up on the milestones, and checkboxes.

You’re doing your best, and you always will.

Need more help?

If you are not entirely sure whether your child needs early intervention, check out the Online Speechie Screener

Screener for language delay

Speechie Parent Playbook available to download now!

AND if you’re interested in learning how to enrich your child’s environment, download the Speechie Parent Playbook here

The Speechie Parent Playbook will assist you to develop your child’s talking at home by providing you with easy & digestible activities & strategies that you can incorporate into your everyday routine and playtime – ALL organised into the 3 communication stages!


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