Every child develops at his or her own pace, but there are some definitive signs that warrant a deeper problem and indicate an immediate assessment. Young children can reach their developmental milestones at different pace. However, there are certain red flags in a child’s development, and if those are noticed, parents must speak to their doctor and seek early intervention support.
These child developmental red flags are certain indicators of potential developmental problems that may require interventions. Identifying these red flags early may allow one to seek treatment early and can significantly reduce the impact of a problem and may also reduce the duration of intervention or treatment required to correct it.
Soon after birth to 4 months of age, the child grows rapidly in size. It may be a problem if your baby has trouble moving the eyes or often crosses them, the baby doesn’t startle or respond to loud noises, doesn’t notice or brings own hands near face by the time the little one is 2 months old. By the time the baby is 3 months old, it may be a problem if the infant is not following moving objects with eyes, doesn’t grasp or doesn’t smile at people. By 4 months, if the infant is not able to hold head the straight without support, doesn’t babble, doesn’t bring objects to mouth or doesn’t push down with legs when feet are on firm surface, it warrants a detailed developmental evaluation.
As the baby grows from 4 months to 7 months, they learn many new skills like rolling over, smiling back and laughing aloud. However, if the infant seems to be stiff with tight muscles or very floppy, the baby’s head lags behind when pulled to sit, or the baby tries to reach out to objects with only one hand, refuses a cuddle, shows lack of affection to caregivers, it’s a red flag.
If the baby finds it difficult to get objects to mouth or doesn’t roll over even at 5 months or cannot sit with support by 6 months, call for immediate attention by a professional to investigate and find the cause of delays and initiate an early intervention.
As the infant approaches their first birthday, they have developed a lot physically, socially, and emotionally. If the infant doesn’t crawl or is found to drag one side of body while crawling, cannot stand when supported, doesn’t search for objects that are hidden, says no single words, doesn’t use gestures such as “no” by shaking head, doesn’t point at objects or cannot walk by 18 months are red flag signs that call for a detailed developmental assessment.
By 2 years of age if the child starts walking, running , and talking however if a child at 2 years of age doesn’t speak 10 to 15 meaningful words, doesn’t use 2 word phrases, cannot imitate actions and words, cannot follow simple instructions or cannot run or pull a wheeled toy the child needs a thorough developmental assessment.
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By 3 years of age, if your child tends to fall frequently or finds difficulty in climbing stairs, tends to drool persistently, cannot use 3 word phrases to express his needs, cannot make a tower for 4 to 5 blocks and finds it difficult to manipulate small toys and objects. If your child cannot copy a circle and cannot engage in pretend play, unable to follow instructions, shows little or no interest in toys, peer play and makes poor eye contact it must raise an alarm and warrant a detailed developmental assessment by an expert.
If your child displays features of hyperactivity, lack of interest in peer play, preferring to stay alone in a group, having poor imitation skills, disruptive behaviour with peer like pinching, pulling, biting, hitting etc, not being able to speak phrases and hold a to and fro conversation, you should worry. If by 5 years of age, your child is unable to tell stories, is not able to tell about his or her toilet needs or shows regression in any of the milestones at any stage during the course of development, it calls for a detailed developmental evaluation by an expert.
A developmental paediatrician is trained to conduct a detailed developmental assessment and guide parents about the necessary developmental stimulation activities. Tracking developmental milestones and identifying the red flags in a child’s development can act as a catalyst in identifying the underlying growth and developmental problems and provide early intervention to improve long-term developmental outcomes.