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When you’re a mom, you worry about everything. Are they getting enough food? Are they growing well? Is their poop the right color? Every day seems to be filled with new worries and concerns.

Every developmental leap, such as crawling, walking, and talking, makes us feel more relaxed about their learning. 

But what happens if those milestones aren’t being met? What if they are meeting them later than their peers? Some parents might wonder if that’s just their child growing at their own pace, or if it could potentially be a warning sign that their toddler is a child with special needs.

This blog will look at specific categories of development and some warning signs that a delay could be present. 

Gross and Fine Motor Skills

The first few years of life are amazing because children have so many different physical skills that they master. While there is a huge range as to what is typical, there are some expectations that doctors have when it comes to these areas of development. For example:

  1. By Age 2: 
    1. Walking and running
    2. Jumping with both feet
    3. Kicking a ball
    4. Walking down stairs holding a railing
    5. Climbing on furniture and playground equipment
  2. By Age 3:
    1. Able to balance on one foot for several seconds
    2. Catch large balls
    3. Stand, jump, or hop on one foot
    4. Can walk backward
    5. Can pedal a tricycle

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While gross motor skills demonstrate how toddlers can use their biggest muscles to make big movements, also important are fine motor skills. Fine motor skills describe the ability for a toddler to use their hands and wrists to do key tasks, like feeding themselves and learning to color, draw, and write. 

For 2-year-olds, they should begin to be able to pull their own pants up and down, to build block towers or to stack small toys, and to begin using crayons and utensils. Most 3-year-olds should be able to turn pages in a book, to draw a circle with a crayon, and to manipulate toys that have smaller pieces.

Social Skills and Communication

How children speak and interact with their peers, is a good clue in identifying if there is a social or communication difficulty present. This is especially true when looking at children who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). 

social skills autism

The toddler phase is when many children first begin presenting signs of autism, including regressions of language skills and engaging in repetitive behavior. Other clues to watch out for include poor eye contact, having difficulty expressing emotions and understanding social cues, developing pronounced food aversions, and becoming fixated on routines. If your toddler is exhibiting any of these behaviors, it is worth bringing up at their next well-child visit or, if language skills seem to be regressing, making an appointment.

Language Development

Language skills are one of the most critical skills that a child can learn from the beginning. When children are born, they are nonverbal, but an explosion of language occurs between 2-3 years of age!

language development special needs

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), “A child should have about 50 words at 18 months, and 300 by the time he is 3, while the average 4-year-old uses sentences, some verb tenses, and plurals. By the time a child is 3 years old, he should have sufficient vocabulary to name most things in his familiar environment, should point to pictures in books and be able to name them, to sing simple rhymes and familiar songs, answer simple ‘wh- questions’ (what, who, where, when), combine 2-3 words, and their speech is mostly intelligible.”

If your child seems delayed in this area, it’s worth bringing up at your next well-child visit and see if your pediatrician refers you to a speech-language pathologist

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  • My child just turned two a week ago. She has been babbling since age of 1. She can say a few words but she seems very hesitant to talk especially when we ask her to repeat what we say. She can say some words but she would opt not to say it. Instead, she would shake her head and gesture her hand. We don’t know how we, her parents, can make her talk or even imitate words we say.

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