Developmental milestones are behavior or physical skills seen in infants and children as they grow and develop. Rolling over, crawling, walking and talking are all considered milestones. The milestones are different for each age range.
There is a normal range in which a child may reach each milestone. For example, walking may begin as early as 8 months in some children. Others walk as late as 18 months, and it is still considered normal.
Observing the calendar of developmental milestones helps parents and health care providers see if the child may have a problem. This is important as research has shown that the sooner developmental services are started, the better the outcome. Developmental services include speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy. The therapists are highly trained professionals who help the child’s brain learn.
A child’s brain develops its ability to see and to move through the world in a steady, very well studied process. Educators pay attention to these milestones as it has implications for the success of a child in school.
For example, the ability to perceive lines on a slant or oblique lines is necessary for the child to make letters and to write. These activities are part of the curriculum of kindergarten. These developmental skills are firmly in place by the age of 5 to 5 1/2 years. Teachers must watch and be alert to the variations not only in age, but also to the range of developmental levels in their students. Because children in kindergarten are at various chronological ages and develop at varying rates, having the same set of standards and expectations for all children at a given time is both inappropriate and potentially harmful for children.
Children correctly identify letters in the alphabet in a step-by-step process that is affected by age, experience and exposure to the printed word. The average 4 1/2-year-old can identify about 12 letters of the alphabet and a year later at 5 1/2 they can identify 21 to 22 letters. Teachers who attempt to teach writing letters before the age of 5 1/2 (when most children can perceive and draw the oblique lines of letters) are doing their young students a disservice. These children may feel like a failure before his or her developmental capacity exists. Their brain is not ready to learn this concept.
Using a standardized test such as the Gesell developmental observation-revised (GDO-R) can help educators know the developmental level of the child and play an important part in successful learning.