Development milestones and delays – What every parent should know

One of the greatest pleasures of parenthood is watching children grow and seeing things through their eyes. Parents do their best to protect and ease the way for their children, as they learn and discover things about the world around them. Therefore, a crucial part in the parenting journey is understanding how little ones should develop and what to do if they miss their milestones.

What are milestones?

As children grow up and transition from being an infant, to a toddler, and then a child, they change and develop in predictable ways. This progress, called “developmental milestones,” encompasses five areas of child development, namely – physical, cognitive, communication and language, social and emotional, and self help.

Since every child is different and develops at his or her own pace, there are varying rates and patterns of development that can be considered normal. However, there is also a clear range of developmental skills that a child should achieve from birth until the age of five. These skills are different for each age range, which is why it’s so important for parents to have a checklist of developmental milestones to refer to.

To keep track of your child’s developmental milestones from birth to the age of five, download our Developmental Milestones Checklist.

Developmental delays


If a child has not gained the appropriate developmental skills expected of their age, and milestones are missed, it could indicate a developmental delay. These delays can be seen in one or more of the following areas – motor function, speech and language, cognitive, play, and social skills. The signs and symptoms of developmental delay can vary widely. Some can be noticeable even in infancy, while others may emerge or become more obvious when the child is a toddler, or at a school-going age.

Common signs of developmental delay include:


– Delayed ability in rolling over, sitting up, crawling, or walking.
– Developing and learning more slowly than other same-aged children.
– Having a speech delay or difficulties talking.
– Trouble communicating or socialising with others.
– Finding it hard to retain information or remember things.
– Unable to perform everyday tasks like brushing teeth, getting dressed or using the restroom without help.
– Challenges in connecting actions with consequences.
– Problems with problem-solving or logical thinking.

While it can be worrying and even scary for parents to realise that their child may have developmental issues, it is also very important to know for sure. With a diagnosis, parents are better equipped to find suitable treatments that can help their child uncover their best potential.

When to contact a health professional


During the early years of life, parents will regularly take their child to see a health care provider, usually at the hospital where the child was born. The main purpose of these scheduled visits is to follow the child’s growth and development. If parents have any concerns about their child’s development, or have noticed missed milestones, it is vital to bring them up during these visits. To help identify the cause of these delays, the doctor may schedule more detailed check-ups and a developmental screening. If there are areas of concern, the doctor may suggest treatments or interventions that can help improve the child’s development.

Developmental screening and early interventions


If parents suspect a developmental delay, it is best to obtain a developmental screening with a paediatric specialist as soon as possible.  While developmental delay cannot be cured, early interventions have been shown to help children catch up to their peers. And the earlier the interventions begin, the better the outcomes.

Examples of early interventions include:

Physiotherapy – To help with delays in gross motor skills.

Occupational therapy – To help with delays in fine motor skills, sensory processing and self-help issues.

Speech and language therapy – To help with problems in the areas of understanding and producing language and speech sounds.

Early Intervention Programme (EIP) – Special education for early childhood that addresses early developmental skills, including play skills.

Music therapy – To address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals.

Early interventions at The Energy Source

The Energy Source is a one-stop centre for your child’s developmental needs, comprised of a multidisciplinary team of paediatric specialists from various disciplines. Our early intervention services include physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, child psychology and our Early Intervention Programme (EIP).

The benefits of undergoing interventions within a multidisciplinary team include:

– Different fields of expertise coming together to provide consistent strategies for each child.

– Clear communication pathways among the specialists, where everyone works toward the same goals for each child.

– No breakdown of communication between therapists from different centres.

-Therapists from different disciplines can share strategies with one another to prevent confusion for the child.

– Convenient for the parent in terms of logistics and time management.

The Energy Source is your one-stop child development centre. To book a developmental screening, or to learn more about our range of early intervention services, reach out to us on the Contact page.

Reviewed by The Energy Source’s Director, Principal Physiotherapist and Sensory Practitioner, Joanna Hutt

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