Understand Your Child’s Development

Reviewed by: The My Child Without Limits Medical Advisory Committee September 2009

If you suspect your child may not be developing normally, it’s important to talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Often times children are not diagnosed with a developmental delays or disabilities until they are 2-3 years old. These late diagnoses are a missed opportunity for children. Studies have found that children who receive early intervention services are more likely to lead a typical life.

1) How do I know if my baby is developing normally?

Print out our Developmental Milestones Chart to see how quickly babies typically progress. If your child is falling behind, or if something else seems to be wrong, be sure to consult your doctor.

2) My doctor thinks we should wait to do an evaluation, what can I do?

a) Get a second opinion. You can ask for a referral to a developmental pediatrician, a doctor that specializes in the development of infants. This doctor can give your child an evaluation.

b) Contact an Early Childhood Direction Center or Early Intervention Service Provider in your area through our Resource Locator. While services often vary by state, each state has an office that can provide you with information. They can also schedule an evaluation to determine if you child needs services.

3) What is an evaluation and what does it do?

There are many different types of evaluations to determine if your child is not functioning at a normal level. Standardized tests are the most common way to find out if a child has a developmental delay. The tests cover areas including:

  • Communication – Is your baby expressing wants and needs? Can you understand what your baby is trying to ask you?
  • Social/Emotional – Does your baby interact with you or others? Does your baby act appropriately in social situations? Can he or she calm down after being upset?
  • Physical/Motor development – Is your baby trying to sit up, crawl, hold objects in his or her hands?
  • Self-help skills – Is your toddler they attempting to feed, toilet, or dress himself or herself?
  • Cognitive Readiness Skills – Does your child use problem-solving skills? Can he or she identify numbers or letters?

An evaluation typically includes:

  • An interview with you about what you’ve observed. Provide as much information as possible. Refer to your notes if you have them, but it’s OK not to have all of the answers.
  • A review of your child’s medical history. The doctor may have requested the information from the hospital (the doctor will need your permission) or you may be asked to bring as much information as you have.
  • Standardized testing to see if your child is functioning at the same levels as the typical child.

You have the right to be present for the evaluation and have a full copy of the report once completed. If you are not happy with the evaluation, you can ask for a second one to be completed.

4) The evaluation says my child has a delay. What do I do now?

Early intervention services are here to support you and your baby. Your doctor may refer you to an Early Intervention program or you can locate one in your area by using the My Child Without Limits Resource Locator. Speak with an intake coordinator about getting started with services.

You should be asked to attend a meeting called an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP) to make sure that your child gets the help he or she needs. More information about developmental delays can also be found here.

5) My Child has been diagnosed with a developmental disability. What do I do now?

Again, the most important thing that you should do is find early intervention services that can help your child. Follow all the steps outlined in question four above. You can also learn more about your child’s disability by following the appropriate links below: