Childhood is not a race, every child develops at their own pace, and each step is significant and important. Childhood is a small window of time to learn, develop and grow at your own speed, which is right for each child.
Babies develop at their own pace, so you mustn't compare your child with that of others. However, there are some early warning signs to watch out for that may indicate future challenges for your child, and the earlier these are spotted, the better.
Early intervention is crucial and the sooner a possible delay is addressed, there is a better chance of your child receiving the care and support they need to thrive and improve their quality of life.
If you're unsure what to look out for, here are some of the most common signs that may indicate your child could have additional needs and require extra help.
Lack of eye contact
At around three months old, a baby can follow the movements of their caregiver as they move about in the distance but don't expect a long focused look. However, by ten months old, your baby should be able to follow all objects visually for longer periods.
Doesn't coo or smile
Taking a little longer to smile is perfectly normal; however, by three months, your baby should smile back at you. If your child consistently fails to laugh or smile even for others, consider it a red flag.
Both babies and toddlers adore imitating the actions of others, and your baby is no exception. From around six months, your baby will start engaging with you and copying your actions such as sticking out their tongue and clapping hands.
By three months old, your baby should react to loud noises, and by six months, they should be turning their head or eyes towards the source of sounds and following it around the room.
Lack of words
Not only is hearing your baby babble adorable, but it is also a baby's way of letting you know that their language skills are developing accordingly. As a general rule, babies should begin putting sounds or baby jargon together between 6 to 12 months and sounds can vary from short to long sequences and repeated syllables such as "ba ba ba" and "ma ma ma."
Other signs to watch out for include:
- Having difficulties holding their head up by three months old.
- Repeating behaviours like self-harming such as biting and/or headbanging.
- By one, your child may need extra help if they have difficulties sitting, standing or reaching out for objects of any kind.
Signs and symptoms vary from child to child and sometimes it can be obvious your child has additional needs while other times it won't be so clear. Trust your instinct. After all, you know your child best.
If you are concerned about your child's development at any stage, get in touch with your public health nurse who will perform an 'ages and stages questionnaire'. If any issues arise, they will look at your child's development in more detail by referring you to the right services.