What developmental milestones should parents usually notice?

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 23,804
    Autism expert Peggy Halliday discusses some of the developmental milestones parents should be on the lookout for.

    Peggy Halliday

    Peggy Halliday is a board certified associate behavior analyst who has specialized in autism education for the past ten years. She is the Director of Outreach Services at the Virginia Institute of Autism (VIA) in Charlottesville, VA. VIA is a non-profit organization which provides a day school and other resources for families, educators, and other professionals seeking services, training or information about autism and evidence-based interventions. The Institute operates a year-round school for students ages 2-22, a 700-volume library, training workshops, internships for undergraduate and graduate students and teachers, and customized trainings for schools. Peggy supervises a wide range of outreach services, including development and supervision of comprehensive, home-based early intervention programs incorporating naturalistic, incidental, and structured teaching using the principles of applied behavior analysis; training for parents and home instructors; skills assessments, functional behavior assessments and intervention plans, and consultation on Individual Education Plan goals. She has presented trainings and workshops at state and national conferences.

    Host: What are some of the milestones parents should be on the lookout for?

    Peggy Halliday: A couple of years ago the Center for Disease Control started a campaign to make parents, caregivers and health care professionals more aware of developmental milestones as they tend to be aware of physical milestones for babies and toddlers and the idea is, the more people are aware of the milestones children should be reaching in social skills and language as well as the physical milestones, the more apt they are to notice when there is a delay. Some of the things that they mention in their campaign or age by age what you should expect children to be doing. Now, this is only a guideline and they very carefully state that they want children that children develop at different rates. But as a rule, by about six months of age, babies turn their head in response to their name being called. They smile when they are smiled at, they initiate smile, they orient their whole body when they hear the voice of somebody that they know and is a familiar person, they orient their whole body toward that person and they may start doing some imitation.

    By 12 months of age, children should be babbling even if they do not have any individual words, there is usually babbling going on and the baby seem just -- the babies look like they know what they are saying even if nobody else does. There maybe some individual words or start the beginning of words like ma and da . At 12 months of age there will be the beginnings of imitation, there will be a real interest in -- starting to be interested in toys. Then by 18 months, we see babies having a couple of words at least. Some babies have a large number of words by 18 months and some just have a few but they are using those words with purpose, they understand what those words mean. Also, by 18 months if not sooner, we will see that joint shared attention that is so important. Babies will point to something that they are interested in and they will look back at you and then they will look back at the object to make sure you are looking at the object and sharing that excitement with them. Then conversely, if you look at an item and point and say, Look! Then the child will follow your point or your eye gaze and then they will look back at the object and back at you and they will shift their eye gaze between the object of interest and the person and that all happens -- should be happening by 18 months of age if not sooner. By 24 months, children generally have two to four word phrases that they use, they start to have an interest in other children and then by three years of age or 36 months they are really getting some emotional connectedness with their peers. They have playmates that they enjoy playing with, they have a high level of imaginary and pretend place and they speak in four to five word sentences and then by four years of age children understand just about everything that you say to them, they speak in five to six word sentences.