Signs You May Have a Special Needs Child

You may hear the phrase often that, “every child is different”. Sometimes it may be a bit comforting if perhaps your child’s navel string took a bit longer to fall off. Or perhaps your baby’s first tooth hasn’t come out as soon as your neighbor’s child.

Being different is expected to a certain degree for infants, but there are times when you may question, “When does being different indicate special needs versus just being a late bloomer?” Here are some signs that your child may have special needs.

Signs You May Have a Special Needs Child | Parents On Demand

Developmental milestone and delays not to ignore

Every child goes by their own internal development clock and shouldn’t be compared with another child. There are milestones or developmental markers that are usually used to keep their development in check. These milestones should by no means become millstones around our necks if our children don’t seem to develop ‘within range’. They are mere guidelines. Your child’s pediatrician should be better able to tell you when to seek further help if there may be a case for special needs.

During infancy, the most common developmental milestones to expect are:

AgeSocial and EmotionalCommunicationCognitivePhysical DevelopmentDo not ignore if...
0-2 monthsSmiles at people. Tries to look into your eyesCoos and gurgles. Responds to sounds.Is attentive to people’s faces. Follows objects with eyes. Gets bored or fussy if not stimulated.Tries to hold head up when lying on tummy.
Arm and leg movements are less rigid.
Is unresponsive to loud sounds.
Doesn’t follow objects with eyes.
Doesn’t attempt to push head up when on tummy.
2-6 monthsRecognizes familiar faces. Starts playing with others. Responds when others are happy. Responds to image of self in a mirror.Tries to mimic sounds. Babbles “ah”, “eh” and “oh” sounds while taking turns with parent to make sounds. Responds to name. Expresses joy and displeasure. Tries sounding consonants with like “d”, “m” or “b”.Looks around at nearby objects. Expresses curiosity about things within reach. Pass items from one hand to the other.Rolls over in either direction. Starts sitting up unassisted and unsupported.
Attempts to stand, supporting weight on legs and may bounce.
Doesn’t attempt to grab objects within reach. Shows little affection to familiar faces.
Has difficulty bringing things to mouth. Makes no vowel sounds. Doesn’t attempt to roll over. Doesn’t laugh or squeal.
6-12 monthsRecognizes familiar faces. Starts playing with others. Responds when others are happy. Responds to image of self in a mirror.Tries to mimic sounds. Babbles “ah”, “eh” and “oh” sounds while taking turns with parent to make sounds.
Responds to name.
Expresses joy and displeasure.
Tries sounding consonants with like “d”, “m” or “b”.
Looks around at nearby objects. Expresses curiosity about things within reach. Pass items from one hand to the other.Rolls over in either direction. Starts sitting up unassisted and unsupported.
Attempts to stand, supporting weight on legs and may bounce.
Doesn’t attempt to grab objects within reach. Shows little affection to familiar faces. Has difficulty bringing things to mouth. Makes no vowel sounds. Doesn’t attempt to roll over. Doesn’t laugh or squeal.
12 monthsCries when parent or caregiver leaves.
Makes sound for attention. Stretches out arm or leg when being dressed. Engages in playful games.
Responds to small requests. Uses basic gestures like shaking head for “no”. Says double-syllable words like “mama”, “dada” or “uh-oh!”.Explores objects by shaking, banging, throwing. Identifies pictures of objects or animals when named.
Mimics gestures.
Lets go of things unassisted.
Pulls up to stand or walks. Starts taking steps without assistance or support.Can’t crawl. Can’t stand with support. Doesn’t say any double syllable words. Doesn’t gesticulate or point at objects.
Loses skills that he/she once had.

Signs You May Have a Special Needs Child | Parents On Demand

What can I do now?

Firstly, as your child’s primary caregiver, continue to monitor their progress as they grow and be keen to identify significant delays in their development which may indicate special needs. Although milestones shouldn’t be used as a strict benchmark, they are still quite helpful when your child isn’t developing as you would expect. If you are at all concerned, reach out to your child’s pediatrician for guidance.

Secondly, ask your child’s pediatrician about developmental screening. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends general developmental screening for children using standardized and validated tools at ages 9, 18 and 24 or 30 months. For autism, it recommends screening at 18 and 24 months. In all cases, it’s best to speak with your child’s pediatrician if you or your child’s provider have concerns about special needs, despite their age.

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