Infant Development

The American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Children with Disabilities has estimated that as many as 400,000 children born each year are at risk for some form of early motor delay. Of these, approximately one of every forty children will have some true motor delay.  Why is this important? While difficulty obtaining motor milestones seems to be simply about movement, it is not.  Infants and children learn many things through movement. Put simply, they learn about themselves and their environment, how things all fit together (spacial relationships), how to interact and communicate, and how to calm themselves and feel secure..  On a more complex level it is a time of creating and reinforcing connections in the brain that will be used in all later learning.  As you can see, a lot is happening very early on.  it is a critical part of brain development.

Detecting that your child is having some difficulty is very important, and the earlier the better.  While most severe motor delays are noticeable soon after birth, milder delays may not become apparent until around 2 months of age.

There are several great development and early intervention resources available for parents and professionals. As part of their early detection series, The Center for Disease Control has a collection of free checklists that outline what infants and small children are normally able to do at certain ages.  These are easy for parents to use, and give them ideas of what to ask their pediatrician if they have concerns.  A few of them are listed here:
CDC devel checklist 2 months
CDC devel checklist 4 months
CDC devel checklist 6 months
CDC devel checklist 9 months
CDC devel checklist 1 year
CDC devel checklist 1 1/2 years
CDC devel checklist 2 years
CDC devel checklist 3 years

For professionals, The Pathways Foundation has done an excellent job of developing screening tools for families and health care professionals.  Their web site is easy to navigate and packed full of helpful information.  You can go directly The Pathways Foundation website, or review some of the materials here.  If you are not a medical professional however, it is best to remember children do not all grow or develop at the same rate.  it is normal to have some variation in the acquisition of motor skills.  Ask your physician or pediatric physical therapist if you see anything that concerns you, or for more clarification.  

Please also note, the Development Brochure is available in multiple languages, through the Pathways Foundation website.

Normal infant development pictorial brochure (this is a lovely way to track your infant's development)

Photo comparison of normal development and delayed development  of gross motor abilities in a two month old infant

Photo comparison of normal development and delayed development of gross motor abilities in a four month old infant

Overall, you can help your infant regardless, by enriching their play and knowing how to recognize their needs early on.
The Zero to Three website of the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families is a wonderful place full of ideas that parents can use immediately to help their children get the most of play and movement. They also have some great interactive tools for preparing young children for their first time to school