June 17, 2024

Why are Developmental Milestones Important for Children?


There are many ‘firsts’ celebrated during your baby’s first years of life. Their first giggle, their first steps, and so many other special moments. These moments are also referred to as developmental milestones. You may have heard this term from your pediatrician, but why are they so important?

The first 5 years of a child’s life are critical for development, their brains are growing quickly and storing tons of information. So much so that by 5 years old, 90% of their brain has already developed! The Center for Disease Control (CDC) developmental milestones checklist is a helpful tool that lists some key skills your baby should be learning from birth to age 5. These milestones were created based on the age at least 75% of children were exhibiting said skills. The goal? To help families identify any delays as early as possible. (Look for the link to the CDC’s Milestones Tracker at the end of this blog.)

Who determines if your child has a developmental delay?

It’s important to note that the CDC’s Milestone Checklist is not a guideline for a child’s development, instead, it’s meant to help families track and monitor growth so they can be proactive if delays occur. If delays are noticed, then parents should have a conversation with the pediatrician for a proper evaluation. The pediatrician will then be able to provide or refer your family for a developmental evaluation with a child psychologist or developmental pediatrician.

InBloom’s Licensed Child Psychologist Dr. Jackie Otto says, “Tracking stages help us understand whether our children are growing and maturing as expected. However, when delays persist for more than a few weeks or months it is important to seek the opinion of professionals who can help determine if early intervention is needed to bridge the developmental gap.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), developmental and behavioral screenings should be done for children at 9 months, 18 months, and 30 months during well-child visits with their pediatrician. They also recommend all children be screened for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during well-child visits at 18 months and 24 months. Early detection and intervention for developmental delay or disabilities such as autism are important to ensure the child gets the support they need as soon as possible.

Does delayed milestones mean Autism?

The short answer is, no. Every child is unique so screenings and evaluations should be completed by a trained professional, such as a pediatrician or psychologist to provide a proper diagnosis as soon as possible.

“It is important to recognize that all children develop in their own time and children may show a delay in one or more skills for a short period of time but then catch up within a matter of weeks or months. Other children experience delays that persist and require professional intervention but not all children with developmental delays have autism.”Dr. Otto, Licensed Child Psychologist

Developmental Delays vs. Autism: What’s the difference?

A developmental delay means that a child has not reached one or more developmental milestones at the expected age. These delays can occur in speech, motor skills, problem-solving, etc. While some signs of autism may look similar to developmental delays, there are some key differences.

Autism or Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurological and developmental disorder that affects communication, social interaction, learning, and more. Although no two children with autism are the same, several common types of behaviors may indicate autism.

“Persistent delays in communication skills (especially social communication), play, and behavior are present with autism. However, children can experience delays or differences in language and communication development without having autism.” – Dr. Otto, Licensed Child Psychologist

Here are some of the most common signs of autism:

  • Difficulty with social interactions
  • Repetitive or restrictive behaviors
  • Difficulties communicating
  • Sensory Sensitivity
  • Difficulty with changes in routine

In our Understanding Autism: From Early Signs to Diagnosis blog, we explain each potential sign in detail and discuss the diagnosis process.

What to do if you’re seeing signs of Autism

Discuss your concerns with your pediatrician right away. They will be able to refer a diagnosing physician or child psychologist to conduct an official evaluation.

“Being assessed by a psychologist as soon as autism is suspected is important because it is critical that children with autism receive early intervention. Good intervention partnered with the time to grow and develop makes a huge difference for children with autism.” – Dr. Otto, Licensed Child Psychologist

Autism is evaluated by professionals with experience in understanding the types of behaviors that are observed in individuals with autism. There is no one medical or psychological test that can quickly diagnose autism. The gold standard for autism evaluation includes a thorough clinical interview with parents to obtain information about the child’s developmental history and current behavior, together with direct observation of the child by the professional.

There are a variety of semi-structured observation tools that can be used to quantify autism symptoms. Such as the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule-Second Edition or ADOS-2, Childhood Autism Rating Scale- Second Edition (CARS-2), or TELE-ASD-PEDS (TAP). Autism evaluation can also include teacher interviews and gathering structured behavior checklists from both children and parents.

1 in 36 children in the U.S. diagnosed with Autism. Males are 4 times more likely to be diagnosed. Genetic factors for autism is highest for twins.
Autism Diagnostic Services at InBloom

We’re proud to provide autism diagnostic services for families in our service areas. Our in-house Licensed Child Psychologist, Dr. Otto uses the ADOS-2, a play-based assessment to diagnose children between the ages of 18 months and 3 years old.

The direct assessment usually lasts 45 minutes to 1.5 hours, depending on the child. The ADOS-2 assessment involves direct interaction with the child being evaluated to identify a pattern of behaviors consistent with autism spectrum disorder. Learn more about InBloom Diagnostic Evaluations locations or call our Care Team to schedule an evaluation at 888-754-0398.


Helpful Resources:

CDC Milestone Checklist: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html

Download the Autism Diagnosis Guide

ABA Therapy Programs at InBloom


Related Blogs:

What is ABA Therapy and How Does it Work?

What is an ABA Assessment?

Benefits of Center-Based ABA Therapy for Children with Autism



InBloom Autism Services specializes in early intervention ABA therapy for young children with autism. Our RBTs undergo training to develop a curriculum specifically designed for children aged 18 months to 5 years old. Our Learning Centers offer a safe and enjoyable environment for children to learn and interact with their peers. Find a Learning Center near you!