Developmental milestones are a state of functional skills or age-specific tasks that most children can do at a certain age range. These milestones are vital indicators for checking the progress of a child’s development. The development skills in developmental milestones are categorized under four primary domains; the physical, cognitive, social and emotional (Zastrow & Karen 64).
To begin with, the physical development consists of the development of the body structure which includes muscles, bones and organ systems. Generally, it comprises of: the sensory development which deals with the organ systems that underlie the senses and perception; motor development which is concerned with muscle action; and, the nervous system which co-ordinates the perception and movement. The motor activity is dependent upon muscle strength and co-ordination with gross motor activities such as walking and standing involving the large body muscles while finer motor activities such as speech, vision involve the relatively smaller muscles of the body. The central nervous system plays a vital role in the co-ordination and control of both the large and small muscle activities (115).
Sensory development as postulated by Zastrow & Karen includes the development of basic senses of touch, smell, taste, hearing and the co-ordination and integration of the perceptual input from these systems by the central nervous system (124). It is vital to note that vision is composed of both the sensory and motor activities and that muscles regulate the physical structures of the eye so as to permit focusing with neurological pathways assisting in the transmission of visual input to the brain.
Cognitive development is the second form of the developmental milestone. It is at times referred to as intellectual or mental development. Cognitive activities include thinking, reasoning, memory, abstract thinking, perception, concept development and problem-solving ability. The language factor, a significant and complicated component of cognitive development, requires symbolization and memory. It is important to differentiate language and speech as they are controlled by different parts of the brain. Understanding and formulating language is a complex cognitive activity as opposed to speech which entails motor activity (Pine 4-5).
A child’s interaction with other people as well as his or her involvement in social groups is a perfect description of social development, a fourth component of the development milestone. The earliest social task is attachment which further defines the development of relationships with adults and peers, the assumption of an existing moral system and the productive role in society.
The last concept is emotional development which includes the development of personal traits and characteristics, including personal identity, the ability to enter into reciprocal emotional relationships, self-esteem and mood and effect that are appropriate for one’s age and the situation as a whole (6).
Developmental Milestones at Infancy
An infant is a child of up to two years of age. A child in this age range adopts and develops several attributes which are fundamental for their individual growth and development. The physical, emotional, cognitive and social developmental skills are the main focal changes of an infant. This are indicated by various abilities and coping strategies.
From birth to one year, Pine discusses that an infant develops control and mastery over his or her body in both fine and gross motor skills. This primary task culminates towards the end of the first year in walking. Between one and two years, the infant perfects the gross and fine motor skills that emerged in the first year by developing balance, stability, improved ability to manipulate objects and stability (7).
Cognition begins with alertness, recognitions, awareness and interest in visual, auditory and tactile stimuli from birth to one year. As motor development improves, the infant starts to explore and manipulate objects and develops a basic understanding of their properties. Object permanence is developed towards the end of the first year. The emergence of symbolic thought, central to cognitive development, results in the ability to understand and produce language is manifested between one and two years of age (Zastrow & Karen 111).
The development of attachment to the primary caretaker such as the child’s mother is the most important undertaking of infants aged below one year. From one to two years, a child develops affectionate and trusting relationships with other family members other than the mother, and engages in simple games (150).
During the first year, an infant develops basic trust which is derived from the positive attachment between an infant and the primary caregiver, often the foundation of emotional development. Until the age of two years, the primary developmental task involves the development of autonomy which includes mastery and control over oneself and the adjacent environment (67). Children at this age develop a rudimentary self-concept and consequentially experience pride and pleasure of being ‘good,’ and ashamed or embarrassed at being ‘bad.’
The developmental milestone process that has been discussed adequately foresees the development of infants and transcends a long range of an individual’s life. The processes occurring at each of these levels may very to a large extent based on the external environment as well as hereditary factors. The development process is also challenged by disorders that occur and affect the acquisition of skills and consistent progress of the co-ordination process. Autism, a developmental disorder is discussed below.
Childhood autism, otherwise known as autistic disorder or infantile autism occurs commonly to infants and toddlers (Bolton & Simon 22). It is characterized by impaired verbal and non-verbal communication, social interaction, some form of repetitive and controlled stereotyped interest, ritual, or other behavior. Children affected by autism experience extreme difficulty in developing normal relationships with other people. They are isolated from their peers’ interests, are unable to interpret non-verbal communication cues such as facial expressions and struggle with language and speech development.
The ratio of prevalence of autistic children is about eight for every ten thousand children, with about one in every three exhibiting some form of pervasive disorder, which displays some of the autistic symptoms. Its major causes include genetic, traumatic and infectious factors (Stanley 38).
Autistic symptoms are greatly varied however a general pattern is evidenced among the affected, for example, autistic infants may act relatively normal during their first few months of life before becoming less responsive to stimuli and their parents, they may experience difficulties in toilet training, may fail to recognize their parents faces and be resistant to being cuddled; secondly, they isolate from their fellow children and avoid playing games with them; thirdly, verbal and non-verbal communication develop peculiarly; they also develop extreme resistance changes as they desire to maintain the already established behavioral patterns; and further exhibit poor judgment hence highly vulnerable to risks (Bolton & Simon 74-104).
Treatment of Autism
The treatment of autism requires appropriate early intervention. The parents and physicians have to discuss what is best for the child. In most scenarios, the parents are encouraged to take care of their children at home. There are also special education classes available for autistic children. Additionally, structured behavioral based programs, geared towards patient’s developmental level are provided as an option. In order to treat specific symptoms like seizures, hyperactivity, and extreme mood changes, medication is recommended (Stanley 45).
Development milestones define the different stages that contribute to the growth of the human being, from childhood to adulthood. The developments at each range of the development process are clearly outlined with eminent differential variations influenced by the genetic make up and adjacent environment. This document conclusively discussed the developmental milestones and their visible indicators at infancy, autism as a developmental disorder and its treatment options.
Bolton, P., and Simon, B. Autism: the facts. Oxford: Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993.
Pine, Daniel, S. “Classification of Child and Adolescent Psychopathology.” Journal of
Child Psychology and Psychiatry 37 (2006): 3-12.
Stanley, I. “Executive Function Deficits in Children with Autism.” Journal of
Development and Learning Disorder 7 (2003): 37-56.
Zastrow, C., and Karen, K. Understanding Human Behavior and the Social
Environment USA: Cengage Learning, 2009.
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