Walking & Verbal Developmental Milestones in Infants and Children

by Suzanne Robin

    Parents often applaud each new milestone in their child's life as if that child was the first to ever accomplish that milestone. While it's easy to go overboard over your child's achievements, you should applaud physical and verbal milestones such as walking and saying a few words, which indicate that your baby is developing normally. Children who don't reach developmental milestones at the expected age could have health problems or other issues that deserve investigation.

    Starting to Walk

    Parents treasure the first step, but the ability to ambulate on his own depends on accomplishing a series of other motor skills first. The process begins when your baby first learns to hold him upright, and continues as he learns to pull himself up, walk around furniture and finally, let go and take off on his own. If your baby is slow to do the first steps, he'll probably walk late in comparison to the neighbor's kid as well. If he is ahead of his peers on learning to sit and stand, he'll probably walk earlier, too. While 50 percent of babies walk by 12 months, most babies will walk somewhere between the ages of 9 and 16 months, according to the AskDr.Sears website.

    Potential Problems

    If your baby hasn't made steady progress from sitting to crawling to standing to walking without assistance by 16 months, talk to your doctor. He might just a slow physical developer, or he might have a physical or developmental issue that needs evaluation, such as low muscle tone. Physical therapy can help with gross motor delays. Active and impulsive kids who walk early are sometimes but not always more accident-prone than cautious kids who walk later, according to the Early Intervention Support website.

    Verbal Milestones

    The crowning verbal achievement of the first year is often the proper use of the words "Mama" or "Dada," but the process of learning to talk, like the process of walking, actually starts much earlier. A baby should start to babble by 3 to 4 months. By 1 year, your baby should say one word, usually Mama or Dada. He should also show that he understands what you're saying, by looking at something you tell him to or by waving bye-bye. By age 2, most toddlers use between 50 and 100 words, and can combine two words to make a sentence, such as "Ball gone," according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    Potential Speech Issues

    Around 20 percent of children are late talkers, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Speech delays persist in 5 to 10 percent of preschoolers, notes the University of Michigan Health System. While late talkers can be perfectly normal and catch up to their peers eventually, if your baby doesn't babble, if your child doesn't say any meaningful words by 18 months, or if he uses words and then stops talking, discuss his speech with your doctor. Hearing problems as well as issues such as auditory processing disorders can cause speech delay. Working with a speech therapist can help your child develop verbal skills.

    About the Author

    Suzanne Robin is a registered nurse with more than 25 years of experience in oncology, labor/delivery, neonatal intensive care, infertility and ophthalmology. Robin also has extensive experience working in home health with developmentally delayed or medically fragile children. Robin received her RN degree from Western Oklahoma State College. Robin has coauthored and edited numerous books for the Wiley "Dummies" series.

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