Learn Your Special Education Laws, Special Education Rights, and Share IEP Goal Ideas

Mar 21
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by Jess

Often, college students do not realize the relevance a class may have in other academic areas.  One example is developmental milestones of children. Pediatric nursing as well as early childhood education both focus on these aspects in their curriculum and show intertwining relevance to the respective educational and career paths. While most people realize children grow and develop, most do not comprehend the importance of assessing the process of growth and development.

Infants grow and develop in a head to toe (cephalocaudal) and from the center of the body to the extremities (proximodistal) order.  For example, an infant initially must be able to bat a mobile, then grasp the rattle before the development is advanced enough to pick up a piece of cereal with a pincer grasp.  A specific order is followed.

 It is imperative the educator as well as the health care professional know and recognize the normal order of growth and development so if an abnormality is occurring, the appropriate referrals can be made.  Many ailments or disorders can be managed and developmental milestones achieved if early intervention occurs. (Leifer, 2011)

The Denver Developmental Scale is one tool that can be utilized to identify the developmental milestones.  There are four basic areas of development:

1)      Personal-social

2)      Fine motor-adaptive

3)      Language

4)      Gross motor

The educator and health care professional need to recognize as well as educate the family or caregiver that not all children will grow and develop at the same rate.  Growth spurts occur and while one child may be the first one to walk, he or she may not talk while the other child is stringing a few words together.

Here are some typical development milestones that educators and health care professionals should be aware of. 

Age Physical (fine and gross motor) Intellectual  (cognitive) Language Personal and  Social

(Birth - 12 months)

Grows about 1 inch per month during the first year

Learns to roll over, sit up, crawl and walk

Object permanence develops 

Uses trial and error to solve problems

Communicates needs through crying 

Uses gestures and facial expressions to communicate

Recognizes familiar people Enjoys interaction from children and adults 

Stranger anxiety develops 


(12-36 month)

Continues to refine large and small motor skills 

Has an abundance of energy for physical activity

Begins to develop self help skills

Understands and follows simple directions

Solitary and parallel play emerges

Names some body parts

Receptive language develops first

Speech moves from telegraphic to short sentences

Vocabulary develops to include about 300 words

Imitates others 

Struggle for independence results in constant "no", "me do it"

Responds to frustrations with tantrums 

The Preschoolers Years 

(3 - 5 years) 

Physical growth slows down, large and small motor skills more refined

Experiments with drawing and writing

Begins to understand and follow rules 

Curiosity drives learning of new concepts and facts 

Speech develops into longer understandable sentences

Enjoys stories, comprehension skills grow 

Social skills such as sharing and empathy develops 

Enjoys group activities as social skills develop 


Developmental Delays

A developmental delay occurs when a child has delayed achievement in one of more areas.  Careful observation of children in their home or child care environments, periodic developmental screenings and well child checkups can be used to raise concern about a possible development delay.  A more through assessment should then be performed by professionals such as pediatricians or therapists.

An early intervention program should then be consulted and an IEP intervention plan that parents, child and heath care providers, and therapists can follow. Development delays that go untreated tend to get worse and will affect children learning and behavior.  When early intervention occurs, children can catch up to their typically development peers.


Leifer, G. (2011).  Introduction to Maternity & Pediatric Nursing.  St. Louis, MO:  Elsevier Suanders.

Frankenburg, W. K. (1990).  Denver II.  Denver, CO:  Denver Developmental Materials, Inc.

Reschke, K. (2002) Ages and Stages for Caregivers Fact Sheets. Retrieved from http://ohioline.osu.edu/asc-fact/ASC9.pdf

About the Authors: Lauren Drakes, MS, is an Early Childhood Education Program Coordinator at Rasmussen College-School of Education. She heads the Early Childhood Education degree program at Rasmussen College in Pasco County, FL. Lauren has been in the field of early childhood education for more than 20 years.

Karen Vaughn-Kerns ARNP, CNM, MS is a full-time instructor for the School of Nursing at Rasmussen College at Rasmussen College in Pasco County, FL.  She has worked in the field of obstetrics and gynecology for over 20 years.

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