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What to Expect as Your Child Develops by Michele Opper, Ph.D.

As a mother of three, I understand the concerns that all parents face as their child starts to develop. Should he or she be walking by now? Why does my friend's daughter speak more words than my daughter? Should my child be interacting more with his or her peers?

These are all good questions and although children develop at different rates, there is a range of what is “normal” or “typical” at every stage of development. See below for a sampling of some of the skills that develop during the first three years of life. 1,2

What are some of the expected skills in children that emerge at 18 months old?

  • Use lots of gestures with words to get needs met, like pointing or taking you by the hand and saying, “want juice.”

  • Use at least four different consonants in babbling or words, such as m, n, p, b, t, and d.

  • Use and understand at least 10 words.

  • Show that he or she knows the names of familiar people or body parts by pointing to or looking at them when they are named.

  • Do simple pretend play, like feeding a doll or stuffed animal, and attracting your attention by looking up at you.

  • Drinks from a cup

  • Eats with a spoon

  • Can follow 1-step verbal commands without any gestures; for example, sits when you say “sit down”

  • May walk up steps and run

What are some of the expected skills in children that emerge at 24 months old?

  • Begins to sort shapes and colors

  • Plays simple make-believe games

  • Builds towers of 4 or more blocks

  • Do pretend play with you with more than one action, like feeding the doll and then putting the doll to sleep

  • Use and understand at least 50 words

  • Use at least two words together (without imitating or repeating) and in a way that makes sense, like “want juice”

  • Enjoy being next to children of the same age and show interest in playing with them, perhaps giving a toy to another child

  • Look for familiar objects out of sight when asked

  • Jumps with two feet off the ground

What are some of the expected skills in children that emerge at 36 months old?

  • Can work toys with buttons, levers, and moving parts

  • Plays make-believe with dolls, animals, and people

  • Does puzzles with 3 or 4 pieces

  • Understands what “two” means

  • Copies a circle with pencil or crayon

  • Enjoy pretending to play different characters with you or talking for dolls or action figures

  • Enjoy playing with children of the same age, perhaps showing and telling another child about a favorite toy

  • Use thoughts and actions together in speech and in play in a way that makes sense, like “sleepy, go take nap” and “baby hungry, feed bottle”

  • Answer “what,” “where,” and “who” questions easily

  • Talk about interests and feelings about the past and the future

If you have a concern about your child it is important to seek out help in a timely fashion and intervene as early as possible. Many parents prefer to “wait and see,” but the research suggests otherwise 1,2:

  • Numerous studies have shown that the infant brain is developing rapidly during the first years of life and environmental stimulation has a positive effect on a child’s overall functioning

  • Early intervention’s positive outcome has been well-documented in the literature and goes far beyond IQ.

  • Making sure your child stays on an appropriate trajectory gives them the best opportunity for success in school and in life

  • By not receiving timely interventions for concerns around language, behavior, and social connectedness, the problems will not go away, but will worsen over time.

  • It is not only autism that parents need to be concerned about; a study by the CDC from 1997-2008 showed that the prevalence of any developmental disability was approximately 14 percent

-Michele Opper, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in both New Jersey and New York and a licensed school psychologist as well. She also holds an advanced certificate in school psychology and a bilingual extension (Spanish) in New York. She has been practicing in the field of psychology for approximately eighteen years and recently opened up an office in Waldwick, NJ. Dr. Opper has worked with children of all ages conducted developmental evaluations and psycho-educational assessments. She developed a niche working with infants, toddlers, and preschoolers in addition to school-age children. Dr. Opper specializes in the diagnosis of learning disabilities, autism spectrum disorders, anxiety disorders, ADHD, and behavioral disorders.





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