Has Your Child Missed a Milestone?

At birth, each child begins an extraordinary and unique journey marked with fun “firsts” and important milestones. While every child will not meet every milestone at the same time, there are certain guidelines that can help parents and healthcare providers monitor healthy growth and development.

Child Development Checklist

A good example of these guidelines is found on the Southern New Jersey Regional Early Intervention Collaborative website.

The milestones in this list are broken down into 4 month segments (0-4 months, 4-8 months, and so on) and are categorized by skill type (social/emotional, movement, fine motor, vision, language, hearing and speech), so you can see at-a-glance what healthy child development looks like throughout the first 36 months.

Virtua licensed clinical social worker and certified child-life specialist, Alice Jannini, LCSW, CCLS, says: “It’s important for parents to be aware of these kinds of checklists, but it’s even more important for them to bring up any concerns at the pediatrician’s office.”

During a well-child visit, it’s not always possible for the doctor to observe every facet of the child’s development. “Don’t feel like you need to minimize any concerns you’re having,” says Jannini. “You know your child best, and are your child’s best advocate.”

If you, or your pediatrician, feel your child should be evaluated for Early Intervention services, it’s time to take the next step.

Referral and Evaluation

Calling the Southern New Jersey Regional Early Intervention Collaborative at 1-888-653-4463 will connect you to an intake coordinator who will ask a series of questions to determine if your child meets the criteria for an Early Intervention evaluation. If so, they will schedule your child’s evaluation, to be conducted during a home visit by two or more child development experts.

“Depending on your child’s issues, you may be visited by a physical or occupational therapist, a speech therapist or a special education teacher, a social worker or a behavior specialist,” says Jannini. “We take a multidisciplinary approach to the home-based evaluation, using play and the child’s everyday routines and interactions to better understand his/her development issues.”

If your child is found to have a significant delay in one area of development, or a mild or moderate delay in two or more areas, they may qualify for Early Intervention services. If this happens, you’ll be assigned a service coordinator, who will work with you to develop an Individual Family Service Plan (IFSP). The evaluation and IFSP meeting(s) are conducted at no cost to families.

The Individual Family Service Plan

The services recommended in an IFSP generally come at some cost to the family, but usually on a sliding-scale basis according to family size and income. These services are tailored to help the child reach the goals agreed upon by the parents and providers during the initial IFSP meeting.

“From there, we continue working collaboratively with the family to ensure the child is benefiting from their services,” says Jannini. “Every six months, we review and re-evaluate the plan and the progress made toward each goal.”

What Next?

For children with milder developmental delays, they may make enough progress to transition out of the Early Intervention Program before their third birthday. For those with ongoing issues, a transition plan is initiated when the child is approximately two-and-a-half years old.

“We make sure the child will have access to the services they need wherever they’re going next, whether it be into private therapy, a preschool program, or a local school district,” says Jannini. “It’s set up to be a seamless process.”

Updated December 29, 2017