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Be Alert!

Parents should note social, emotional and communication milestones to ensure their babies are developing normally.(File photo)

The last thing any parent wants to hear is that their child may have a developmental disability. For most, such news triggers emotions ranging from denial or disbelief, to depression, anger and frustration.

But eventually, concern emerges as the dominant reaction, one that presents an opportunity to gather facts and second opinions -- confirmation as to whether there is indeed cause for your concern.

Generally we're familiar with physical developmental milestones in babies, such as weight, height, sitting, rolling, speaking and walking. But just as these are important, so too are the social and communication development indicators, such as smiling, pointing, and enjoying social interaction.

While every child is different and develops individually, there are still milestones that all children should reach within a certain time-range. According to the Centre for Disease Control, the hallmarks of vital social, emotional and communication development are clear:

At 4 months your baby should:

  • follow and react to bright colours, movements and objects;
  • turn towards sounds;
  • show interest in watching people's faces;
  • smile back when smiled at.

At 6 months your baby should:

  • relate to you with real joy;
  • smile often while playing with you;
  • coo and babble when happy;
  • cry when unhappy.

At 12 months your baby should:

  • use gestures to indicate needs - like giving, showing, reaching or pointing;
  • play peek-a-boo, patty-cake or other social games;
  • make sounds like "ma", "ba", "na", "da", and "ga";
  • turn to the speaker in response to hearing his / her name.

At 18 months your baby should:

  • use numerous gestures with words to have needs met - e.g., pointing to a cup and saying "juice";
  • use at least four consonants in babbly words, such as m, n, p, t and d;
  • use and understand at least ten words;
  • acknowledge the names of familiar people or body parts by pointing to, or looking at them, when named.

At 24 months your baby should:

  • enjoy pretend-play with you, or talking to and for dolls or action figures;
  • use simple phrases and two- to four-word sentences;
  • repeat words overheard in conversation;
  • enjoy interaction with children of a similar age and show interest in playing with them - perhaps using/showing/sharing toys;
  • look for familiar objects that are out of sight when asked for them.

At 36 months your baby should:

  • spontaneously show emotion for familiar playmates;
  • enjoy pretend-play - like cooking, feeding dolls or fixing cars;
  • understand placement in space ("on," "in," "under");
  • answer what, where, when and who questions easily;
  • talk about past, present and future interests and feelings.

The early identification of developmental concerns permits parents, guardians and teachers to seek intervention during this crucial early development period. For a comprehensive list of developmental milestones, visit and

As parents, we know our children best. Thus if your child is not meeting age-related milestones or if you think there could be a problem with the way your child plays, learns, speaks, or acts, talk to your child's doctor and share your concerns. You may also contact Carol Bennett at the Cayman Islands Early Intervention Programme on 947-5454 or Don't wait!


For further information contact: Kenisha Morgan