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Parents Urged to Track Motor Development Skills at 9,18,30 Months of Age to Detect Delays: AAP

May 27, 2013 02:31 PM EDT

(Photo : Creative Commons via Flickr/USAG-Humphreys)

Each child is unique in how long it takes to develop motor skills including sitting, walking, and speaking.  A new clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), said Monday that early recognition of delays can help optimize positive outcomes.

The report published in Pediatrics, medical experts say pediatricians need to thoroughly evaluate young children who are considered to be experiencing an obvious delay in motor skill development. The guideline report suggested developmental screenings at 9, 18 and 30 months of age, and again at four years of age. The AAP said treating any developmental issues early on may ultimately improve the child's ability to catch up and help families gain additional support.

"Identifying children with delays and motor abnormalities, theoretically or hopefully would set them on a better trajectory," said Meghann Lloyd, who studies motor development at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa, Canada, according to Reuters Health.

This is "a really big step forward for the field," added Lloyd, who was not involved with the report.

A motor skill is any action that involves a child using his muscles. Gross motor skills are larger movements a baby makes with his arms, legs, or feet, or his entire body. This includes crawling, running and jumping are gross motor skills. Meanwhile, fine motor skills are smaller actions which includes picking things up between his finger and thumb or wriggles his toes. This also includes using his lips and tongue to taste and feel objects which develops fine motor skills. The report authors said that both parents and their pediatrician should be involved in looking for signs of developmental motor skill delays, and that it is important for pediatricians to address concerns of the child's family.

During well child checkups, pediatricians should measure head size and look at muscle tone, reflexes and eye movements, which can be signs of motor skill delays, the authors urged. Children who are diagnosed with a developmental disorder should have access to early intervention and special education resources.

Having poor motor skills in general "sets you on a trajectory for low levels of physical activity, which of course is related to obesity," Lloyd said. "The prevention of these delays or the promotion of motor ability can actually impact your health for your lifespan."

Below is an average checklist of motor skill developments:

  • 6 months - can sit straight
  • 12 months - takes first steps
  • 24 months - can jump
  • 36 months - can cut with scissors; runs on toes

Click here for a detailed list of motor skill development with an age breakdown.

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