The early years of development can be chaotic as your child leaps from one milestone to the next — physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. You watch eagerly to ensure everything is on track, but you’re concerned that there may be certain delays, which become more evident when your child attempts to socialize.
Determining whether your child is merely shy versus struggling with social skills can be tricky as toddlers and kids develop at their own speeds. While there are no hard-and-fast checkpoints for development, there are some general rules of thumb, which the experienced team of speech therapists here at Celebrations Speech outline here.
Defining developmental delays
The first thing to understand is that developmental delays occur in about 17% of children in the United States, so they’re not at all uncommon.
The second, and arguably the more important point here, is that there are different types of developmental delays, which we divide into five categories:
- Cognitive delays or learning disabilities
- Social and emotional
- Speech and language
- Motor skills
- Daily living skills
While these categories are separate, the crossover is significant, which can make pinpointing the underlying issue tricky. As speech therapists, we obviously have extensive experience with speech and language development, but these skills can greatly influence other areas of development, as well.
For example, if your child is unable to communicate well verbally, it can greatly influence their ability to learn how to socialize or regulate emotions.
To help you better identify if there’s a potential problem, let’s take a closer look at the development of social and emotional skills.
Guidelines for social development
As your child transitions from a “bundle of joy,” who seems to only eat and sleep, into a little human with their own personality, here are some milestones to look out for:
- At three months your baby can make facial expressions
- By seven months, your child can recognize your voice and tone
- At the one-year mark, your child recognizes different people and may show preference
From the ages of one to three, your child’s social development kicks into high gear as they imitate behaviors, enjoy playing with others, and begin to learn concepts like “mine” and “yours.”
At four and five, most children begin to learn the social “rules of the road,” and interact with others well. Bear in mind, there will likely be conflict along the way as your child tests the boundaries — they’re transitioning from a world that was solely focused on their needs to a once in which they’re a presence among many.
If your child isn’t meeting some of the guidelines we outline above and seems withdrawn, prone to conflict, or unenthusiastic about interacting, it may be a sign of a social developmental delay.
Your child’s unique circumstances
Again, we want to underscore the fact that children develop social skills at different rates as there are a lot of factors that can influence the timeline. Are they an only child or one of many? Do they regularly see other kids outside of the family or only occasionally? Are there two parents at home or just one?
All of these factors can play a significant role in how your child develops social skills.
Ultimately, you know your child best and if you see that they’re struggling to socialize with others, or even regressing, it’s important to have a professional weigh in.
For expert support, we urge you to contact our team at one of our locations in Brentwood, Stockton,or Elk Grove, California, for a full evaluation.