Screening for Developmental Delays in Children

Pediatricians at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone are experienced at identifying signs of developmental delays in babies and young children. As many as 13 percent of children in the United States have developmental or behavioral conditions that can affect school readiness. Yet fewer than half of children with developmental delays are diagnosed before they begin school.

As part of a baby’s regular checkups, pediatricians conduct a simple screening exam to determine if a child has attained age-appropriate developmental milestones, such as sitting up, grasping objects, self-feeding, walking, putting together simple sentences, and interacting with others.

Doctors ask parents about the child’s mastery of these skills, and observe the child’s movement, language, speech, and behavior. They also check cognitive, social, and emotional skills during these routine well-child visits.

Developmental Milestones

Developmental milestones are skills most children should have by a certain age. Although the timing can vary from child to child, meeting these within the expected time frame means a child is developing typically.

By three months, babies should be able to:

  • Lift the head
  • Follow a moving object with the eyes
  • Grasp a small object
  • Turn toward or respond to bright colors, lights, or voices
  • Make cooing or gurgling sounds
  • Smile when smiled at; cry when hungry or uncomfortable

By six months, many children can:

  • Reach for and grasp objects
  • Pull up to a sitting position
  • Roll over
  • Imitate a person’s actions
  • Babble
  • Laugh when happy; scream when unhappy

By 12 months, most children can:

  • Drink from a cup with help and feed themselves finger foods, such as cereal
  • Sit without support
  • Stand alone for a few moments
  • Respond to music by moving the body
  • Crawl to a toy
  • Say their first word
  • Show affection for familiar adults and apprehension around strangers
  • Understand simple commands

Developmental Assessment

If you have concerns about your child, you can request a comprehensive developmental evaluation. This type of assessment can be performed at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital by a developmental–behavioral pediatrician or a pediatric psychologist.

Children under three years old with developmental delays may qualify for early intervention services offered in your state to help them reach developmental milestones. These services are offered free of charge to all young children who meet certain criteria after evaluations are performed.

Resources for Developmental Delays in Children
Discover Hassenfeld
Children’s Hospital
We partner with children and families to provide the most advanced care.
Learn More