Before we dive into what developmental milestones are, we should probably start by addressing the first and most common question I get asked. “What is Occupational Therapy, anyway?” If you’re like most people you’ve probably asked yourself this when hearing about the profession in daily conversation or even hearing your doctor say “I think your child may need the help of an Occupational Therapist”. The technical answer to this question is as follows; Occupation refers to activities that support the health, well-being and development of an individual. (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2014) Huh? Activities? I know, the definition isn’t exactly clear cut but luckily, I’m here to clarify this for you. An Occupational Therapist can assist your child in the following areas;

  • Fine Motor (Handwriting, Dexterity & Precision)
  • Gross Motor (Balance & Coordination)
  • Sensory Processing (Vestibular, Proprioception, Tactile, Auditory & Visual)
  • ADL (Activities of Daily Living) Dressing, Bathing, Toilet Training & Feeding
  • Life Skill Preparation

Occupational Therapists use daily activities in such a way that they help you or your child reach their goals, which in most cases is fixing a deficit or getting back to daily routines with maximal independence. For example, if your child’s teacher has just recently told you that your child is not exactly “age appropriate with their handwriting and just can’t sit still during circle time to save their life”, an OT may be just the person to call. If you child is behind in their development, whether this is due to an official diagnosis or not, an Occupational Therapist is there to help.  Below you will find a list of Developmental Milestones that can help you determine if your child could benefit from OT.

Developmental Milestones

0-3 Months

  • Opens & Closes Hands
  • Grasps a Rattle
  • Brings Hands to Mouth
  • Imitates some facial expressions and movements
  • Begins to smile

3-7 Months

  • Social Interaction
  • Reaches with one hand
  • Transfers objects from one hand to the other
  • Uses a raking grasping pattern
  • Finger feeds
  • Finds partially hidden objects
  • Explores objects with Mouth
  • Babbles

7-12 Months

  • Uses a pincer grasp for small items
  • Places objects into a container (shape sorter)
  • Bangs objects together at midline
  • Begins to use functional objects correctly (drinking from a cup, attempting to brush hair and wash body during bath time)
  • Understands the word, “NO”!
  • Responds to one step directives with gesture “give me block”

12-18 Months

  • Dumps out a container, turning it upside down
  • Uses an open cup and a sippy cup
  • Eats with a spoon
  • Imitates housework (pretends to vacuum like mom or dad)
  • Demonstrates appropriate separation anxiety
  • Points to objects and pictures when asked to identify them. “where is the baby?”

18 – 24 Months

  • Separation anxiety begins to dissipate (Mom can leave and the child can settle appropriately)
  • Scribbles on Paper
  • Builds a tower with 5-6 or more blocks
  • Demonstrates a dominant hand
  • Helps undress
  • Pulls off socks & shoes
  • Eats a variety of solid foods
  • Starts to sort by shape and color
  • Uses 2-4 word sentences & simple phrases

24-36 Months

  • Separates easily from parents
  • Makes beginning pre-writing strokes (horizontal, vertical,) attempts shapes
  • Uses a developing tripod grasping pattern
  • Turns pages one at a time
  • Completes a 4-6 piece puzzle
  • Undresses self
  • Begins to potty-train
  • Understand orientation in space (in, on , under)
  • Catches a large ball lightly thrown

3-4 Years

  • Correctly names colors
  • Understands “Same” & “Different”
  • Completed all pre-writing strokes (circle, square)
  • Begins to copy large letters
  • Cuts on a solid line
  • Draws an image of self with up to 4 body parts
  • Can manipulate scissors and start cutting
  • Dressing and undresses independently
  • Speaks Clearly

4-5 Years

  • Copies a triangle and other shapes
  • Draw a complete picture of self
  • Prints all upper-case letters
  • Cuts on the line consistently
  • Uses a fork & spoon appropriately
  • Zips up jacket Independently
  • Can count to 10+ easily
  • Can say name, phone number and address
  • Aware of gender, “she, he”

5-6 Years

  • Draws a person in detail
  • Writes the alphabet
  • Copies more detailed shapes (diamonds)
  • Ties shoes Independently
  • Masters buttons and fasteners
  • Aware of others feelings and responds to them
  • Increasing ability to care for self (more Independent with cleaning room, dressing, getting ready for school.)
  • Developing reading skills well
  • Dynamic tripod grasp- (held with thumb, index and middle fingers, with ring & pinky fingers curled into palm)

6-7 Years

  • Can solve simple math problems
  • Understands the difference between right and wrong
  • Follows directions appropriately
  • Strong with paper and pencil tasks
  • Able to solve more complex problems
  • Uses several thousand words in their vocabulary

“So, I think my child is behind with meeting their milestones, what do I do now?” This is a question I hear a lot. A concerned parent has either heard during parent-teacher conferences that their child was not able to keep up with the rest of the class whether it is due to their handwriting or their inability to sit still or pay attention during class or their pediatrician is concerned that they are behind schedule. No matter how you determine that your child is behind with their developmental milestones, it’s always concerning and typically very worrisome.

I understand how stressful this can be and therefore I offer free screenings. A free screening gives you the chance to ask a professional Occupational Therapist if services are needed to help your child get back on track. A free screening typically will last no more than half hour and will help point you in the right direction.

Call to schedule your FREE SCREENING today!

Megan Baumdicker, MS, OTR/L
Occupational Therapist
847-450-0524 x113