AGES & STAGES – INDIVIDUAL DIFFERENCES
Developmental milestones give a general idea about what to expect from children of different ages. However, there will always be differences between individual children. Some children begin to walk at 10 months, some at 15 months. Some toddle along quickly and smoothly, getting the “hang of it” right away. Others fall down a lot, hesitate, or even give up for a few days. Some children talk before they are 2, others talk very little before they are 3 or so. Some will always be quiet people.
Some abilities become clear in one child, but may never be very strong in another.
Recognize the individual in the child and look for differences based on the following:
SENSE OF SECURITY
Some children need more consistency, more reassurance, and more confidence and trust-building than others. Insecurity sometimes can cause a child to withdraw or behave aggressively.
Some children need more active play than others. They need the opportunity to move around, jump, run, and bounce many times throughout the day. Other children need more quiet time or more rest.
RESPONSE TO STIMULATION
Children are inherently different in their tolerance to noise, activity, visual stimulation, or changes in the environment. An environment that is sensitive to this need in children will provide interesting activities as well as a quiet place to get away from the action.
Some children think quietly through possible solutions to a problem; others push in and try the first idea that occurs to them. Some children are interested in experimenting to find out how objects work; others choose to ask friends or adults for help.
Developmental guidelines should be used as a general rule of thumb. In your work with children, do not confuse earlier or faster development with better development. Early talking by a 1-year-old does not mean that the child will be a chatterbox or a brilliant conversationalist at age 10. Later talking may mean that a toddler is putting more energy into physical growth and motor exploration right now.
Development or the lack of it that falls outside the normal range may indicate a problem that requires attention. You may need to help parents recognize possible problems and special needs, such as poor vision or hearing. Familiarity with developmental norms and with community resources can assist you in helping parents seek professional advice about developmental questions.
Reprinted with permission from National Network for Child Care -NNCC. Oesterreich, L. (1995). Ages & stages – individual differences. In L. Oesterreich, B. Holt, & S. Karas, Iowa family child care handbook [Pm 1541] (pp. 191-192). Ames, IA: Iowa State University Extension.