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Developmental Milestones - Sequence vs. Timing

As parents, caregivers, and educators, we marvel at the incredible journey of childhood development - especially when it comes to motor milestones. From the first tentative grasp and finding their hands and fingers to the triumphant steps of independent walking, each milestone represents a victory of the developing nervous system. We walk through the fascinating world of motor milestones, exploring the intricate neurological processes behind them and highlighting the importance of their sequential advance.

Motor milestones encompass a series of physical achievements that mark a child's progress in movement and coordination. These milestones include significant events such as lifting the head, rolling over, sitting up, crawling, standing, and walking. Each milestone builds upon the previous one, laying the foundation for increasingly complex motor skills and activities.

The fulfilment of motor milestones is orchestrated by a complex interplay of neural pathways, cortical regions, and subcortical structures within the developing brain. Early motor skills, such as grasping objects and bringing them to the mouth, are governed by primitive reflexes and subcortical structures such as the brainstem and basal ganglia. As the brain matures, higher-order motor areas, including the primary motor cortex and cerebellum, become increasingly involved in orchestrating coordinated movements. Each motor milestone helps to coordinate proper growth in the brain, and each layer builds upon the previous one in regard to milestone and brain development.

The timing that these milestones is important such as kids walking around 12 months. We need these foundations of movement development to happen at certain times not only to further develop other motor patterns, but motor development also sets the stage for development of higher functions such as language skills and social-emotional development, all starting with movement. When proper timing is not achieved, this will push back the development of the other areas of neural development.

While the timing that these milestones are reached is important, the sequence in which they develop is even more important. The sequential attainment of motor milestones is not merely a matter of convenience; it reflects the organized progression of neural maturation and connectivity. Each milestone serves as a building block for the next, providing essential sensory feedback and motor experiences that shape the developing nervous system. For example, the ability to lift the head while lying on the stomach strengthens neck muscles and lays the groundwork for rolling over and eventually sitting up.

Furthermore, the sequence of motor milestones reflects the maturation of specific neural circuits and pathways responsible for motor control and coordination. Deviations from the expected sequence or delays in milestone attainment may signal disruptions in these neural circuits, potentially indicating underlying neurodevelopmental concerns. Missed sequences or jumping of milestones can have far-reaching consequences for neurodevelopmental health. Research suggests that disruptions in the sequence of milestones may increase the risk of neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

These reasons are why the changes made to the developmental milestones by the CDC in 2022 are so concerning. Not only are they pushing back significant milestones such as walking from 12 months to 18 months, or talking being pushed back 3-6 months, but according to the CDC some previous milestones are no longer recognized by the CDC (like crawling). Crawling in children is a crucial step to develop cross crawl patterns and synapses in the brain. If a child does not crawl for a long enough period or skips crawling entirely, it sets that child up for multiple issues later. Pushing back developmental milestones does not change how we are created to grow and develop. With the CDC changing these milestones, it is even harder for parents to be able to recognize when their child’s nervous system is not functioning like it should be. If you child skips crawling and goes directly to walking or they only crawl for a short duration, there are underlying issues in their nervous system that need to be resolved.

Recognizing the significance of motor milestones and their sequential attainment is crucial for identifying potential developmental delays or motor disorders early on. Early intervention programs that focus on promoting motor skills and addressing underlying neurological issues can have a profound impact on a child's long-term development and well-being. Neurologically based chiropractic care complements traditional approaches to early intervention and support for motor development. By addressing underlying neurological issues and optimizing neural function, chiropractors can play a valuable role in promoting optimal motor milestone attainment and fostering overall health and well-being in children. Occupational therapists, physical therapists, and developmental specialists can also play important roles in supporting children who may experience challenges in achieving motor milestones.

As parents, you can support children's motor development by creating environments that encourage exploration, movement, and play. Providing opportunities for tummy time, reaching for toys, crawling through tunnels, and engaging in outdoor activities can stimulate the development of motor skills while fostering confidence and independence. This may also include avoiding devices that put children in positions that they are not yet ready for such as bouncers and bumbo seats in order for them to develop proper motor patterns without assistance.

Motor milestones represent pivotal achievements in a child's journey of growth and development. Understanding the neurology behind these milestones emphasizes their importance and highlights the interconnectedness of motor skills and the developing brain. By recognizing the significance of sequential milestone attainment and providing early intervention when needed, we can empower children to reach their full potential and embark on a path of lifelong health and well-being.

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