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Key Social, Emotional, and Communication Milestones for Development

Milestones enable parents and physicians to monitor a baby's learning, behavior, and development. While each child develops differently, some differences may indicate a slight delay and others may be a cause for greater concern. The following milestones provide important guidelines for tracking healthy development from four months to three years of age.

Before your child's next visit to the physician, please take the time to see if your child has met his/her key milestones. These milestones should not be used in place of a screening, but should be used as discussion points between parents and physicians at each well visit. If a child does not have the skills listed---or if there is a loss of any skill at any age---be sure to let your physician know.


At 4 Months:

  • Follow and react to bright colors, movement, and objects?
  • Turn toward sounds?
  • Show interest in watching people's faces?
  • Smile back when you smile?

At 6 Months:

  • Relate to you with real joy?
  • Smile often while playing with you?
  • Coo or babble when happy?
  • Cry when unhappy?

At 9 Months:

  • Smile and laugh while looking at you?
  • Exchange back-and-forth smiles, loving faces, and other expressions with you?
  • Exchange back-and-forth sounds with you?
  • Exchange back-and-forth gestures with you, such as giving, taking, and reaching?

At 12 Months:

  • Use a few gestures, one after another, to get needs met, like giving, showing, reaching, waving, and pointing?
  • Play peek-a-boo, patty cake, or other social games?
  • Make sounds, like “ma,” “ba,” “na,” “da,” and “ga”?
  • Turn to the person speaking when his/her name is called?

At 15 Months:

  • Exchange with you many back-and-forth smiles, sounds, and gestures in a row?
  • Use pointing or other “showing” gestures to draw attention to something of interest?
  • Use different sounds to get needs met and draw attention to something of interest?
  • Use and understand at least three words, such as “mama,” “dada,” “bottle,” or “bye-bye”?

At 18 Months:

  • Use lots of gestures with words to get needs met, like pointing or taking you by the hand and saying, “want juice”?
  • Use at least four different consonants in babbling or words, such as m, n, p, b, t, and d?
  • Use and understand at least 10 words?
  • Show that he or she knows the names of familiar people or body parts by pointing to or looking at them when they are named?
  • Do simple pretend play, like feeding a doll or stuffed animal, and attracting your attention by looking up at you?

At 24 Months:

  • Do pretend play with you with more than one action, like feeding the doll and then putting the doll to sleep?
  • Use and understand at least 50 words?
  • Use at least two words together (without imitating or repeating) and in a way that makes sense, like “want juice”?
  • Enjoy being next to children of the same age and show interest in playing with them, perhaps giving a toy to another child?
  • Look for familiar objects out of sight when asked?

At 36 Months:

  • Enjoy pretending to play different characters with you or talking "for" dolls or action figures?
  • Enjoy playing with children of the same age, perhaps showing and telling another child about a favorite toy?
  • Use thoughts and actions together in speech and in play in a way that makes sense, like “sleepy, go take nap” and “baby hungry, feed bottle”?
  • Answer “what,” “where,” and “who” questions easily?
  • Talk about interests and feelings about the past and the future?

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)


   Vanderbilt Scale Parents


Watch for the Red Flags of Autism

(The following red flags may indicate a child is at risk for atypical development, and is in need of an immediate evaluation.)

In clinical terms, there are a few “absolute indicators,” often referred to as “red flags,” that indicate that a child should be evaluated. For a parent, these are the “red flags” that your child should be screened to ensure that he/she is on the right developmental path. If your baby shows any of these signs, please ask your pediatrician or family practitioner for an immediate evaluation:

  • No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
  • No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter
  • No babbling by 12 months
  • No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months
  • No words by 16 months
  • No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months
  • Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age


SCREENING TOOLS for Autism Spectrum Disorders:

Autism A.L.A.R.M.

M-CHAT Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers



American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

Information for Parents on AUTISM & VACCINE Safety






1) Give specific instructions.  “Put away your toys on the shelf in the closet.”
Be consistent—if the toys are stored on the shelf one night, they should
be put there every night.

2) Assign tasks that your child is capable of doing on his own.  Success builds
confidence.  The goal is to teach your child to do things independently.

3) Involve your child in discussions about rules and routines.  It will help him
understand goals and teach him to accept responsibility.

4) Post routines, broken down into two to five tasks, in a visible location
(refrigerator, bathroom mirror) and review lists regularly with your child.

5) Be realistic about time.  Make sure you’ve set aside enough time for all the
steps.  To be safe, add an extra five minutes.

6) Expect gradual improvement.  It takes time to change old habits.

7) Praise effort—not just results.  If your child set the table but forgot the
napkins, acknowledge that she’s trying.  Reward good behavior more
often than you punish bad.

8) Allow for free time in daily routines. Kids—and adults—need downtime.

9) If your child isn’t taking to the routine, seek help from a counselor who
specializes in ADHD.  A pro can help get you on track.

10) Stay focused on the long-term goals. Above all, don’t give up!






Individualized Education Program

This term means a written plan outlining the special education and related services that are designed to meet the unique needs of each child with a disability.  This individualized plan must be based on information provided by the assessment team and any other available diagnostic information related to the child’s educational needs.  The IEP must be in effect before special education and related services are provided to an eligible child and should be implemented as soon as possible following the IEP meeting.

IEP Meeting Ideas:

  • Ask for and review evaluation data before the IEP meeting;
  • Know who will attend and whom you will bring;
  • Gather information to share, including medical or other assessments;
  • Write down your questions;
  • Write down your ideas and suggestions; and
  • Let someone know if the meeting time does not work for you.


The IEP Committee includes the parents, a regular education teacher of the child, if the child will be in the regular education environment, the child’s special education teacher, and an agency representative.  Someone to interpret evaluation results, any others with special knowledge or expertise regarding the child, and the child, when appropriate should also be included as necessary.


  • Present levels of performance;
  • Measurable annual goals including short-term instructional objectives;
  • Special education and related services;
  • Extent to which child will not participate in regular classes;
  • Modifications of administration of state or district-wide assessment;
  • Date services and modifications begin including frequency, location, and duration;
  • How progress toward the annual goals will be measured;
  • How parents will be regularly informed; *
  • Transition components;
  • Graduation options;
  • Special factors;
  • Extended School Year (ESY) determination;
  • IEP Committee members; and
  • Projected review/revision date.

*... at least as often as parents are informed about the progress of children who do not have disabilities.


SUGGESTIONS FOR DEVELOPMENT OF A 504 ACCOMMODATION PLAN (IDEA Individuals with Disabilities Education Act)




ADHD Sample Letter for Parents to Give Teachers


Dear Teacher:

My child has been diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
As a parent, I expect my child to behave in an acceptable manner at school and anywhere else. However, I have had to recognize that certain behaviors are characteristic of ADHD. Some of these behaviors may be inconvenient or unexpected, but they are not necessarily unacceptable or "bad." They are simply different. My child's learning style may also be different from that of the other students in the classroom. Again, this is not a bad thing. It is simply a difference.
Please keep these differences in mind as you teach my child. Correct when you must, and please accommodate—or tolerate—when you can. You may find the chart, prepared by ADDitude Magazine, on suggested classroom accommodations helpful. ClassAccommodation

Please contact me if there are any questions or problems. If you like, I can provide you with more specific information about ADHD and my child.

Thank you.

Because my child has ADHD, you may expect to see these behaviors:
Physical Behaviors

  • Fidgeting, squirming, or otherwise being in "constant motion"
  • Clumsiness
  • May fall down a lot
  • Bumping into other students or objects in the classroom

Educational Behaviors

  • May not listen to instructions
  • Will begin work without waiting to hear or read instructions
  • Poor penmanship
  • Will lose or misplace papers, pencils, and other materials
  • Will probably be at your desk more often than most students
  • Will often ask questions which may or may not relate to what you are discussing
  • Will give unexpected responses to questions
  • May well finish class work, tests, etc. first, but with lower quality than possible
  • Will occasionally "Hyperfocus" on a topic to the point of fixation

Social Behaviors

  • Tends to be "bossy" with other children
  • Tends to object strongly to what is perceived as "unfair"
  • Interrupts other's conversations
  • Intrudes on other's games or activities
  • Trouble waiting in line
  • May ignore others or simply walk away during a conversation

Emotional Behaviors

  • Sudden and sometimes drastic mood swings
  • Has feelings hurt easily
  • Easily frustrated
  • Tends to overreact to correction or criticism


  • May appear disheveled-- even five minutes after being bathed and dressed
  • Often lost in thought
  • May "self-talk" with silent lip movements


Mississippi Department of Education

Child Count Data

December 2007




Number of Mississippi children by disability ages 3-5 receiving special education services:

Intellectual Disability (Mental retardation): 2

Hearing Impairments: 46

Speech or Language Impairments: 5836

Visual Impairments: 30

Emotional Disturbance: 1

Orthopedic Impairments: 36

Other health Impairments: 70

Specific Learning Disabilities: 7

Deaf-Blindness: 1

Multiple Disabilities: 33

Autism: 131

Traumatic Brain Injury: 5

Developmental Delay: 2224

Total: 8422


Number of Mississippi children by disability ages 6-21 receiving special education services:

Intellectual Disability (Mental retardation): 4224

Hearing Impairments: 620

Speech or Language Impairments: 15,546

Visual Impairments: 289

Emotional Disturbance: 1743

Orthopedic Impairments: 506

Other health Impairments: 5403

Specific Learning Disabilities: 24,682

Deaf-Blindness: 11

Multiple Disabilities: 670

Autism: 1081

Traumatic Brain Injury: 155

Developmental Delay (thru age 9): 2365

Total: 57,295

Top Disability Percent Rankings:

Specific Learning Disabilities: 43%

Speech or Language Impairments: 27%

Other health Impairments: 9%

Intellectual Disability (Mental retardation): 7%

Emotional Disturbance: 3%

Developmental Delay (thru age 9): 4%

Autism: 2%


Early Identification and Treatment of
ADHD * Autism Spectrum Disorders * Speech/Language Disorders

Working together as a team to improve the lives of children in Mississippi

Sponsored in full by The Phil Hardin Foundation