The Difference Between Typical and Atypical Development in Children

Children have so many ways in which they need to develop: language skills, cognitive skills, social skills and physical skills. Since each child develops at his own pace, with his own particular strengths and weaknesses, it can be challenging to determine the difference between typical and atypical development in children. How can you tell what is typical and what is not?

A toddler creating a face with paper cut-outs. (Image: ivolodina/iStock/Getty Images)

Preschool Development

The American Academy of Pediatrics describes atypical preschool development by listing skills that all preschoolers should have. If your child is missing one or more of the following skills, you should talk to your pediatrician: the abilities to throw a ball overhand, jump in place, ride a tricycle, scribble, pay attention to other children, use the toilet, copy a circle, say sentences with more than three words and engage in pretend play.

Kindergarten Development

The Centers for Disease Control lists indications that a 5-year-old child has atypical development. The CDC suggests talking to your child's pediatrician if he does not show a wide range or emotions, cannot focus on one activity for more than five minutes, cannot tell what's real and what is imaginary, loses acquired skills, cannot get undressed or wash his hands without help, or shows extreme behaviors like biting when angry.

Elementary Development

Australia's Youth Services Department lists traits that may indicate developmental problems for children from 6 to 9 years old. Not being able to keep up with the rest of the students is definitely a concern, but parents should also look out for lying, cheating or trouble separating from them. Being bullied or being a bully are other experiences that may indicate developmental problems.

Puberty Development

The onset of puberty can start as young as 8 years of age in girls, with age 10 being average. For some girls, it may not begin until as late as age 13. In boys, puberty typically begins at age 11, although for some it may begin as early as age 9 while or be delayed until age 14. If your child begins earlier or later than these ages, you'll need to talk to your pediatrician. Another indication of atypical development would be physical changes that occur out of order. The first sign of puberty in girls, for example, is breast development. The beginning of menstruation before breast development might be a cause for concern.

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