child playing

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that affects communication, social interactions, and behaviors. Children with autism often exhibit delays or differences in reaching developmental milestones compared to their peers. Understanding these milestones and the potential signs of autism can help parents and caregivers provide the necessary support for their child’s growth and development. In this article, we will discuss the developmental milestones, why children with autism may miss them, and what to do if your child has developmental delays.

child in the rain

What Are the Developmental Milestones?

Developmental milestones are a set of skills or behaviors that most children achieve by a certain age. These milestones serve as a guide for parents, caregivers, and professionals to monitor certain milestones in a child’s development and identify potential delays or concerns. The milestones are categorized into four primary domains:

Physical development – This includes gross motor skills (using large muscles for crawling, walking, running) and fine motor skills (using small muscles for grasping very small objects, holding objects, drawing).

Language and communication development – This encompasses a child’s ability to express themselves through words, gestures, and body language, as well as their ability to say new words and understand and follow verbal instructions.

Cognitive development – This is child development that involves normal development of thinking, learning, problem-solving, and memory skills.

Social and emotional development – This includes social skills, forming relationships, expressing emotions, and understanding the feelings of others.

Milestones for 3-year-olds from the CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a list of developmental milestones that most children reach by age three. Although each child develops at their own pace, these milestones can serve as a general guideline for parents and caregivers. Some of the key milestones for 3-year-olds include:

  • Climbing well
  • Running easily
  • Pedaling a tricycle
  • Understanding the idea of “mine” and “his” or “hers”
  • Showing a wide range of emotions
  • Separating easily from mom and dad
  • Dressing and undressing themselves
  • Speaking in sentences of 4 to 5 words
  • Naming familiar things
  • Showing affection for friends without prompting

It’s essential to remember that children with autism may not reach these milestones at the same time as their peers. They might exhibit delays or differences in one or more developmental domains.

child playing

Why Children Miss Developmental Milestones

There are several reasons why children with autism may miss developmental milestones. Some of these reasons include:

  • Social communication challenges – Children with autism often have difficulty understanding nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions and body language. They may also struggle with forming and maintaining relationships, which can impact their social and emotional development.
  • Repetitive behaviors – Many children with autism engage in repetitive behaviors, such as hand flapping, rocking, or spinning. These behaviors can interfere with their ability to learn new skills and reach developmental milestones.
  • Sensory processing issues – Children with autism may experience heightened sensitivity to sensory input, making it difficult for them to focus and engage in activities that promote development.
  • Cognitive differences – Some children with autism have cognitive differences that affect their ability to learn and process information. This can result in delays in reaching developmental milestones, particularly in language and communication.

When Developmental Delays May Suggest Autism

While it’s essential to recognize that all children develop at their own pace, certain developmental delays may suggest autism. Some signs that may indicate autism in a young child include:

  • Lack of eye contact
  • Limited or no response to their name
  • Delayed or absent speech
  • Repetitive behaviors or interests
  • Difficulty understanding or expressing emotions
  • Challenges with social interactions

If you notice any of these signs or have concerns about your child or baby’s development, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

motor skills

What to Do If Your Child Has Developmental Delays

If you suspect that your child may have developmental delays or autism, the following steps can help guide you in seeking support and intervention:

Consult with your child’s doctor or pediatrician – Share your concerns with your child’s pediatrician, who can help determine whether further evaluation is necessary.

Seek a comprehensive evaluation – If recommended by your pediatrician, seek a comprehensive evaluation from a team of professionals, including a developmental pediatrician, psychologist, speech therapist, and occupational therapist.

Early intervention services – If your child is diagnosed with autism or exhibits developmental delays, early intervention services can provide crucial support. These services may include speech therapy, occupational therapy, and behavioral interventions tailored to your child’s unique needs.

Educate yourself – Learn as much as you can about autism and developmental milestones to better understand your child’s needs and advocate for appropriate support.

Connect with other parents – Join support groups, attend workshops, or participate in online forums to connect with other parents and families who have children with autism. This can provide valuable information, resources, and emotional support.

Remember that early identification and intervention are crucial for improving outcomes for children with autism. By understanding developmental milestones and recognizing potential signs of autism, you can ensure that your child receives the support they need to thrive.

Don’t forget to seek professional help if you have any concerns about your child’s development. A healthcare provider can provide an evaluation of your child’s development, and make recommendations for appropriate interventions. Additionally, connecting with other parents who have children with autism can provide valuable information and emotional support during this journey. Working together, you and your child’s healthcare team can help them reach their full potential.

Finally, it’s important to recognize that parenting a child with autism is not easy, it can be incredibly rewarding. With the right support and therapies in place, your child can reach developmental milestones and have an improved quality of life. On this journey, don’t forget to take care of yourself as well. Reach out for help and support when you need it, and remember to celebrate the small successes.


Raising a child with autism can be rewarding but it often brings unique challenges. Early identification and intervention are important in order to ensure that your child receives the support they need to reach developmental milestones. Be sure to consult with your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your child’s development and connect with other parents for emotional support during this journey. With proper care and intervention, your child can have an improved quality of life. Don’t forget to take care of yourself too! Reach out for help when you need it and celebrate the small successes along the way.

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