Developmental Concerns

As your child grows and learns they will experience many new things. No two children develop, grow or learn the same way or do things at the same pace. How your child plays, learns, speaks, and acts is key to their development.

As a parent, you play an active role in every stage of your child’s development.   If you are concerned about your child’s development, talk to your child’s doctor.

first5-our-fundingWhen a child less than 6 months:

  • doesn’t coo or smile
  • doesn’t react to loud noises or turn head to follow sounds or voices
  • struggles to hold head up by 3 months
  • can’t follow objects or people with eyes
  • has stiff arms or legs
  • seems floppy or limp

Between 6 months and 1 year:

  • struggles to sit, stand up, reach or pick up objects
  • can’t find things after they are hidden or play peek-a-boo
  • doesn’t respond when called from across a room
  • repeats behavior that could hurt, like biting oneself or banging head
  • doesn’t say simple words like “mama” or “dada” by age 1

Developmental screenings are a tool in aiding in the identification of children at risk for delays, concerns, or disorders. Developmental screenings are important:

  • To ensure every infant, toddler and preschooler is healthy and ready to learn and grow
  • To ensure the early identification of developmental risk and or delays
  • To prevent delays in the provision of services and support for young children and families

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends developmental screening at 9, 18, 24 and 30 months or whenever a parent or provider expresses concern.

Remember, early diagnosis and intervention services are important, because your child’s brain is developing so quickly between 0-5. If you have a concern, always ask your doctor and ask for a developmental screening. Children respond best to early intervention, meaning action taken before age 3. A doctor can help you develop a personalized plan to support your child with specialized services.

Developmental Concerns: Birth-3 years

For a referral to the Tri-Counties Regional Center, call:
Santa Maria: (805) 922-4640 or (800) 266-9071
Santa Barbara: (805) 962-7881 or (800) 322-6994

Developmental Concerns: 3 to 5 years old

For a referral to the Santa Barbara County Education Office, call:
Santa Maria: (805) 922-0334 x2312
Santa Barbara: (805) 964-4711 x5317

For a referral to the Goleta Union School District, call:
(805) 681-1200 or (805) 685-0574

Behavioral Concerns: Birth-18 years

For a referral to Alcohol, Drug and Mental Health Services (ADMHS), call:
(888) 868-1649

Parent Support & Information for Families and Children

Learning your child has a disability and caring for your child can make parents feel overwhelmed and alone. You’re not, even if it feels that way sometimes. Need help? Alpha Resource Center provides services for families who have children with developmental disabilities, who may be at risk of developmental delay or other special needs. Alpha can help with information, parent to parent support teams, referrals to community resources, systems navigation, advocacy, sibling services, and education and support workshops.

Call 1-877-414-6227 or visit online at

National Resources

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers a downloadable chart of milestones and how to engage with your child from birth to age 5.

The Center for Disease Control offers downloadable milestone charts, a milestones quiz, and information about the developmental screening tools a provider might use with your child.

Help Me Grow is a national network advancing developmental promotion, early detection, and linkage to local services. They have resources for providers, parents, elected officials, and community members.

The Center for Parent Information and Resources has a great guide about what to expect when you ask for a developmental screening. It also explains timeframes, how screenings are funded, and types of early intervention your child might benefit from experiencing.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children has an excellent article about choosing child care for your special needs child, complete with a checklist for you to print and take with you when evaluating child care options.


Hover over the interactive slider below to learn more about the skills your child should develop at each age
  • 3 MONTHS

    My family can help me...

    • give me interesting things to look at
    • sing and read to me
    • hold me to feed me
    • comfort me by talking in a soft and soothing voice
    3 MONTHS

    I should be able to...

    • follow movement by turning my head
    • coo and gurgle
    • cry when hungry or uncomfortable
    • smile back at people
  • 6 MONTHS

    My family can help me...

    • look at colorful books with me
    • talk and play with me
    • baby proof everything
    • let me sleep 2 to 3 times a day
    6 MONTHS

    I should be able to...

    • roll over
    • reach for and hold objects
    • coo, babble, squeal, laugh
    • be soothed and love to be touched and held close
  • 9 MONTHS

    My family can help me...

    • sing and read to me
    • put me to bed without a bottle
    • talk to me about what I am seeing or doing
    • give me a safe place to move around
    9 MONTHS

    I should be able to...

    • creep or crawl
    • respond to my name
    • say "mama" or "dada"
    • stand, holding onto a support
    • sit without help
  • 12 MONTHS

    My family can help me...

    • include me at family meal times
    • play with me, read to me, sing to me and talk to me
    • help me learn what I shouldn’t do by saying ”no” in a firm, quiet voice
    • stay within eyesight of me
    12 MONTHS

    I should be able to...

    • wave "bye-bye"
    • show many emotions such as happiness, sadness, discomfort, and anger
    • be interested in other children
    • feed myself with a spoon/finger/cup
  • 18 MONTHS

    My family can help me...

    • give me age appropriate toys
    • avoid giving me food as reward or punishment
    • hold me and read simple stories
    • teach me simple songs
    18 MONTHS

    I should be able to...

    • let you know what I want
    • point to familiar things when named
    • speak without help
    • speak 10-20 words
    • show emotions such as happiness, fear, sympathy, modesty, guilt, or embarrassment
  • 2 YEARS

    My family can help me...

    • help me learn new words
    • tell or read me short stories
    • talk to me about things I do and see
    • be calm and comforting after my temper outbursts, I need to know that you love me
    2 YEARS

    I should be able to...

    • jump, run, and climb stairs
    • sometimes use 2 word sentences
    • often do opposite of what’s asked
    • learn about rules but not able to remember the rules
  • 3 YEARS

    My family can help me...

    • take me to the library and help me get my own library card
    • let me help with simple household chores
    • schedule a dental visit and ask about sealants, thumb sucking, or pacifier use
    • help me put my toys away
    • model when to say please, thank you, and sorry
    3 YEARS

    I should be able to...

    • be toilet trained during the day, usually dry during the night
    • talk and usually be understood
    • use three word sentences
    • kick a ball
    • name 6 body parts
    • think about feelings of others
    • pay attention for longer
  • 4 YEARS

    My family can help me...

    • read with me every day
    • let me make meaningful choices every day
    • respect my food dislikes
    • pay attention to me when I am talking
    • give me opportunities to play with other children
    4 YEARS

    I should be able to...

    • ask questions
    • put together 7-12 piece puzzles
    • match or name some colors
    • begin to control frustration
    • start to understand danger
  • 5 YEARS

    My family can help me...

    • feed me foods from the basic food groups
    • read to me
    • sort and count all kinds of household things with me
    • let me help plan activities and events
    5 YEARS

    I should be able to...

    • play organized games
    • cut with scissors
    • draw a person with 6-8 body parts
    • catch a bounced ball
    • count to 10
    • can predict what might happen in books when you read to me