CDC App Tells Parents When to Be Concerned About Child's Development

A developmental milestone at 6 months: Children like playing with others, especially parents.  (Centers for Disease Control)

You’re a new parent. Your 1-year-old enjoys playtime, responds to her own name, and makes sounds that sound almost like words.

But there's one thing that's disturbing you. After you hold her up so that her feet touch the ground, she can’t support her own weight. She bends this way and that, unable to prop herself up.

Is this a problem that requires a checkup by your pediatrician? Or is she just developing a little slower than other toddlers?

Well, there’s an app for that. The CDC last week released a free tool for parents who want to monitor their children’s developmental accomplishments — and learn more about where they may be falling behind.

The app, called Milestone Tracker, is available for iPhone and Android. It allows parents to create a personalized checklist for the emotional and physical developmental milestones of children aged 2 months to 5 years. Parents can assess their progress by looking at photos and videos.

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The app is an outgrowth of a CDC program called “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” Signs of what? The CDC’s press release mentions developmental delays and disabilities, including those caused by autism spectrum disorder, which is challenging to diagnose before the age of 2.

“Skills like taking a first step, saying those first words, and waving ‘bye-bye’ are developmental milestones all parents anticipate and celebrate,” said CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald. “This CDC Milestone Tracker app gives parents tips to help their child learn and grow, a way to track developmental milestones, recognize delays, and the ability to share this information with their healthcare provider.”

As a parent fills out a record-keeping scorecard, the app will recommend whether to see a pediatrician for a developmental screening. The answers to some questions are a soothing reminder that children develop at different rates, so you can relax. At other times, the app may instruct a parent to call their pediatrician. (The American Association of Pediatrics also has an interactive activity tracker that recommends when to consult a doctor.)

Autism isn’t the only condition that can delay cognitive, physical and emotional development. Young children may have undiagnosed hearing or vision loss, muscular dystrophy, Tourette’s syndrome, cerebral palsy or ADHD.

The app offers tips on activities that help a child grow, tailored to different ages, pertaining to things like discipline, reading skills, communication, education and physical affection.

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Parents can also keep track of their kids' doctor appointments and sign up for reminders about booking a developmental screening.

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