A toddler observation list is a helpful tool for both parents and those employed in the field of early education. Some parents, alarmed by rising autism rates, have begun to closely scrutinize their child's behavior, particularly during the younger years. Keeping a close watch on your toddler's behavioral patterns can help in catching behavioral or mental disorders early on. Moreover, child-care workers can also use a toddler observation list in order to determine whether or not certain patterns in a child's behavior are worthy of evaluation or parental concern.
About a Toddler Observation List
There a key areas to watch during the toddler years. During this time in a child's life, he will hit milestones regarding speech, social interactions, and play. It is true that children do develop differently, particularly in the area of speech. The field of speech alone can cause a horde or parental concern during which perfectly healthy children are rushed into autism evaluations because they have little interest in memorizing their abc's. These areas of development can differ from child to child, with one toddler starting out later than another. The real difficultly lies in knowing when to take a child in for evaluation and when to wait the situation out in order to avoid frustrating the child.
An observation list details the development of a child in an orderly fashion which is particularly helpful when you are charting behavioral regressions. Behavioral regression demands more concern than simply worrtying about the child who is merely developing slowly. When a toddler hits a behavioral milestone and then, months later, appears to backtrack completely, this is truly a cause for concern. In children who have already been diagnosed with autism and are receiving help and therapy, an observation list will simply show what areas need improvement, what areas are improving, and the areas that continue to fluctuate.
Though an observation list in all its detailed glory may actually serve to irritate and develop paranoia in some parents, people who enjoy an organized approach to life will benefit from the visual and tangible appeal of charting their child's development.
Areas to Watch
The following areas are key in toddler development and should be charted on your child's observation list:
A child will make great advances in coordination during his toddler years. This coordination includes more stable walking, eliminating habits such as walking on toes (this practice may manifest itself in non-autistic children, but will eventually die out), coordinated play activities, and general movement. Toddlers are not known for their graceful gait or grace in general. However, between the ages of one and two years of age, there should be a marked improvement in activities such as stacking blocks, walking, running, reaching for objects, etc.
This area can be a bit tricky, particularly if you have a shy child. Still, a toddler who exhibits a certain level of friendliness towards his peers or even strangers, and later regresses to a state where he is disinterested and fails to make eye contact, may be a cause for concern. General focus and eye contact are key areas of development. A lack of smooth social interaction and eye contact are behaviors that appear in autistic children. Hence, a child that seems unable to interact at a basically normal level, or regresses into such a state should be watched closely.
Children generally begin to talk between the ages of one and two. Though speech therapists may be somewhat optimistic regarding the breadth of a toddler's speech, a child that remains completely mute during these years may be a cause for concern. Also, a child that begins to speak and then later becomes mute and disinterested in speech is a curiosity as well. Regressions are every bit as important and, perhaps, even more important, that the velocity of a child's development. Where speech is concerned, regressions may indicate a hearing impairment such as an ear clogged with wax. The sooner this is diagnosed, the better, as the early auditory years are fundamental to a child's ability to grasp language.
You can also chart a child's learning and memory capacities or even his eating and bowel habits. The importance of an observational chart is simply to mark whether or not a steady upward trend is occurring in a child's development. Such a chart should not be used to feed paranoia or excessive parenting concerns, as it cannot be stressed enough that each child is different and may develop at a slower or more interesting rate.