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Masters in Educational Practice: Child and adolescent development 0-19


Typical and atypical development


Typical development and milestones

A child's development usually follows a known and predictable course. The acquisition of certain skills and abilities is often used to gauge such development. Typical development is the most appropriate way to describe children who are not in receipt of special education services. ‘Normal’ is used to a lesser degree lately as it implies that a special education child is ‘abnormal’. It is important for teachers to have an appreciation of what typical development looks like in a classroom so they can be aware of learners’ whose development may deviate from the rest of the class.

Developmental milestones are determined by the average age at which children attain a particular skill, e.g. crawling, saying single words, etc. Please refer to ‘Topic 6 – Motor development’ for a table of typical developmental milestones. Not all the children in the class will reach each milestone at the same time, however there is a time-frame for reaching these developmental markers. About 3 per cent of children will not meet these developmental milestones on time, but only about 15 to 20 per cent of these children will actually have atypical development. The rest of these children will eventually develop typically over time, although a little later than expected.

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