Tracking Your Child’s Development is Easy With Help Me Grow

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Help Me Grow SC
Sponsored by: Help Me Grow South Carolina
In the first few years of human life, nearly one million new neural connections are formed in the brain every second. “So every second counts,” says Lorraine Cragan-Sullivan, developmental screening program coordinator at Help Me Grow South Carolina, “and parents are the key to assisting their child’s development.”
Cragan-Sullivan also serves as the CDC’s Act Early Ambassador to South Carolina, helping parents and professionals learn more about children’s developmental milestones.
Cragan-Sullivan wants every small child in the state to grow and develop in a healthy way. For that, parents must be familiar with three key concepts about development.

1. Know your child’s milestones

Milestones are skills children develop by certain ages. For example, a one-year-old should be able to play peek-a-boo, respond to simple requests and bang two things together.
Most parents are aware of developmental milestones, Cragan-Sullivan says, but few parents of one-year-olds can name more than a handful of the 23 developmental tasks their children should be able to complete. 
A one-year-old should also know that handing a book to an adult is an indication that they want the adult to read them a story. They should be able to stick out an arm or leg to assist in getting dressed. Those milestones are less well recognized by most parents.
Milestones can be broken down into five main areas of development:
  • Communication: speaking and understanding language
  • Gross motor skills: large movement of the body, like sitting up, walking and jumping
  • Fine motor skills: use of fingers to scribble or write
  • Problem solving: figuring out how things work through play
  • Personal-social: behavior and interactions with others like sharing, relating or looking at a parent 

2. Complete developmental and behavioral health screens twice a year

Cragan-Sullivan says parents need to arrange for these screenings over their child’s first five years. “You don’t take your child’s height and weight measurements one time and assume they are on track in their physical development,” she said. It’s the same thing for their development and behavioral health.
Screenings determine whether children are reaching their developmental milestones. Help Me Grow SC offers free screenings online or by mail. Help Me Grow SC links families to existing, community-based resources and services for children potentially at-risk for developmental, behavioral, or learning problems.

3. Use everyday moments to advance your child’s development

Parents can do more than just monitor their children’s development: they can enhance it by engaging their children’s brains while doing ordinary activities.
For example, allowing a three-year-old to help make cupcakes can double as an educational activity. When the child mixes the ingredients, they are improving their fine motor skills. Talking to the child about who the cupcakes are for, and directing the child to share the cupcakes with others, exercises their personal-social skills.
“Based on screening data we have at Help Me SC Grow, fine motor skills are most likely to fall below the age cutoff,” notes Cragan-Sullivan. She speculates that parents may not be aware of what activities are safe to do, like supervised scribbling with crayons or cutting with scissors.
To become more familiar with your child’s milestones and to complete a free screening, contact Help Me Grow SC by calling 1-855-476-9211 or visiting online at