Development is often divided into specific domains, such as gross motor, fine motor, language, cognition, and social/emotional growth. These designations are useful, but substantial overlap exists. Studies have established average ages at which specific milestones are reached, as well as ranges of normality. In a normal child, progress within the different domains varies, as in the toddler who walks late but speaks in sentences early.
Genetic factors, environmental influences and psychological factors and disease can affect both a child's cognitive development and physical growth. This is why parents, doctors and teachers should routinely assess children's patterns of development throughout the years so the children can reach certain developmental milestones they are expected to achieve.
Biology plays a significant role in a child's healthy development. Genes are a biological risk factor that cannot be changed. However, even though a child's genetic background can predispose her to certain inherited diseases and disorders, early interventions can improve the outcome these risk factors may have on a child's physical and cognitive growth and development. This is especially crucial when dealing with genetic conditions that are not preventable.
There are other biological risk factors that can affect a child's development and growth either directly or indirectly. Tobacco, alcohol, malnutrition, medications, recreational drugs or other chemical agents can affect the growth of a fetus. Not only can these substances cause birth defects, but they can also affect a child's cognitive growth in the later developmental stages. Unfortunately, the effects of these risk factors on a child's learning and behavior may not become obvious for years.
Acute and chronic illness often put a child at an increased risk of developing additional health