1.2 Relevance of child development

The first 1000 days is a time of rapid change. Early experiences affect brain development and influence lifelong learning and health (Shonkhoff et al. 2016). Healthy development is associated with future school achievement, well-being, and success in life (Bellman, Byrne, and Sege 2013).

Professionals and parents consider it important to monitor children’s development. Tracking child development enables professionals to identify children with signs of potential delay. Timely identification can help children and their parents to benefit from early intervention. In a normal population, developmental delay affects about 1–3% of children. A delay in development may indicate underlying disorders. About 1% of children have an autism spectrum disorder (Baird et al. 2006), 1–2% a mild learning disability, and 5–10% have a specific learning disability in a single domain (Horridge 2011).

Children develop at different rates, and it is vital to distinguish those who are within the “normal” range from those who are following a more pathological course (Bellman, Byrne, and Sege 2013). There is good evidence that early identification and early intervention improve the outcomes of children (Britto et al. 2017). Early intervention is crucial for children with developmental disabilities because barriers to healthy development early in life impede progress at each subsequent stage.

Monitoring child development provides caregivers and parents with reliable information about the child and an opportunity to intervene at an early age. Understanding the developmental health of populations of children allows organisations and policymakers to make informed decisions about programmes that support children’s greatest needs (Bellman, Byrne, and Sege 2013).