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Is it a developmental delay?

Rather than 'wait and see,' observe, track and communicate.

Before my first son turned 2, he stopped talking. My second son did not talk even after he turned 3. I mentioned this every time I took my children to their pediatrician. The doctor told me it was too early to be concerned.

He was wrong. Later, both children were diagnosed with autism.

It seems, more often than not, the first thing parents are told is to “wait and see.”

Dr. Juhi Pandey, a pediatric neuropsychologist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), has a better answer.

‘Wait and see’

Parents are often told to “wait and see” when they raise concerns they can’t describe effectively. Also, “I have heard from practitioners that they do not want to raise unnecessary concern on behalf of parents when it could be that the behavior in question will get better on its own,” Dr. Pandey says.

For more information

Delaware: Division of Public Health, Child Development Watch. New Castle County, 800-671-0050, 302-283-7240; Kent and Sussex Counties,  800-752-9393, 302-424-7300. Early intervention program for children ages birth-3 with disabilities or developmental delays.

Pennsylvania: CONNECT Helpline, 800-692-7288. Assists families in locating resources and providing development information for children ages birth-5. Assists parents in making a direct link to their county early intervention program or local preschool early intervention program.

South Jersey: Southern New Jersey Regional Early Intervention Collaborative (SNJREIC), 856-768-6747 (Atlantic, Burlington, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem counties). Helps families to meet the developmental and health-related needs of children ages birth-three who have delays or disabilities by providing quality services and support to families and their children

Additional Resources

Article: EARLY INTERVENTION: The first step could be a giant leap for your child.

Child Development Program, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 215-590-7500

Metrokids.com SpecialKids Guide, early intervention category. Lists agencies and care providers.

Thinking your child has a developmental delay is stressful. I know. Yet, I also know that early intervention can make a big difference for a child with a disability. Sure, some kids outgrow mild delays without extra help, but other kids just get further behind their peers the longer you wait.

Start with your pediatrician

If you are concerned about your child’s development, talk with your child’s doctor. Your pediatrician can refer your child for an evaluation. But to do this, doctors rely on parents to describe a child’s behavior at home and school. The doctor only sees your child briefly in one environment and might have inadequate information to suspect a delay.

According to Dr. Pandey, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends pediatricians perform routine screenings for developmental difficulties using structured and standardized screening methods.

But instead of performing these screenings, many pediatricians rely on parent reports. That makes it important to know how to share what you’ve seen.

Keep talking

“Rather than taking a passive ‘wait and see’ approach,” Dr. Pandey says, “I recommend that families and practitioners maintain a dialogue regarding the progression of skill development.”

Kids have so much to learn: language, gross motor and fine motor skills are all important. Even social skills are learned. Seemingly unimportant delays, like poor eye contact, can be signs of serious developmental problems.

Using the details

In order to recognize, diagnose, and treat developmental delays, it is important to observe, track and communicate what you see. “In general, practitioners are looking to parents to provide detailed information regarding developmental milestones, home structure and parenting style, beliefs and expectations,” Dr. Pandey says.

Your pediatrician doesn’t know your child the way you do. Tell your doctor what you see and where and when you see it. Keep records of developmental milestones. Track how long you’ve seen a problem.

Vague statements don’t help. “More specific examples of concerns will result in more tailored assessment and recommendations, if necessary, than when parents report general concerns regarding behavior or development,” Dr. Pandey says.

So, if you want to stop waiting, you have to be specific. That’s the key to getting the help your child needs.

Stephanie Allen Crist is a freelance writer.

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