When and how to seek advice about your child’s progress.
Developmental delays are specific to each child and have a vast range of causes. They span from minor delays with speech articulations or fine-motor skills that can be resolved in a few months with therapy to diagnoses such as autism or cerebral palsy that may require ongoing, even lifelong treatment. The more severe issues may be easier for parents and pediatricians to detect, while subtle ones may be more difficult to pinpoint. “Early intervention is key,” says Erin Patrick, occupational therapist and co-owner of Buckhead’s Building Blocks Pediatrics, a full-service clinic that provides speech, occupational and physical therapies to patients ranging from infants to 18-year-olds. To help parents identify a potential developmental issue and determine next steps, Patrick offers the following advice.
Go with Your Gut
Not totally sure but something seems a little off with your son or daughter? For example, you notice they’re not interacting with other kids at the playground or are having trouble with something like buttoning a jacket that should be easy at their age. Don’t second guess your instinct; pay a visit to your pediatrician. “As a general rule of thumb, I always tell parents that if your gut is telling you something isn’t right, just go and have it looked at,” Patrick says. “If a child has an evaluation, the therapist can determine that it is nothing or can say, ‘Hey, this requires treatment.’” Likewise, if your child’s teacher or caregiver points something out, take the observation to heart.
Ask for an Evaluation
If you feel your child needs a developmental evaluation, talk to your pediatrician about getting a prescription for having one done. If the doctor refuses for some reason, which Patrick says does happen occasionally, she recommends getting a second opinion. “It’s like having a lump on your body that you know isn’t right and a doctor telling you it’s fine. Any adult would go to another doctor to be sure.” Having a prescription from a pediatrician can help with getting insurance to cover some or all of the cost of any potential therapy that’s needed.
Know the Therapies
An evaluation is usually an hour long, comprehensive exam with standardized scores that determines the course of action (or none at all). Depending on where your child has a deficit, a customized plan of care may include physical therapy such as gait training; occupational therapy such as exercises to help with fine motor skills, sensory integration or the activities of daily living; or speech therapy to assist with any language delays and articulation.
Do the Homework
A therapy session is often just 30-60 minutes once per week, which is why what parents and caregivers do at home the rest of the time is vital to their child’s progress. “We are here to educate parents on how to help their kids. That’s our primary goal. Our therapists work hard to incorporate programming into daily home life and what will work with your child’s schedule,” Patrick says.
“If you take the wait-and-see perspective, the problem could go away, or it could become very apparent in the next year, and your child may have a more significant delay,” Patrick advises. “It goes back to the lump. You can wait and see what happens, or you can go have it tested and make sure it’s nothing. The sooner you address the problem, the better off the child will be.”
BUILDING BLOCKS PEDIATRICS
267 West Wieuca Road N.E., Suite 101
Managing Editor and Wellness Columnist at Simply Buckhead. Blogger at Badass + Healthy.