Although recognizing that a child may be struggling with developmental milestones is a difficult realization, responding with early screening, assessment and intervention is critical. There are windows of opportunity during childhood that exist which, unfortunately, do not last forever. These developmental windows open and shut, and whether or not there is intervention that delivers the necessary intensity, frequency and duration of activity to promote developmental growth, is often up to us.
For very young children who have not yet reached school age, parents who have concerns about their childís development will often consult with a pediatrician to get a better sense of whether their child would benefit from some sort of support to promote acquisition of milestones. Maybe the child is showing differences in muscle tone and is having trouble sitting up independently. Babbling may be absent. First words may come later than expected.
Children donít reach their developmental milestones simultaneously. Each child is unique in their trajectory of developmental progress, and within that trajectory, there are bursts of development and lags. There is a general range, though, when certain skills should be observable and screening can help identify if interventions such as those provided by Early Intervention Programs would be of benefit.
If a pediatrician refers a child to an Early Intervention Program, a special teacher with education and training to screen and conduct developmental assessments will come to the home to evaluate the child and talk with the family about their concerns. If there are other concerns about physical development or if the child is having feeding or speech problems, a physical therapist and speech therapist may be part of the initial screening team as well. They will review the assessment results and make recommendations based on the childís needs.
If a legitimate delay or set of delays is identified, a schedule of visits is made for the teacher and the therapists to work with the child and his family to address developmental concerns through various interventions that aim to improve, if not resolve developmental problems. The team will work closely with family members to teach them these same interventions and to help them understand what they can do to provide the most stimulating, enriching interactions that will help their childís growth and development. Family involvement is critical and amplifies the benefit of the periodic visits of the early intervention team.
Pediatricians and Early Intervention Programs are important resources for parents with concerns about their childís development. For more information, please see the links on the homepage.