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Who We Are | Concerns About a Child | Screening | Diagnosis & Treatment
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If You Have Concerns

Parents and physicians, in monitoring a child’s healthy development, must be responsive to any concerns raised about a child. If you have any concerns about a child’s developmental progress, it is crucial to take action, and to arrange for a routine developmental screening.

“Don’t worry.” These two words have often discouraged parents and have prevented many children with developmental delays from getting what they need: early screening and identification, and appropriate intervention. Despite the fact that there is a direct correlation between early identification and improved development, parents with concerns about their children are often told not to worry. “Don’t worry...boys develop more slowly. Don’t worry...she’ll grow out of it. Don’t worry...Einstein was a late talker too. Don’t worry...just give it a few months.”

If you have concerns, don’t worry: take action.

Ask your physician to arrange for a routine developmental screening.

Parents know their children best and are in the best position to observe and report what their child is doing. They also have a sense of how well their child is doing. Sometimes they are satisfied, other times they are worried. Physicians rely on parents to provide information about their child’s health.

Imagine the following scenario: a young child has a persistent cough. The parent, concerned, schedules an appointment with a physician. The physician evaluates the child: sometimes a cough is just a cough; other times a cough can be a signal of something more serious. Just as parents and pediatricians are careful to respond to a young child’s physical health, they are wise to monitor a child’s development of social, emotional, and communication skills.

When parents report a persistent cough, they aren’t told not to worry. They don’t hope their child will outgrow it. They aren’t concerned about labeling, over-reacting, or what their family might think. They know something is wrong. Parents simply act, based on their observations of their child. In turn, the pediatrician or family physician examines the child and conducts the necessary tests to find out what, if anything, is wrong. If necessary, the physician will refer the child to a specialist.

Sometimes, parents who have concerns about their child’s development take no action: they are confused, embarrassed, worried. But if your child, or a child close to you, is not meeting the developmental milestones, it is important to take the first step.

“We first noticed that our son was not developing speech. Up until about a year, he had met all his milestones, and it seemed like he was OK except his language wasn’t coming...So we went to a doctor and voiced our concerns. And he said don’t worry about it, that he was a boy and boys usually develop speech later. Just continue talking to him, reading books, and language would come.”
(Parents of a child who had concerns about their child at 15 months; he was diagnosed with a developmental disorder almost two years later.)

Another parent remembers, “I wanted to believe that nothing was wrong. My pediatrician suggested we see a specialist just to rule it out—I believe she said, “What do we have to lose?’ In retrospect, I now understand just what we would have lost if we hadn’t found out about my son’s autism at age 2. We would have lost valuable time; we would have wasted my son’s potential. Now, after three years of special interventions, my son has made more progress than if we had waited.”

For more information about the best ways to share concerns about a child, please visit these First Signs web pages:

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