Somewhere in the mass of information parents receive from experts in child development, they may forget that they are the experts on their own child. Theories and information about child development, autism, developmental delays, diet, medication, and therapies abound on the Internet, leaving parents awash in just enough information to get confused.
Your child’s pediatrician should be the first source you check with if you have concerns about your child’s development. He or she will likely offer an Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) to complete at regularly scheduled well-child visits. This parent-completed set of questions is a standard screening tool used to help pediatricians get a big picture of whether a child is meeting developmental milestones such as communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving, and personal-social skills at particular ages. While not a diagnostic tool, the ASQ can help pediatricians and parents to determine if further evaluation is needed.
If you are concerned about the results you report on the ASQ or about any aspect of your child’s development, you should ask your pediatrician for a developmental evaluation. Developmental evaluations go farther in detail than a routine developmental screening and go beyond the usual measurements of height, weight, and vital signs. These evaluations are designed to provide an in-depth assessment of how your child functions overall. Areas that are assessed include social / emotional functioning (how does your child interact with peers or adults; how well does he or she follow directions?); adaptive functioning (e. g. dressing oneself, feeding oneself, tending to one’s own bathroom needs); gross motor development, such as running, jumping, and skipping; fine motor skills, such as drawing and cutting; and communication skills (understanding language, expressing needs or wants).
Discuss with your pediatrician who will provide the evaluation and what each assessment entails. Being able to anticipate how long the process will take, who will be involved, and where the assessment will take place means that both you and your child will be more at ease about the evaluation. Find out how long it will take to get the results, and then what the next step should be after you receive the results. Once you’ve found out all you can, make sure your child understands what to expect to the extent that his or her age allows a detailed understanding.
Finally, don’t be afraid to be assertive as you advocate for your child. Developmental evaluations can certainly help parents understand and be prepared to treat any developmental delays your child may have. Because early intervention can have a profound effect the outcome for a child who has a developmental delay, establishing intervention and treatment as early as possible is crucial.