What Every Family Should Know About Childhood Development

(StatePoint) As a parent, you are probably tracking every move your young child makes, paying special attention to developmental milestones such as sitting, standing and talking.

“While the pace of development does vary from child to child, parents should pay attention when things seem amiss. Sometimes the cause of a delay is a medical problem, and in many cases, early intervention is important,” says Dr. Garey H. Noritz, a pediatrician who cares for children with disabilities, and who authored an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) clinical report on motor delays. “You are the best expert on your child, so if you have any concerns, you should address them with your pediatrician.”

For parents of young children who have concerns about their child’s intellectual or physical development, Dr. Noritz offers the following advice:

• Make an appointment: Don’t wait until your next scheduled appointment to speak with your pediatrician about your concerns. Make an appointment as soon as possible.

• Use free resources: Online resources can help parents prepare for their pediatrician visit. One such tool, “Physical Developmental Delays: What to Look For,” an AAP online checklist available at healthychildren.org/motordelay, is a good resource for parents and caregivers of children under 5. Available in English and Spanish, the interactive tool is designed to improve the early identification and care of motor developmental delay. Through on-screen guidance, parents can identify topics to discuss with their child’s pediatrician.

• Request genetic testing when a developmental problem is confirmed: When it comes to intellectual delays and disabilities, having a correct diagnosis by a medical professional helps families get the support and information they need to manage their child’s health care and help them reach their full potential. Pediatricians can play a critical role in working with parents to identify intellectual delays.

One of the more common inherited causes of intellectual disability, Fragile X syndrome (FXS), can only be confirmed with the FMR1 DNA Test for Fragile X.

“All children with developmental delays, intellectual disability or autism spectrum disorder should be considered for a genetic evaluation,” says Dr. Robert A. Saul, a pediatrician and medical geneticist who is a member of the AAP. “While therapeutic interventions are vitally important, a diagnostic genetic evaluation is equally so. Although there is no cure for FXS, with a diagnosis, we can offer important supportive treatments and take educational and therapeutic approaches. Having a reason for a child’s intellectual disabilities and behavior problems can be reassuring for families, and a diagnosis enables families to receive counseling for family planning, participate in clinical research if desired, and connect with support groups.”

More tips, tools, reliable resources and information about child development and other pediatric issues for families can be found at healthychildren.org. Information for physicians and other health care providers regarding FXS is available at www.aap.org/fxs.

Remember, there are many ways you can be proactive about your child’s early motor and intellectual development. If you have any concerns, seek out tools, resources and the advice of your pediatrician as early as possible.

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of American Academy of Pediatrics

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