Concerns about the development of a child are most commonly raised when they don’t meet expected milestones within an expected timeframe.
There are critical time-periods when certain capacities should appear and any delay in the process may represent a problem that can impact on how this and other future skills may develop.
For the Developmental Paediatrician, the task is to determine which developmental domain(s) are affected (physical, cognitive, communication, social-emotional or adaptive functioning) and how they may be affecting other areas on which they are dependent upon.
Developmental Paediatricians need to assess the problem accurately including, the degree and the cause of the delay and what other interdependent areas may be contributing or impacted as a consequence of the difficulty. We can then create a management plan targeting the cause and thus counteract the delay through specific therapies and strategies. This ensures minimal disruption and optimises the normal development process. Some specific delays can be wholly overcome; others can be partially alleviated whilst others have to be worked around. Different developmental domains and certain critical windows of growth, take priority in the process and require careful prioritising and sequencing in intervention planning. A comprehensive understanding of how all the different “moving parts” interact as they build upon and influence each other, is crucial to successful outcomes.
This explains why early recognition and intervention of specific developmental delay(s) is so important in minimizing the potential cascading effect of its impact.
Over my years of experience as a Developmental Paediatrician, many parents have wished they had sought help earlier. They usually harboured concerns for some time but delayed making the difficult decision of seeking expert help for a number of overlapping reasons. These include conflicting advice from well-meaning friends and relatives or painful emotions including denial and guilt that parents often face when confronted with the worry that something may be wrong with their child.
Seeking early help from a Developmental and Behavioural Paediatrician is paramount if one suspects delayed developmental milestones. Parental intuitions are usually right. Moving from avoidance to action, from fear and uncertainty to understanding and empowerment allows us to begin work at constructive interventions that offer real hope. Knowledge is power and this allows the best outcomes for your child and your family. No matter what the situation, it’s always a better path to be on.