The medical director of the Beaumont Children’s Center for Exceptional Families shares what parents should look for in their child’s development.
By Dr. Susan Youngs
Raising children can be wonderful. Watching them grow and learn is truly exciting. It is one of life’s privileges that comes with great responsibility. And, when a child does not seem to be progressing as he or she should, this time can also be filled with anxiety and worry.
It is true that each child develops at his or her own pace, but there are some key developmental events that can determine whether a child may need some additional support. Parents should keep regular appointments with their pediatrician to make sure that their child is progressing at a normal pace. If not, some targeted testing may be recommended to assess whether or not the child may have autism spectrum disorder or another developmental issue.
According to estimates from the Center for Disease Control’s Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, about 1 in 59 children in the United States have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The data from the CDC also demonstrates that more work needs to be done to identify children with autism at a younger age and refer them to early intervention:
- Fewer than half of the children identified in the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network received their first autism diagnosis by the time they were 4 years old.
- Although 85 percent of children with autism had concerns about their development noted in their health records by the time they were 3-years old, only 42 percent received a developmental evaluation by that age.
- This lag between first concern and first evaluation may affect when children with autism can begin getting the services they need.
Studies have shown us that identifying and treating autism spectrum disorder at early ages creates better outcomes for the child. To that end, parents should act early on any concerns they may have with their child’s development.
In addition to sharing all developmental milestones with a pediatrician, some behavior to watch for and discuss includes:
- Speech delay: Language development begins at birth with lots of verbal and non-verbal communication milestones.
- Non-verbal communication: Lack of eye contact; lack of pointing to make needs known; poor joint attention (focuses on what another is watching); or not acknowledging when his or her name is called.
- Specific routines/patterns: Changes to a routine or pattern causes distress; or organizing toys in a line instead of playing with them.
- Unusual motor mannerism: Clapping when excited; holding toys in front of eyes; or perhaps looking sideways at their toys.
- Senses sensitivity: Uneasy reaction to bright light, loud sounds, certain tastes or touch.
- Tantrums/dysregulated sleep: Struggling with tantrums or sleep routines.
- Transitioning: Difficulty moving from one activity to the next.
So what do you do when you have concerns?
First, discuss the concerns with your child’s pediatrician. The pediatrician may perform a brief screening test (MCHAT) which is a standard evaluation tool. At that time, the pediatrician will discuss with you if there may be a need for further testing. If so, you would be referred to an autism diagnostic center, such as Beaumont’s new Center for Exceptional Families Autism Center in Dearborn or the Ted Lindsay Foundation HOPE Center in Southfield.
The Center for Exceptional Families Autism Center offers comprehensive clinical and educational services for children with autism, including diagnostics, applied behavior analysis, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, social work and follow-up medical appointments over a child’s lifetime.
The center practices an applied behavior analysis approach to autism care that is widely considered to be one of the most effective treatment options for individuals with autism. It involves understanding individual behaviors and modifying the environment to encourage socially appropriate behaviors.
Once recommended to the center, your child will undergo a multi-step diagnostic evaluation over several visits. This occurs in a welcoming and compassionate environment to minimize stress for the family. A formal diagnosis can then be made and any need for services will be discussed.
If a child is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, a personalized program will be developed to address his or her needs. Services may include speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, social skills groups and/or applied behavior analysis.
Research and studies continue to help us understand the causes, symptoms and best treatment options for autism spectrum disorder. We do know early detection offers the best outcomes and, with help, children with autism spectrum disorder are able to contribute in amazing ways to society.
Dr. Susan Youngs is the medical director of the Beaumont Children’s Center for Exceptional Families. She specializes in pediatric physical medicine and rehabilitation as well as physical medicine and rehab. Dr. Youngs earned her medical degree from the University of Michigan Medical School and has been in practice for more than 20 years.
Interested is supporting the programs of Beaumont’s Center for Exceptional Families Autism Center? Join us on Oct, 6 for the Annual Red Tie Ball hosted at Motor City Casino. Visit https://www.beaumont.org/giving/foundation-events/red-tie-ball