How to Talk About Child Development with a Pediatrician
June 13, 2023
Hopebridge Physician Shares Advice for Addressing Milestones and Behavioral Concerns
For many parents, talking about your kids is easy! You’re thinking about them constantly, from how they slept (or didn’t!) and what they ate today, to what songs they enjoy and all their cute little dance moves, so it’s natural for them to come up in conversation … but what about when you take them to the pediatrician?
For some caregivers, talking with a physician about their child’s development does not happen as naturally. Whether they unsure how to answer certain questions, are not familiar with milestones, or are worried they like won’t have enough time to get through it all, many families could use more guidance in this area.
Development is an important piece of a child’s overall health and should be addressed during well checkups, as well as in between if concerns arise or if they notice signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). To better support these conversations, we turned to Dr. Chris Holmes, a pediatrician who specializes in behavioral health and conducts autism testing for Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers.
How to Support Your Child’s Development with Help From a Doctor
As pediatricians, my colleagues and I are here to support your child’s wellbeing. We look through many lenses – medical, behavioral, social, emotional – to collaborate with families with their health in mind. It is part of our job to monitor and guide you through your child’s growth, skills and behavior, but no one knows them better than you do.
To foster an open and ongoing relationship with your child’s care team, there are a few simple yet meaningful ways caregivers can prepare for visits to the pediatrician’s office as it relates to behavioral health and childhood development:
Monitor milestones It is helpful for parents to keep track of their child’s major milestones, even starting from the first couple months. Observe milestones like sitting, crawling, walking and first words to share with the pediatrician. Hopebridge has a handy developmental checklist on the website that outlines skills to look for by ages, and the CDC website has more detail that covers what to expect for typically developing children. Understanding the signs of autism can also be beneficial.
Compile videos of behaviors Taking notes and recording videos of your child’s behaviors at home can be beneficial, especially if there are specific behaviors that cause you concerns or questions. For instance, if your child crawls in an atypical manner or stims by moving their fingers in a repetitive way, it’s not necessarily an issue, but it is good to bring the videos with you to show and discuss with the pediatrician at your child’s next appointment. These videos can shine a little more light on behaviors that are not likely to occur during the appointment.
Fill out questionnaires accurately When pediatricians ask parents to fill out questionnaires about a child’s development, it is important to be as accurate as possible and not fall into the trap of wishful thinking. From M-CHAT screenings to in-office documents, mark down your child’s strengths and challenges. If they have not yet mastered or attempted a skill, it’s ok, and we can better provide you support in those areas if we have the background.
Ask if you don’t understand something Developmental screenings and other questionnaires can ask very detailed questions. If you are not sure what a question means or how to respond, please ask the doctor or nurse for assistance so you can provide the most accurate, up-to-date information.
Listen to your instincts If you notice signs that your child’s development is not typical in any area, I recommend scheduling an appointment with the pediatrician. Many developmental delays, such as in speech or motor skills, can be overcome with the proper therapies like speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and developmental therapy. The earlier a child begins therapy, the sooner a child can receive the resources they need to get back on track to developing new skills.
If you have concerns, don’t wait to talk about it It is important to address any concern you have right away, even between well child visits. For example, after age 2 years, kids typically have a well visit every 6-12 months, and after the age of 3, well visits are only once a year. There are many developmental milestones that should be occurring during this time, so if a child may not be developing as expected, it is reasonable to make an appointment with their pediatrician to discuss it. Simply waiting for a child to outgrow a behavior or eventually acquire a skill that is late developing is generally not a good idea.
Next Steps After Developmental Discussions
By talking to the pediatrician about your child’s development, you are giving them their best shot at achieving the foundational skills that will set them up for a lifetime. At the same time, you can learn more about ways to support your child throughout their growth and gain knowledge around any potential challenges that arise.
There is no blanket response to developmental delays or behavioral concerns, as each individual child will experience them in their own way for different reasons. A pediatrician can, however, aid families in pinpointing potential causes and interventions that are best suited to their child.
To take advantage of diagnostic testing and therapy services, pediatricians can provide a referral to help families get to the next step of receiving a diagnosis. While we can’t outline every scenario, if you believe your child may have developmental delays or is showing symptoms of autism, here is more detail on a few possible paths:
Get Your Child Support From Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers
At Hopebridge, our mission is to increase access to pediatric autism services and complementary therapies to make sure all kids have the potential to live their best lives. If you are interested in learning more about evidence-based services like ABA, speech and occupational therapy and how they can set your kid up for success now and in the future, please talk to your pediatrician about your options and fill out the form here to see if Hopebridge is the right match for your family.
Does your child already have an autism diagnosis? There are a few easy ways to submit a diagnosis to Hopebridge to take part in additional therapies:
How to Submit a Physician’s Referral to Hopebridge