This article originally appeared in Star Chronicle, a newsletter
published for the Children's Medical Center.
Parents are thrilled
by every milestone reached in their child's development, like first words and
first steps. But what happens if a child is not talking or otherwise developing
as well as other children of the same age?
"Every child learns at a different rate. For example, Olivia may be singing songs
by age two, while Josh is working hard to put words together at age three," says
Robin Adair, MD, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at the Children's
Medical Center and director of the Early Childhood Clinic. "But if parents are
concerned, or a screening by their child's primary care provider indicates a
possible problem, an evaluation should be done."
That is where the Early Childhood Clinic came in. Part of the UMass Memorial
Children's Medical Center, the clinics specialize in diagnostic and referral
services for children, up to age five, who appear to have developmental delays
or an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). All patients are evaluated by a
developmental-behavioral pediatrician and a developmental specialist.
If the child has or likely has an ASD, he or she can be evaluated by a
speech-language pathologist who specializes in nonverbal and verbal
communication, as well as speech and social skill development. A family health
support worker can also serve as a link to ASD community-based resources and
provide support. In addition, a psychologist working with the ASD services team
is available for further evaluation.
"With developmental delays and autism spectrum disorders, early
identification can mean early intervention, which is critical for the child,"
says Dr. Adair.