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[FAMILY & PARENTING] SHOULD I GET MY CHILD TESTED AT AN EARLY AGE?

Have you noticed unusual behavior in your child?

Have you notice an increase in aggression?

Are the following things occurring in your child:

Mood changes & Irritability-Emotional Skills

Inability to focus- Social Skills

Speech delays- Language & Speech Skills

Physical delays-Gross Motor Skills

These are all signs of a possible developmental or learning disorder. As parents we tend to look at our children and stipulate that nothing is wrong. We ignore the small signs and dismiss them as typical child like behaviors. The idea that our children may be delayed in a developmental aspect frightens us. I am here to clarify and debunk those beliefs.

There are warnings signs that can help parents be more aware of what is developmental appropriate and what is a sign that specialized attention is needed. In today’s society there has been many who believe that getting a child tested is inappropriate and premature. I am here to tell you it isn’t.

The most important and powerful thing you can do as a parent is observe.  Observe the way your child plays, moves, speaks, and interacts with others. Take note of different behaviors/actions you have never seen before. Research studies have confirmed that parents are reliable sources of information about their child’s development. When observing have fun with your child. Play is the best way to pinpoint if there is a need for help of any kind. When observing you child remember that children develop differently. All children hit the same developmental milestones, but they hit them at different times in their progression. NO two children will hit their milestones identically. It is important to remember not to compare your child to another. Every child is unique.

Another important step is to keep an open communication with your child’s caregiver. There are other people in your child’s life that are important factors. If your child is cared for by a relative or nanny, it is important to get their opinion. Nowadays, most families pay for a daycare or an early childhood facility. It is important to stay in communication with all the staff that comes in comes contact with your child. These individuals will be your secondary eyes on your child’s progression. Things like crawling, speaking, walking, feeding, and play interactions are items that can help support your need for specialized help. Be a good listener and acknowledge the feedback. Always keep in mind children hit their milestones at different times, so don’t stress.

When a child goes into a preschool setting, people are more steadily aware of changes and needs. In most states, the preschool divisions are called Abbott programs. These are mostly state funded preschool programs geared to helping children develop a firm foundation for their academic lives. The days normally run from 8:30am to 2:30pm. This is about a six-hour school day. It is very similar to a regular school day. These programs help children progress but equally help parents with ensuring that children are learning the basic fundamentals. Noticing children with some social/emotional delays is more readily available. Often your child’s teacher will notice the first symptoms of a specific learning disability. Parents may also notice symptoms that are different from those the teacher sees. That’s why it is so important for teachers and parents to share notes on the development of a child. When you enter a preschool setting, there are more resources available to you. There are the teachers input, assessment (ECRs, Literacy/Math, & referral), PIRT (Preschool Intervention Referral Team), family advocates, and Community & Parent Involvement Specialists.

Another important aspect is confiding in your pediatrician. Maintaining a good healthy relationship with your pediatrician is an excellent resource. Parents who are aware of developmental milestones can observe their child and inform their healthcare provider about any concerns they may have about their child’s development. Pediatric healthcare providers can provide parents with milestone checklists to track their child’s milestones at home. Healthcare professionals play a critical role in monitoring children’s development and identifying problems as early as possible.  They monitor the child’s development at each visit. At the office they may periodically screen your child with validated tools. These tools identify any areas of concern that may require a further examination or evaluation. Your healthcare professional can ensure that more comprehensive developmental evaluations are completed if risks are identified. Children aged 0-3 years can be referred to early intervention programs.

Early intervention programs are services who give specialized support to children and families in the early years (from birth to school entry). Children 3 years and older can be referred to special education services for assessment and services.

Making a decision on having your child tested is a big deal. It is a decision that will in fact change their lives. The more involved you are with your child’s progress the better you are at advocating for them. Make sure you have collected enough valid evidence. Put together all the referrals, observations, and assessments.

Re-read all the information. You are now ready to make a cautious decision whether to test your child. The more you know about the evaluations, the more prepared you’ll be to advocate for your child. You’ll also be better able to explain to your child what to expect and help them understand their own challenges. Kids develop at different paces. Your child may gain some skills later than other kids or have some skills that are advanced for their age.

 If your child isn’t meeting many of these milestones, consider speaking with your healthcare professional to seek an evaluation.This evaluation will look at his/hers skills and document the results. There are a number of ways you, your pediatrician and even his preschool can work together to help boost their skills.

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