When you have concerns that your child may have developmental delays, there is no time to wait. If your child is not showing the physical development or behavior you would expect for a child their age, speak up to a medical professional as soon as you have a concern.
Trust your instincts. As a parent, you know your child best. When families have concerns about a child’s development, they are usually right—even if it is something a doctor has missed along the way.
If you have concerns about your child’s development, here are 5 action steps you can take right away:
Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician or pediatrician. Be clear about the reason for the visit and mention the specific behavior(s) you are concerned about. Don’t be afraid to ask if there is somebody in the practice who might be more familiar with developmental delays.
Prepare for the appointment. Before you and your child meet with the physician, make sure to gather all the information and observations that you have, including writing down any specific concerns and noting where and when you are seeing specific difficulties in your child’s development. Also bring any videos or recordings that show the difficulties you have observed.
Start the conversation. When the physician asks why you are here today, begin by stating clearly what your concerns are. There is no need to wait for the doctor to discover them on their own. You can start by saying something like, “I have noticed some things that are really concerning me about my child’s _______.” Be very specific. For example: “I am concerned my child is already 2 and not speaking yet.”
Advocate for your child. Make sure your concerns are adequately addressed. You are the best advocate for your child and their needs. If you don’t think the physician is addressing your concerns or says “Let’s wait and see” without any other plan of action, you do not have to accept this. Request further evaluation from this doctor, or seek a second opinion from another primary care physician or pediatrician.
You can ask the doctor’s office if there are primary care providers in the area who specialize in developmental concerns or request a referral to a specialist such as a developmental behavioral pediatrician, pediatric neurologist, child psychiatrist, or psychologist.
In any case, keep advocating for your child until you get the answers you are looking for.
Work together on a plan with your physician. Early diagnosis and intervention can be life-changing for children with developmental delays. In addition to the private health care system, there are public resources available that might also be helpful.
One of these resources is your local Early Intervention (EI) Center. If your child is under 3 years of age, you can reach out directly to the EI to get an evaluation for your child and you do not need a doctor’s referral. If your child is over 3, you can access this public system through the special education department in your local school system. You can access your state EI office at this link, and call to find your local EI office.
If additional services are needed, your private insurance may cover other specialists and care.
For more information on what actions to take when you have concerns about your child’s physical or mental development, click here for helpful resources from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Cognoa created Canvas Dx for families and doctors to be able to act early on developmental concerns. Canvas Dx is a remote, digital assessment for children at risk of developmental delay between ages 1.5 to 6 years old. Talk with your pediatrician about any developmental concerns that you have and ask them about Canvas Dx.
Remember, throughout this journey, you know your child the best, and while it might take some effort, there are steps you can take to find experts who are ready and able to help.
Kelly Wilson is a Parent Advocate for families of children with autism, and is the father of a child with autism himself. Kelly is also a medical writer and member of the American Medical Writers Association.