WHAT IS A PEDIATRIC DEVELOPMENTAL EVALUATION?
A pediatric developmental evaluation is an assessment of your child’s medical and life history and of his/her physical, social, emotional, communicative and cognitive function using standardized methods and observational tools. The evaluation puts all of these elements together like the pieces of a puzzle, in order to arrive at a diagnosis, or several interrelated diagnoses, that explain how and why your child thinks, talks,feels, learns, behaves, and moves the way she does. The evaluation also gives you specific directions for what kind of treatment is required.
After the evaluation my role as a developmental pediatrician is to continue to provide or help you obtain appropriate treatments, and to support your child’s development through the present and into the future with ongoing monitoring, case management, and guidance.
Early diagnosis and treatment of developmental problems can have a dramatic effect on improving your child’s potential to become a mentally, physically and emotionally healthy child, adolescent and adult.
Taking a “wait and see” attitude usually does not lead to children catching up to their expected developmental level, or to outgrowing behavior problems.
During infancy and early childhood the brain develops very rapidly, and soaks up everything in its environment like a sponge. This includes all the positive stimulation, as well as experience that may be detrimental. This is called “brain plasticity”, that is, the ability of the brain to change with experience. Experience—that is, what happens in the family at home, in daycare, in preschool etc.—along with heredity, shapes behavior, emotions, thinking, and physical and cognitive potential, language, and mood.
Understanding your particular child’s developmental issues as early as possible is important because usually, just as in a hanging mobile or other well balanced system, if one part is out of balance, the other parts become unbalanced. The younger a child is, the easier it is to identify and correct the developmental area that needs help in order to restore balance to the rest of the system. For example—a child with a language delay very often has severe behavior problems because he can’t express himself. The behavior improves dramatically, when the language problems are appropriately treated. Frequently, attention is also better, and there is much less stress in the family. There are many adolescents and adults whose emotional and behavioral problems would be much less significant if their early developmental difficulties had been recognized and appropriately treated.
As children mature, their brains become more complex, but also develop certain patterns and habits. Any lasting change requires “frequent and intense” interventions. Like learning to play a musical instrument, practicing every day, and not just having a lesson, creates proficiency and automaticity. That is what we seek in developmental interventions. It is the job of the developmental pediatrician to make sure that the child is receiving the right interventions to achieve and maintain proficiency AND automaticity in specific skills. It is also the job of the developmental pediatrician to keep an eye on physical, social, and emotional maturation, for those developmental tasks that help a child to become an independent person that can love, learn, work and play to his fullest potential.
Anna Baumgaertel MD FAAP | 484-439-1266 | 31 N. Narberth Ave | Narberth PA 19004
Taking a “wait and see” attitude usually does not lead to children catching up to their expected developmental level, or
to outgrowing behavior problems.
BOARD CERTIFIED DEVELOPMENTAL-
Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics of Lower Merion