Frequently Asked Questions

Parent Questions About Child Development

What is an Act Early Ambassador?
The Act Early Ambassadors Project provides funding for Ambassadors in selected states to assist professionals and parents in learning about developmental milestones and screening. Utah's Ambassador, Tracy Golden, with support from the Center for Persons with Disabilities, is attending conferences, providing interviews to the media, and supporting the efforts of the "Learn the Signs. Act Early." campaign, along with Nurse Al. Ms. Golden, a social worker and licensed mental health therapist, is a trainee with the Utah Regional Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (URLEND) Program where professionals learn to provide multidisciplinary care for children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN).

What should I do if my child does not smile?
Babies that are 2 months old usually smile at people. If your child does not smile at you or others, call your primary care clinician (doctor, nurse practitioner, physician assistant, medical home, etc.) and make an appointment that includes a developmental screening. Also, ask the receptionist to make sure a copy of the last developmental screening is available on the day of the appointment so the primary care clinican can compare the past and new screening results.

How do I know if my child has autism?
Parents can watch for some early signs such as not smiling, not pointing, and not making eye contact. Parents should also watch to see if their children lose any skills that they had before, such as talking or walking. If you have concerns, call your primary care clinician for an appointment. Your primary care clinician can screen your child for autism spectrum disorders (ASD). If there are some concerns, your child may be referred to a developmental pediatrician or other specialist for further evaluation. It may take some time for you and your child to visit with the specialists and complete the evaluations. This process helps to make sure that your child gets the right diagnosis.

What is developmental surveillance?
Surveillance is a flexible and continuous process of asking about the child's growth and watching for the child to reach milestones. The primary clinician in the Medical Home will often ask questions about feeding, playing, and talking as part of this process. While these questions may seem like everyday conversations, they often give clues about appropriate development or possible developmental delays.

What is developmental screening?
Screening is a more formal process of monitoring developmental milestones. The Medical Home team will use a tested, standardized screening tool at specific visits to see if the child has reached or missed key milestones. Sometimes the parents fill out the forms for the screening tool. Other times the nurse or doctor asks questions and fills out the forms. The primary clinician reviews the forms, often with a total score, and decides if the child is developing on schedule or has skills that need a closer look. The screening does not diagnose a developmental delay; it just gives clues that there may be something that needs further testing, an assessment or evaluation. Since developmental screening does not diagnose problems, it is common for other community providers to also do screenings and watch for missed milestones. Early Head Start, Head Start, and child care providers may do screenings more often than the Medical Home. They notify the Medical Home when the screening raises concerns.

Families can watch and celebrate their children reaching new milestones. Some of the same things that families can do to watch for milestones can help children grow and learn new skills, including daily reading and playing. Play helps develop motor, language, and cognitive skills. Reading daily also helps develop language and cognitive skills. Playing helps children use extra energy during the day and reading can become part of a relaxing bedtime routine.

When should my child get a developmental screening?
Doctors use a schedule that has the ages for developmental screening, autism screening, hearing screening, vision screening, lead screening, and other tests. It is important to take your child in for well child visits as recommended by your doctor.

What happens if the doctor or parent has concerns after the developmental screening?
When the primary clinician notices problems with the screening, the child is often referred for further assessment. The assessment and the provider doing the assessment will depend on what problems the child may have. A referral to a local Early Intervention (EI) program is a common first step. The EI provider often does additional testing, or assessments, and interventions to help children maintain and gain skills. Sometimes, EI providers are also Early Head Start providers, serving children up to age three. It is not unusual for children to receive services from Early Intervention or Early Head Start providers before a diagnosis is determined. The child may be referred to a developmental pediatrician, who specializes in diagnosing and treating developmental delays. Sometimes the school psychologist may be involved in the assessment of school-age children when additional information about school skills is important in determining the diagnosis.

When a problem is found or a diagnosis is made, the Medical Home will play an important role in supporting the treatment plan and coordinating care among different providers. The Medical Home will provide treatment or help families find other providers if the developmental delays are mild and there is no diagnosis.

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