Before your baby leaves the hospital, he receives a series of tests called newborn screening. These tests look for serious but rare conditions, including blood, hearing and heart disorders. If a problem is discovered through newborn screening, your baby may receive treatment and often avoid a more serious health problem. Early diagnosis is critical in detecting certain medical conditions.
Other screenings occur after your baby is home from the hospital
Between birth and age 3, your baby goes through incredible changes. He is growing and developing every day. To be sure that your baby is “on track,” your baby’s healthcare provider will check his developmental milestones at each well-baby visit.
These milestones are the major achievements in your child’s life. They include smiling, babbling, rolling over, sitting up, crawling, reaching grabbing, talking, walking and other accomplishments. Parents can check milestones, too. Here is a list of behaviors to look for at specific ages.
If either you or your baby’s provider are concerned that your baby is not progressing well, you can request a developmental screening. It is free as part of the federally funded early intervention program. Similar to newborn screening, this screening helps to identify potential health or developmental problems early.
If your child qualifies, the early intervention program may include services such as speech therapy, physical or occupational therapy, or even a special preschool setting. Early intervention can be enormously helpful in helping your child improve. And, the sooner you begin intervention, the sooner your baby can reach his full potential.
One example of a diagnosis where early intervention is particularly important is Autism. April is autism awareness month, a time to remember that this developmental disorder affects 1 in 68 children in the U.S. Officially called autism spectrum disorder or ASD, it is a developmental disability that can cause social, communication and behavior challenges – from mild to severe. This is why it is referred to as a “spectrum” disorder.
ASD can be difficult to diagnose because there is no medical test, like a blood test, to give a definite answer as to whether your child has it or not. Usually, children with ASD start showing signs or symptoms of the disorder in their toddler or preschool years, and some babies show signs in their first year of life. For this reason, taking your child for regular visits with his healthcare provider is particularly important so that his development can be monitored. If your child needs early intervention services, getting it early is key in helping him progress.
There is a wide range of “typical development” for children. But, if you are concerned about your child’s progress or feel he is delayed in reaching his milestones, talk to his healthcare provider sooner rather than later.
You can find more information in our series on Delays and Disabilities: How to get help for your child.
Remember – don’t delay with delays.