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Early diagnosis and treatment can bring the best results for a child at risk for a developmental disorder.
Diagnosis and Treatment          
         What to do now               

When navigating the referral process, parents and pediatric professionals must work together to pursue the healthiest developmental outcome for a child at risk of a developmental disorder. This includes referrals to, and follow up for, the following: Early Intervention, the local school district, specialists, insurance, diagnostic testing, and working towards “what’s next?”

For Physicians

Referral is not one step; it is an integrated process that requires persistence on the part of pediatric professionals and parents.

When navigating the maze of referrals, waiting lists, insurance forms, testing, and specialists, many parents struggle. Parents must overcome both emotional and practical difficulties as they move forward with the referral process. Accordingly, it is imperative for physicians to work with parents as a “clinical quarterback” and active participant throughout the referral process.

Early diagnosis and intervention will bring the best results for a child at risk of a developmental disorder, but without assistance, some families may face a delay in receiving services. At the next office visit, you might review:

  • Did you or the child’s parent make an intake appointment with Early Intervention?
  • Was a diagnostic referral made to a specialist?
  • Are there referrals that might be made through the family’s insurance plan?
  • What help does the family need?
  • And, most importantly, how is the family doing?

For Parents

After a physician confirms the presence of a developmental delay or disorder, parents have to contend with a range of emotions: grief, disbelief, anger, hope, fear. Coming to terms with a child’s developmental delay or disorder can be a lengthy process. While each parent responds differently, many parents recall that the first steps towards self-education and action proved crucial not only for the child’s well-being, but for their own. The only magical formula for a child’s best outcome is an active and involved parent. Spend time with your child. You don’t need a degree in psychology to help your child. Don’t hesitate to ask your child’s physician for help. And don’t be afraid to lean on your family and friends. Beyond love and acceptance, you will find that creativity and persistence are invaluable tools.

Speaking to parents of children diagnosed with disabilities, one theme is clear: act now.

“I had to start moving forward before I even accepted the diagnosis. I thought, “my son will prove you wrong’ and I made the appointments with that intent.”

“I didn’t realize that everything took so long: specialists had waiting lists, it took a while to even schedule an evaluation. I wish I’d started earlier.”

“The best advice I have: talk to another parent who has a child with developmental issues. They can help you navigate the maze, and can give you the encouragement you need to move forward.”

Once a parent is ready to move forward, it may be helpful to start a small notebook where everything can be recorded: a schedule of upcoming appointments; names of specialists; contact numbers for community resources; detailed notes from conversations with clinicians; questions to ask at the next appointment; notes on your child’s progress.

One of the first lists for your notebook might be the following “to do” list, which includes six crucial steps to take after a child has been identified as having developmental delays:

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