Is It Ever Too Early To See A Specialist?

If you had a concern about your child’s development, what is the first thing you would do? Whom would you talk to? Where would you go to get advice?

Often, we turn to family members and friends for advice, but do they really have the answers? Or, many parents take their children straight to the pediatrician to get their questions answered.

At my clinic, it is not uncommon for parents to bring their 3- or 4-year-old children for developmental assessments. One of the first questions I ask when meeting a new parent or child is, “when did you first notice the problem?” Usually, their response is, “when they were around one year old” or, “somewhere around 18 months.” The therapist in me always wants to ask parents why they waited so long to bring their child to me when they’ve been concerned for so long. However, I already know the answer to that question.

Why did these parents wait so long? Because their doctor told them to wait. I can almost tell you the conversations with the various pediatricians verbatim. Many pediatricians will most likely tell parents to “wait, it’s too early to make a diagnosis just yet.” Or…

“Remember, children develop at different rates.”

“Your child is too young. A therapist won’t be able to help, until your child is a bit older.”

And finally, “just be patient! Most children catch up eventually.”

But what if your child doesn’t “catch up?” Do you really want to wait until he or she is five years old to get that diagnosis?

What if there is something that can be done when they are 18 months old, or in some cases even 12 months old? The good news is, there is a lot that can be done at an early age and unfortunately, not all doctors are aware of that. Some are, but unfortunately some are not. Therefore, if a doctor tells you not to worry about it or to wait until your child is older, you definitely need to get a second opinion.

It is crucial for children to be seen for developmental delays as early as possible. Early identification is essential on the road to success! It is absolutely necessary to get your child services such as speech, occupational, and physical therapy as quickly as possible. These services will not only help improve and reverse the developmental delays, but they can help with a lot of other problems that tend to accompany these delays such as eating and sleeping disorders.

If you have a concern, you should move and move quickly. It is true that just because a child isn’t doing everything correctly, doesn’t automatically mean that they have a developmental problem. However, a specialist should be sought out who can determine whether the identified delays will fix themselves or need intervention by skilled therapists. This requires skills that a general practitioner or pediatrician simply do not have. Family doctors generally are more equipped to handle cuts, rashes, colds, and other illnesses, but usually not developmental delays.

So, what if your told it’s too early to make an official diagnosis? It is never too early! If we know what the symptoms are then we can work on those. If a child is two years old and not talking, that’s a problem. You don’t need to wait until they are 4 or 5 to get a proper diagnosis of autism or another delay in order to begin working on a child’s speech.

If a child is 2 and will not take solid foods, we can work on that now! The most frustrating part of my job is hearing mother’s say, “I wish I had sought out help sooner!” This truly breaks my heart because there is so much that could have been done. Autism, sensory processing disorder, fragile x, all of this can be greatly improved with early intervention.

A child’s brain is extremely malleable. Neural connections are being formed and fine-tuned, and foundational skills are developing all the time! The earlier important building blocks can be taught, the more likely it is that children will develop functional skills such as communication. Therefore, if you have a concern, it’s your responsibility to act. It is not solely your doctors responsibility!

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Jason Spear Miller
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