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What should I do if I am worried about my child’s development?

Jen Zubler

Jen Zubler, MD, FAAP


What should I do if I am worried about my child’s development?

If you are worried about your child's development, take action right away by talking with your child's doctor. Don't wait to see if your child "outgrows" any concerns you may have.

Acting early can make a big difference!

Your concerns are important. Studies have shown that when parents have a concern about their child's development, they are often right. You know your child best, so if you have concerns about how your child plays, learns, speaks, acts, or moves for his or her age, talk with your child's doctor and share those concerns. Don't wait.

Communicating concerns with your child's doctor:

Your doctor values your input, which is why he or she asks questions at each well-child visit about your child's development and if you have any concerns. Sometimes, it can be difficult to bring things up or even remember all of them at the time.

These FREE resources can make it easier:

  1. Fill out a milestone checklist using Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Milestone Tracker app or print a checklist from CDC website. If your child is between ages of the checklists, use the checklist for the younger age.

  2. Read the tip sheet, Concerned about Development? How to Talk with the Doctor.

  3. Take the completed milestone checklist with you and talk about it with your child's doctor.

Part of all well-child visits:

All well-child care visits should include specific questions about your child's development and behavior. Your doctor also does more formal assessments of your child's development, called screenings, at 9, 18, and 30 months and autism-specific screenings at 18 and 24 months.

A screening can also be done at any point―whenever there's a concern about development―whether it be a parent or a pediatrician's concerns. These screens look at all areas of development—language/communication, problem-solving, social-emotional, and fine and gross motor skills.

Further evaluation or testing:

If screening indicates, or if you or your doctor still have concerns, your child can be referred for further evaluation by a specialist such as a developmental and behavioral pediatrician, a child neurologist, child psychiatrist, or a child psychologist.

At the same time, you can call your state's early childhood system (for children under age 3) or local public school (age 3 or older) for a free evaluation and to find out if your child qualifies for services that can help.

These services may include things such as speech therapy, physical therapy, behavioral therapy, and more. They can help children strengthen their skills and abilities. The earlier children are identified as needing help and begin receiving help the easier it is for the child to learn new skills. So, if you have concerns, act early by talking with your child's doctor.

Additional Information:

Jen Zubler

Jen Zubler, MD, FAAP

​Jen Zubler, MD, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician and a consultant for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Learn the Signs. Act Early. program. She completed a Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities fellowship at Georgia State University (GA-LEND) where she continues to mentor trainees. In addition, Dr. Zubler volunteers as the coordinator of a multidisciplinary developmental and behavioral pediatric clinic in Georgia. Within the American Academy of Pediatrics, she is actively involved with the Georgia Chapter and is a member of the Project Advisory Committee for the Screening in Practices Initiative Learning Collaborative

Last Updated
American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2019)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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