Ages and Stages: Questionnaire helps make sure youngsters are on right track

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Smart Start Rowan
Smart Start’s ABCD Program promotes the use of an easy developmental screening tool to help identify developmental delays in young children while at their well-child checkups.
Emma Grace Smith just turned a year old. A delightful infant, she smiles and laughs and is a daddy’s girl.
And she’s right where she should be in her development.
Emma’s pediatrician, Dr. Paula Franklin of Cleveland Pediatrics, knows just what to look for, of course, to make sure she’s on track. Since 2008, the practice has used a questionnaire from the Assuring Better Child Health and Development Program (ABCD), which is offered to medical offices by Smart Start Rowan.
“Regarding developmental delays, early intervention is the key,” Franklin says.
The Ages & Stages Questionnaire is filled out by parents, and then discussed by their child’s pediatrician during a well visit.
“It’s a little bit more extensive screening” than just a typical physical exam, Franklin notes.
The questions focus in five areas: communication, gross motor skills (arm and leg movements), fine motor skills (picking up small objects), problem solving and social skills.
Questions for parents of a 6-month-old might include: “Does your child use hands and both legs equally well?” “Does your baby roll from back to tummy?” “Does your baby make high-pitched squeals?” “Does your baby reach for or grab a toy using both hands at once?”
“It gives us a pretty good idea if a child has major delays,” Franklin says. Since there has been an emphasis in recent years on autism, pediatricians are also using a secondary screening tool that can help diagnose the condition.
Cleveland Pediatrics is one of five pediatric practices in Rowan County participating in the ABCD Program. Together, these five practices affect 80 percent of the county’s child population up to age 5, says Lisa Edwards, ABCD coordinator and early intervention specialist with Smart Start Rowan.
“I think it’s a good screening tool,” Franklin says. “Most of my parents do appreciate the fact that we do assess their child’s development.”
That’s certainly the case for Emma’s parents, Kim Rhodes and Jeremy Smith.
“She’s very active for this age,” Rhodes says. “She’s usually in a good mood.”
Emma can already say “Da-Da” and claps her hands happily.
“She tries to copy everything you say,” her dad says.
Franklin does point out that children develop differently and at different ages.
“That doesn’t always mean there’s a delay,” she says. If there is, there is a broad spectrum of treatment options that include speech therapy and occupational therapy for minor problems. For more significant delays, other therapies and home intervention may be considered.
The program has had success in Rowan, Edwards says. “A child’s doctor is the best-informed professional that parents have regular contact with during a child’s early years. Parents are eager to receive information about behavior and development from them, and referrals for specialized care, if needed. ABCD helps streamline what can be a somewhat confusing referral process for early intervention services.”
For more information about the ABCD program, contact Smart Start Rowan Executive Director John Gerstenmier at 704-630-9085.