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KEEPING CHILD DEVELOPMENT ON TRACK

Information and Resources

Milestones Tracker

Use this guide to track the developmental progress of your child

Ask The Experts

Expert clinicians provide answers to frequently asked questions

Home Guide

A guide to fostering your child’s development in the home

Community Resources

A collection of links to educational materials and support services
Milestones Tracker
Use this guide to track the developmental progress of your child

Additional free tools and materials for tracking milestones, including a phone app, brochures, and books, can be found at the CDC via this link: https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/freematerials.html

Ask The Experts

Answers to your questions provided by expert clinicians

Amir Miodovnik, MD

Developmental – Behavioral Pediatrician

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How do I know if my child has developmental delays?

Parents know their child better than anyone. If you have concerns about your child’s development, or if you feel like something just isn’t quite right, TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS! Start by talking with your child’s pediatrician. Parents who have concerns can also initiate an evaluation directly with a developmental specialist.

My child is still young so how would anyone know that something is really wrong?

There are several professionals who are uniquely qualified to recognize typical development and atypical development (development that falls outside the “normal” range) beginning from birth. Early Intervention specialists are trained educators who work with kids from zero to three years. Developmental-Behavioral Pediatricians and Child Neurologists can identify developmental concerns in infants and toddlers as well as teenagers. Always trust your gut instinct when it comes to development. Parents can always reach out directly to one of these professionals if they have concerns.

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Could the pandemic be adversely affecting my child’s development? Once the pandemic is over will my child’s development improve?

Children learn and practice social skills with peers—sharing, turn-taking, resolving conflict, and more. The more experience they have interacting with peers, the more they learn about how to get along with others.

A prolonged pause in their familiar activities and peer interactions can be confusing and upsetting because children thrive on routine. While younger children might regress a bit in their social skills and behaviors during a stressful period, children are also very resilient. We anticipate that most children will catch up once the episode is over.

In the meantime, parents can coach their children on social-emotional skills and model appropriate self-regulation skills (e.g., “I am so frustrated. I think I’ll take a deep breath to calm myself down”).

A nice website on how parents can support their child’s development during the pandemic can be found at: https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/3299-baby-talks-parent-coronavirus-questions-answered

Are there things I can do on my own to promote my child’s development?

Remember to think of development as having 5 components: cognitive (general knowledge and problem-solving skills), language (speaking and understanding), social (friends and play skills), motor (big and little muscles, coordination, posture, and strength), and adaptive skills (how well one copes or cares for themselves independently).

Start by understanding what to look for in all 5 developmental domains over time. These are called developmental milestones. A great place to learn what to expect from month-to-month is https://babynavigator.com/resources/

Azlen Theobald, PsyD

Neuropsychologist

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Who is affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Symptoms of Autism are usually evident by the age of 3, though diagnosis may be made as early as 12 to 18 months, and as late as 6 to 9 years (or later). According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), about 1 in 59 children have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). ASDs are three to four times more common in boys than in girls. Some children on the more severe end of the spectrum will need ongoing supervision, while others, with the right support, may pursue higher education and fulfilling jobs. These disorders affect people of all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups.

What are the current treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorders?

There is no one treatment for ASDs, however, it is widely accepted that the earliest interventions allow the best outcomes. Treatments generally address both cognitive and behavioral functioning. They may include a combination of medications (for challenging behaviors), behavioral therapy, psycho-education, family support groups, educational interventions, speech and language therapy, occupational therapy and specialized training to develop and improve acquisition of necessary skills. Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is also an effective treatment in reinforcing desirable behaviors and reducing undesirable ones.

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Can a person with Autism Spectrum Disorder live an independent adult life?
Many can. In fact, there are millions of adults who have learned to communicate in unique ways and support themselves through jobs that match their strengths. Every child on the Autism spectrum has a different set of strengths and challenges. Many have typical intelligence. Some even do better than most in art, music, engineering, and other areas. Others (between 25 percent and 40 percent) have intellectual as well as communication disabilities. These children may not be able to gain the complex skills a person needs to live as independent adults. They may need to live at home, in supervised group living situations, or in residential centers designed for neurodiverse adults.
How do I explain my child’s Autism symptoms and behaviors to their sibling(s)?
First and foremost, explain that their sibling is not responsible for these behaviors and is not doing them on purpose. Try to instill a sense of loving their sibling the way they are and not feeling ashamed or embarrassed of them. Offer your child(ren) outlets to discuss their concerns and feelings about having a sibling on the spectrum. If you are comfortable with the topic and do not instill shame or respond with comments such as “you can’t say that about your brother/sister” or “you shouldn’t feel that way”, then your child(ren) will feel more comfortable talking about their feelings with you. Lastly, keep explanations of Autism short and developmentally appropriate. Remember that you shouldn’t feel compelled to explain every little detail.

Michael Baniewicz, PsyD

Neuropsychologist

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How do I know if my child has behavioral difficulties?
While behavioral difficulties frequently occur with developmental disorders, children who are meeting their developmental milestones can also exhibit emotional and behavioral problems. Many young children have behavioral episodes (or tantrums), but they are generally brief, and children can move on from them pretty easily. However, when they become more frequent, last a long time, or prevent you from being able to engage in your “normal” activities, they may be in excess of what most young children experience. Often, behavioral problems show up because a child is frustrated, scared, or confused. We all do our best to react appropriately to what our children do, but sometimes additional support is needed. You know your child best. Trust your instincts!
Who can I contact if I have concerns?
If your child isn’t reaching their developmental milestones as expected, there are several professionals who are uniquely qualified to perform development and/or behavioral assessments and provide specific treatment recommendations:

Early Intervention specialists are trained educators who work with children from birth to three years old. Early intervention teams can consist of a range of professionals including speech/language therapists, who work on the development of language skills; occupational therapists, who work on fine motor and sensory issues; physical therapists, who work on gross motor and coordination issues; and specialized instructors, who work on fostering cognitive skills.

Pediatric or Developmental Psychologists are behavioral experts who are trained in identifying normal and abnormal behavior in infants, toddlers, and young children.

Developmental-Behavioral Pediatricians and Child Neurologists are medical doctors who are trained to identify developmental and/or behavioral concerns in infants and toddlers as well as older children.

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How do I access services?
There are a couple of ways to access services for your child, but the person most people have the easiest access to is your child’s pediatrician. If you are following the recommended schedule of appointments, you are probably seeing them every couple of months when your child is an infant or toddler. Tell them your concerns!

However, you can also initiate services on your own. The process may vary slightly depending on what state you live in, but every county has an Early Intervention Program (EIP), and you can easily locate their contact information by searching on the internet or asking your pediatrician.

You can also contact most service providers directly. Most will ask to perform an evaluation before starting service to identify what kind of intervention, and how often, may be necessary to help your child.

While most providers who perform evaluations accept insurance, many insurance carriers require a provider’s diagnosis of a developmental and/or behavioral condition before they will cover the cost of certain recommended therapies. Depending on where you live, this diagnosis may need to come from either a medical provider and/or a psychologist.

Remember that a child’s development changes over time. Try to find a specialist who can provide ongoing care and adjust your child’s treatment plan as needed.

What can I expect when my child has an evaluation?
It generally depends on who you’re contacting and what type of evaluation they are conducting.

If you are working with your Early Intervention Program, they may interview your regarding your concerns and evaluate your child to determine if they require therapeutic interventions that can be provided in the home.

If you are seeing a psychologist, they may gather a range of information about your child’s medical, social, and behavioral history to identify whether their behavior and development is progressing along a typical course. They may also utilize norm-based assessment tools to quantify the extent of difficulties your child may be having and use this information to develop behavioral therapies.

If you are seeing a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician or Child Neurologist, they will discuss your concerns, conduct a thorough evaluation of your child, and recommend any diagnostic testing or treatment if necessary. These medical providers also perform a physical exam and review the medical history to determine if any underlying medical conditions may be contributing to the troubling symptoms and/or behaviors.

Kaori Nepo, PhD, BCBA-D

Director, Behavior Services

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What is ABA?

ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) is the science of behavior to make the world a better place. ABA will promote learning new skills, increasing desired behaviors, and decreasing undesired behaviors by arranging the environments based on functions.

Does ABA only benefit children with autism?

ABA is the science of behavior and could be applied to any behavior despite ages, diagnoses, and settings. Abundant research supports the effectiveness of ABA to improve communication skills, social skills, academic skills, productivity, work performance and safety, daily living skills, health and fitness related behavior, sustainable practices, and more (https://www.bacb.com/about-behavior-analysis/).

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How many hours of services should my child receive?

Each learner is unique and has specific needs. The number of hours required for each individual will be prescribed through assessments. The prescribed hours are medically necessary. Thus, it is critical to follow the order for the individual to achieve meaningful gains.

Guide For The Home

A collection of blog posts on topics related to the developing child in the home environment
Shaping Behavior 101

Shaping Behavior 101

Kaori Nepo, PhD, BCBA-D, Director of Behavior Services, provides two tips on how to help support your child throughout their behavioral development.1. EXPLAIN...

Promoting Self-Management 101

Promoting Self-Management 101

    By Kaori Nepo, PhD, BCBA-D, Dir of Behavior Services - PA Region Promoting Self-Management Set Expectations Choose a System for Success Provide...

Parent Burnout in the Face of COVID-19

Parent Burnout in the Face of COVID-19

Host:NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome (NJCTS) Wednesday Webinar SeriesJoin us for a webinar on Jun 17, 2020 at 7:30 PM EDT Webinar Description:What is burnout?...

Community Resources

A collection of links to educational materials and support services
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Books
  • Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism, by Barry M. Prizant
  • The Survival Guide for Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (And Their Parents), by Elizabeth Verdick and Elizabeth Reeve M.D.
  • How to Develop and Implement Visual Supports by Earles-Vollrath, T.L., Tapscott-Cook, K, & Ganz, J.B.
  • Visual Strategies for Improving Communication by Hodgdon, L.
  • 1-2-3 Magic: 3-Step Discipline for Calm, Effective, and Happy Parenting, Sixth Edition, by Thomas Phelan, PhD
  • Outsmarting Autism: Build Healthy Foundations for Communication Socialization, and Behavior at All Ages by Patricia Lemer, LPC (2019)
  • An Early Start for Your Child with Autism by Sally Rogers, PhD, Geraldine Dawson, PhD, and Laurie Vismara, PhD (2012)
  • Social Skills by Steve Brain (2019)
  • Visual Strategies for Improving Communication by Hodgdon, L.
  • Social Skills Activities for Kids by Natasha Daniels (2019)
  • Growing Up on the Spectrum by Lynn Kern Koegel, PhD (2010)
  • Adolescents on the Autism Spectrum: A Parent’s Guide to the Cognitive, Social, Physical, and Transition Needs of Teenagers with Autism Spectrum Disorders by Chantal Sicile-Kira (2006)
  • The ASD Independence Workbook: Transitioning Skills for Teens and Young Adults with Autism by Francis Tabone, PhD (2018)
  • A Practical Guide to Autism: What Every Parent, Family Member, and Teacher Needs to Know by Fred Volkmar

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NeurAbilities Healthcare is the premier provider of neurological, behavioral and neurodevelopmental services in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, offering comfort, hope and answers that transform the lives of individuals of all ages, and their families.

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