Developmental Delays and Behavioral Difficulties in Children and the Role of a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician | Pediatricians in Tampa Bay | Offices in Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas

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Developmental Delays and Behavioral Difficulties in Children and the Role of a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician

By Ryan A. Baker, MD | Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician

Developmental delays are one of the most common concerns in early childhood, with 16.7% of children experiencing a delay in at least one domain of development. Most children with delays do quite well and eventually end up in typical range of development as they age. However, there is a small subset of children who continue to have significant delays as they grow and need continued services. 

If your child has a developmental, learning, or behavioral difficulty, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician’s role is to provide medical evaluations and follow-up care for any identified problems. 

What is a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician? 

A developmental-behavioral pediatrician is a medical doctor who has completed: 

  • Four years of medical school
  • Three years of residency training in pediatrics
  • Board certification in pediatrics 
  • Additional subspecialty training in developmental-behavioral pediatrics 

 

What are some examples of developmental delays, or behavioral difficulties? 

Developmental-behavioral pediatricians are trained to evaluate, counsel, and care for children, adolescents, and their families with a wide range of developmental, learning, and behavioral difficulties, including:

  • Delayed development in speech, language, motor skills, and thinking ability
  • Vision and hearing impairments
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)
  • Learning disorders such as dyslexia, writing difficulties, and math disorders
  • Attention and behavioral disorders including ADHD, depression, anxiety, conduct problems and discipline difficulties 
  • Developmental disabilities including cerebral palsy and spina bifida
  • Tics, Tourette syndrome, and other habit disorders
  • Regulatory disorders including sleep disorders, feeding problems, and complicated toilet-training issues

 

What happens if a developmental delay or behavioral difficulty is identified?  

If your PHCA pediatrician has concerns about your child experiencing developmental delays, learning disorders, or behavioral complications, a referral may be made to myself to provide further medical evaluations, specialized counseling, and follow up care. 

Additionally, there are free resources available for those who may not have insurance coverage or if the physician does not indicate any significant concerns. All children are eligible for a free evaluation through Florida’s Early Steps Program, provided under a federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). If deemed eligible, children can be provided with those services at no cost until 3 years of age, at which point the school system will determine eligibility to provide free services. 

 

What milestones should I be looking for? 

It is important to know that children develop at their own pace, and developmental milestones give a general idea of what to expect as children grow. If you have any concerns about your child not meeting the milestones for his or her age, always bring it up with your pediatrician. Early identification and intervention can make a significant positive impact on your child’s development and ability to learn new skills. 

Below are some resources on developmental disabilities, including details on developmental milestones for children:

CDC – Developmental Milestones (Includes picture and video examples for each milestone)

CDC – Parent Milestone Checklist from 2 months to 5 years old (20 page PDF)

CDC – Facts About Developmental Disabilities 

HealthyChildren.org – Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

 

Early intervention makes a difference

With developmental delays and behavioral complications, early identification and intervention is key. Studies consistently show that children who receive appropriate and early interventions have significant improvement in their skills and behavior compared to their peers who did not receive these interventions. 

If you have concerns about your child experiencing developmental delays or behavioral difficulties, always discuss it with your pediatrician. Our PHCA pediatricians are available to address concerns you may have and refer you to a developmental-behavioral pediatrician like myself for additional consultation and follow-up care, if necessary.