Babies who enter the world earlier than expected often experience delays in their developmental and physical growth, but a new clinic at Cardon Children’s Medical Center in Mesa is helping level the playing field for these youngsters.
The Neurodevelopmental Follow Up Clinic serves infants who were born prematurely at 35 weeks or less and have spent time in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), as well as any child age 0 to 3 whose development is of concern to the primary care provider, according to Judith Beck, senior manager for Cardon Children’s Pediatric Rehabilitation Center. Children may be referred by a pediatrician or another community provider, and most make their first visit to the clinic, part of Cardon Children’s EDGE (Evaluation, Development, Growth and Enrichment) Programs, by the recommended age of 4 months, or earlier if necessary.
“The clinic is kind of a safety net, if you will, to make sure nothing goes awry for these little ones,” says Beck, adding that the clinic has served about 200 children in the 18 months that the program has been piloted. “The quicker the intervention, the quicker you can close the gap in their development and the better the outcome is.”
The clinic’s professional staff includes a neurologist, physical therapist, occupational therapist, board-certified nurse practitioner and a speech-language pathologist whose focus is to get a child’s fine motor, language and communication skills, in addition to many others, on track. A child referred to the clinic will see all the specialists at an initial assessment, and Beck says this “one-stop-shop” approach is a huge timesaver for families.
Ultimately, the goal is to get these so-called “high-risk” youngsters ready for preschool, and by the time they do go to school, “they may not need additional help,” she says.
Physical and Developmental Growth? It's All in the Numbers!
Do you feel like a remedial math student when the pediatrician starts using percentages to talk about your child’s growth? It’s not as difficult to understand as you might think, says Jennifer Yuen, D.O., a pediatric neurologist for Banner Children’s at Cardon Children’s Medical Center. When doctors talk about a child’s physical growth — namely in terms of height, weight and head circumference — being in the 50th percentile just means the child is in the middle of the growth curve, right where doctors like most children to be.
“Some children are smaller and some are bigger, but whatever part of the curve they start out on, that’s the curve the child should grow on,” Yuen says. “If the child grows outside of his or her curve, that’s when there is a possible cause for concern.”
For example, if a child whose head circumference typically has been growing in the 10th percentile suddenly shoots up to the 70th percentile, a doctor will be concerned as to why the head seems to be growing so quickly. Likewise, if that same head circumference suddenly plunges to below the third percentile, the doctor will be concerned why the head is not growing. In either case, additional testing likely will be conducted to determine what is causing the distinct difference in growth.
When doctors look at developmental percentages, however, Yuen says everything is based on numbers. A number, or developmental quotient (which is different from an IQ) of 100 means a child is doing everything he or she is supposed to do for his or her age. Scores below 100 are assigned to different ranges: borderline, mild, moderate, severe and profound impairment. However, the system has its nuances.
“If a child is said to be 50 percent behind, that does not necessarily mean the child is half his age developmentally,” Yuen says. “And a percentage, when talking about development, is not necessarily carried over from year to year.”
As always, she says, parents who have questions about their child’s growth should speak with their primary care provider.
Last Modified: January 29, 2013 - 1:28pm