A study finds that one out of every three infants with developmental delays are not getting the treatment they require. This is because doctors are not referring all infants that meet the criteria for acceptance into an early intervention service to these programs. The reasons why are unknown.
How can a doctor discover whether or not an infant has developmental delays? There is a test of developmental skills that can be preformed. Babies who score well below average on these tests are considered to be at a high risk for having developmental delays. Infants who spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit when they were a newborn are at a higher risk of having developmental delays.
There are early intervention services that are designed to help infants and young children who lag behind their peers in physical or mental skills to catch up with them. Often, the way to get into an early intervention program is to have a doctor refer a child into it. For some unknown reason, doctors are not referring all of the kids who qualify for early intervention services. The services can make a big difference in the lives of the kids who are at risk for developmental delay.
A study was led by Dr. Brian Tang, who is a clinical instructor at Stanford University School of Medicine. He and his colleagues collected data from a quality improvement program in California. The program tracked the medical care and health outcomes of kids who had been hospitalized in a NICU. The data came from over 5,000 children.
All of the kids were eligible for three follow-up visits with a specialist. The purpose was to have the specialist check on the child’s developmental progress after they left the NICU. All three visits are supposed to happen before the child reached age three. At each visit, the children were screened for developmental progress. Kids who failed the screen, or who scored near the bottom of the group on a standardized test, were considered to be at high risk for developmental delays.
Researchers kept track of how many of the kids who were at high risk for developmental delays were referred by doctors to early intervention services. The result was that only one out of three kids who needed those types of services got a referral for them. The researchers are now working on discovering what barriers are stopping kids who are at high risk for developmental delays from getting referrals for the help they need.
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