Early Recognition Important When Diagnosing Motor Skill Delays In Children

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online

Delays in motor skills are common among children; but, according to a new clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), early recognition of delays, such as sitting, standing and speaking, can help optimize positive outcomes.

Publishing the report in the Jun 2013 print issue of Pediatrics (online May 27), experts are encouraging pediatricians to evaluate young children who are suspected of having motor delays during recommended developmental screenings at nine, 18 and 30 months of age, and also at four years.

With early recognition, children have a substantially better outlook and parents have more support available to them.

“Identifying children with delays and motor abnormalities, theoretically or hopefully would set them on a better trajectory,” Meghann Lloyd, motor development researcher at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT), told Genevra Pittman of Reuters Health in an interview.

This is “a really big step forward for the field,” added Lloyd, who was not involved with the report.

The report calls for a variety of motor skills that should be observed during screening, such as rolling over, crawling, walking, climbing, grasping objects and scribbling. The report authors said that both parents and their pediatrician should be involved in looking for signs of developmental motor skill delays, and that it is important for pediatricians to address concerns of the child´s family.

During exams, pediatricians should measure head size and look at muscle tone, reflexes and eye movements, which can be signs of motor skill delays. Children who are diagnosed with a developmental disorder should have access to early intervention and special education resources.

“The AAP“¦ recognized that we as a profession weren’t necessarily doing a good job screening for motor problems,” Garey Noritz, MD, FAAP, report coauthor from Nationwide Children´s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, told Pittman.

Diagnosing developmental delays early on is key to positive outcomes in the future. The longer a child goes before being diagnosed, the harder it is for them to overcome their problems. Noritz noted that two quite common motor-related diseases — cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy — can be picked up and treated earlier than they are now.

“We’re hoping that people can get to a specialist more quickly and thus get diagnosed more quickly, but that primary care clinicians at the same time as they’re looking for a diagnosis, will refer (kids) to therapy,” he said.

“This report provides pediatricians with a quick and easy approach to the detection of motor delays in children,” said Nancy Murphy, MD, FAAP, co-author. “By watching kids move and play during physical examinations, you can quickly detect those who need a bit more attention, and early recognition can lead to medical and functional interventions that optimize outcomes.”

As kids develop it is important for parents to know the difference between normal growth and developmental delay.

Lloyd told Pittman that if a child is a few months behind in learning to walk, for example, parents shouldn´t be too overly concerned. But longer delays, or when other motor problems are also noticed, it may be a good time to visit the pediatrician, she said.

Having poor motor skills in general “sets you on a trajectory for low levels of physical activity, which of course is related to obesity,” she told Reuters Health. “The prevention of these delays or the promotion of motor ability can actually impact your health for your lifespan.”

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