The Case For Early Evaluations: Why Early Diagnosis Promotes Longterm Success
Updated: Apr 10, 2020
In medicine, an early diagnosis typically leads to less invasive intervention, shorter illness duration, and better treatment outcomes. Put simply, diagnosing a cold before it becomes pneumonia means that chicken noodle soup, rest, and fluids are prescribed instead of chest x-rays, multiple weeks of bedrest, and heavy-dose antibiotics. In today's blog post, Dr. Ghilain discusses the importance of early intervention in neuropsychology, and the benefits of nipping small difficulties in the bud before larger issues arise.
Parents are the experts when it comes to their children. Moms and dads walk into the office and admit they've noticed something was just a little off, or say that they couldn't quite put their finger on exactly what was bothering them- but they knew something was not right with their child. Without fail, these parent "hunches" are often spot-on concerns. So, is there any age that is too early to assess and intervene?
In short, no. Neuropsychological diagnosis and intervention, like any other medical diagnosis, is most effective when sought early. There are critical periods of life where learning comes easier for certain skills, and our goal is to capitalize on that period to maximize success. For example, learning a language becomes significantly more challenging as an individual gets older. Do you ever wish you would have stuck with those golf or piano lessons as a child? While these hobbies may have fallen off the radar screen, a child's acquisition of pre-academic skills (e.g., identification of letters, colors, numbers, shapes, quantities, etc.) cannot be taken lightly. These early concepts set the stage for learning, which have far-ranging impacts on self-esteem, socialization, and emotion regulation.
So what does a neurodevelopmental evaluation look like? We use standardized, age-appropriate measures designed specifically for infants and toddlers, and gather additional information through a parent interview. Broadly, the interactions with the clinician will look like play, but these interactions can be compared to what would be expected of other infants at a similar age, to determine if a child is developmentally on-track, or if there are particular areas on which to focus intervention efforts.
Few things are more satisfying than connecting parents with resources to support their child. It is even more gratifying to hear that a child "graduated" from physical therapy or speech therapy at an early age, and has gone on to thrive in elementary school and beyond. What can be challenging is when a child's academic struggles go unnoticed or unresolved, leading to difficulties with peers, meltdowns over homework or assignments, and significant negative impacts to self-esteem. Falling further and further behind in school, these problems only compound over time. Early evaluations successfully circumvent these unwanted outcomes. We have countless families return every few years for a re-evaluation, and it is stunning to see how much progress can be made when the proper interventions and school supports are put in place.
We rely on the critical eye of parents- after all, they know their child best. Nonetheless, when that "wondering" becomes more of a worry or that "hunch" becomes more of a nag, we encourage you to reach out and speak with us.