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Aug 14, 2014

Healthy Living Looks at Children With Developmental Disorders…

A few weeks ago, we featured a special medical mission running diagnostic tests on children with developmental disorders.  As with all other medical conditions, early detection is directly related to the quality of life that a child with a developmental disorder could have. So tonight on healthy living, at this time when parents are getting ready to send their little ones back to school, we look at some of the ways you can monitor your child’s development.


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting
In July, Belizean developmental physician, Dr. Andrea Garbutt and her colleague completed a medical mission diagnosing children with developmental disorders. The children they saw were already assessed by local pediatricians and had shown signs of a disorder.  Developmental and behavioral disorders are increasingly common but they are still misunderstood by many. Which is why Dr. Garbutt, emphasizes the need for parents to pay keen attention to their child’s development.


Dr. Andrea Garbutt, Developmental Pediatrician

Andrea Garbutt

“It’s just as if though I have diabetes and running to the bathroom every minute and wetting myself and having to pass urine or anything. That in itself is a symptom of what my true diagnosis is. Behavioral issues are symptoms of what may truly be occurring and what may truly be occurring is intellectual challenges, it may be a true attention deficit disorder. It could be a child who’s highly functioning on the spectrum and is just having tantrums because of not being able to transition; it may be because of social issues, emotional issues. So when you look at the behavioral, you look at it as symptoms of something else.”


Behavioral symptoms should not be ignored by parents or teachers. Early identification of a developmental delay or disorder will define the kind of intervention needed. Long gone are the days of simply classifying children as retarded.


Dr. Andrea Garbutt

“Go back to what use to happen, children were stereotyped; you didn’t do what you were supposed to do you ended up in a school like a Stella Maris. You were never looked at to see what is specifically the different behaviors were, whether there was a particular pattern. You just couldn’t do the work and you were thought to be mentally retarded – which is politically incorrect – but that’s what they said you were retarded and lump into one school. But now we break it down, and those children with intellectual disabilities, children with true cognitive issues; we are looking at children who have the autism spectrum disorder. Those would be the little kids who are the classic ones, according to the books, would be the little boys who are running up and down, starting to have speech and somewhere between fifteen to eighteen months, speech disappears or decreases. And then the other symptoms set in: the eye contact may go, they are not socially reciprocating to their parents, they are not interested in playing with other children, as well as with the behaviors that people tend to now observe: the flapping, the lining up of objects, the fascination with spinning fans. So autism has taken off and that is one of the main ones that is there.”


Dr. Garbutt urges that parents educate themselves on their children’s developmental milestones.


Dr. Andrea Garbutt

“We need to dispel myths—myths like boys do things slower than girls. Those are myths; those have never been found to be true so we need to dispel those things. Early identification boils down to having a parent who has interest in a child and is not necessarily all that knowledgeable but has the knowledge of what typical child development is. For some parents it is experience…I’ve had one kid and this is how this one went. Why is this one not following this way? That might be their first suspicion.  But these days, we all have access to the internet and you can check on what my baby does in the first six months, what my baby does in different…there are websites that send you notes about what each month progress should be. So it is for the parents to learn and know what to expect of their child. That’s one aspect of it. But then there is the medical aspect of it. We have well child care visits within the first two years of life; it is the most time any child visits a doctor. We go at birth, we go within six weeks, the month after, four months, six months, you look at nine months, a year, fifteen months, eighteen months and two years; there are that many visits within the first two years.  Those are the times when we do our developmental surveillance and these are in regards to developmental disorders. Developmental surveillance is that every time you come to me, we must sit down and we must find out from you what concerns do you have mommy, what concern, what bothers you about your child. It might be something as trivial as colic or sleeping issue, but it might be something related to development. So simply ask. That is what your family care physicians are expected to do. Developmental disorders; the cause varies depends on what the disorder is. And it varies. So when a parent comes to me and they have a daughter or a son that has autistic spectrum disorder, the first thing I reassure them is that you did nothing wrong because we don’t know exactly what causes. Even when we look at attention deficit hyperactivity disorder; the exact cause we can find in some cases and in other cases we can’t. What we realize is that even though I may have the gene that makes my brain not work so well, doesn’t mean I am going to have ADHD. Or if I have ADHD, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to have it at the same extent that the other person with the same defect is going to have it.”


Marleni Cuellar

“What do you say to the parents who their biggest concern is just what would the future be for their child?”


Dr. Andrea Garbutt

“It depends on age. Kids coming to me at fourteen for initial diagnosis, it is difficult because basically we are almost at adulthood and what we have learned so far may not be much more to add to it. Younger kids, there is always hope; hope that things can get better. So for the younger kids who don’t have speech, we wait and we try and see and we talk about prognostic factors. And we say well he is only two or three years old so we really need to hold on till he is about five and look at what his language is at that time before we can prognosticate. But it therefore means that between now and five, we need to work to make him either speak or communicate functionally. So we need to put in the work now.”


If you suspect your child may have a developmental delay, visit your doctor and discuss your concerns.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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