At a recent party, a good friend confided in me that she felt something wasn’t quite right with her young son.  She couldn’t put her finger on it but he was angry, irritable, … different from her other kids.  Knowing that I have a son with Autism, she asked me, “Well, what should I do?”

I realized that while I now have a degree from an unwanted 18-month crash course in Autism and other Development Delays, many people don’t know where to turn or look for help when they have a concern about their child’s development.

If you suspect a skill or milestone isn’t developing normally or on target, start with your regular pediatrician.  Don’t be afraid to call between scheduled well-visits, sometimes even just a phone call to the nurse line can set your mind at ease or land you an appointment to discuss things in person.  However, if you aren’t comfortable with your doctor’s opinion, it is okay to question them, probe deeper, or ask elsewhere.

Prior to my now 3-yr old son’s Autism diagnosis, I asked our then-pediatrician about a few persistent nagging issues, skin rashes, and lack of developing vocabulary.  I got the proverbial pat on the back, don’t-worry-all-kids-develop-at-their-own-rate speech.  After this conversational merry-go-round repeated itself over the course of several well-visits, I stopped asking and started doubting myself.  Learn from us:  if one of the main caregivers has a concern, trust your instinct, that voice in your head isn’t nothing.

A pediatrician can make referrals to specialist for testing and evaluations.   If you want to see a doctor on your own, do a search for or ask around for a good developmental pediatrician. You can always call your nearest Childrens Hospital for referrals, too.

There was a time when I knew, I knew, my child was fine, just fine! He walks, eats and poops, what else is there?  The word Autism was something I saw on other people’s car magnets.  I’ve come a long way and the only advice I urge is to not be afraid to ask more questions, ask for evaluations, get second opinions if you, the parent, are concerned.  Early intervention can change lives.   And information is power.

Another great source is your local school system’s Infant and Toddler division.  We continue to benefit from support and resources from Montgomery County Infants and Toddlers. Locally,  there are resources in LoudounFairfax,  Prince Georges, and other counties in Maryland, and Virginia.  Another good resource for early intervention assessment is Child Find.

There was a time when I was skeptical and dismissed therapies and the multitudes of possible diagnosis, but, it really is better to know, gather the information and give your child the help they need to succeed.

Stacy Kravitz spends her days managing the life of her special needs son and trying to keep up with her toddler-diva.  Occasionally she gets a moment to write, run, and vacuum, rarely does she sleep.  She blogs with great irregularity at The Fabulous Miss S.