The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published a report that outlines the appropriate course of action for pediatricians to take when treating or diagnosing young children with motor delays. The report was published as a response to focus group findings from the 2010 AAP national conference that practitioners’ approaches to children with motor delays vary widely.

The report’s purpose is to increase pediatricians’ knowledge of how to identify and respond to motor delays in infants and toddlers so that they can receive early treatment. The AAP included a 12-step guide to evaluate children with motor delays. Among the steps are:  performing comprehensive developmental surveillance, asking broad questions of parents to identify concerns, conducting general exams that include assessments of the child’s body size, and obtaining diagnostic information by observing the quality and quantity of the child’s movement during office visits.

Monitoring for developmental delays should take place during regular well-child visits to the pediatrician, which ought to be scheduled at 9, 18, and 30 months. During these visits, doctors need to look for gross motor skills, like rolling over, crawling, or walking, as well as fine motor skills, like grabbing objects, placing blocks in a cup, or scribbling.

The report also suggested that doctors use a screening tool like the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) or the Parents Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDS) at these visits. Furthermore, the authors expressed that doctors often do not take parents’ concerns seriously enough.

Pediatricians should not hesitate to refer children for treatment if they suspect developmental delays. “Even when a specific neuromotor diagnosis has not been identified, children with motor delays benefit from educationally and medically based therapies,” according to the report’s authors.

Getting kids on a course of behavioral therapy early on can save a lot of trouble down the line, which is why it is important for pediatricians to be alert to the signs of motor and developmental delays and to refer families for treatment as soon as possible.