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Is My Child “Normal”?

January, 2012
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baby-child3As parents you may have questions and concerns about your child’s physical or cognitive development, learning, or behavior. Many children face physical or cognitive challenges that require special attention at home, at school or in the community.

TheDepartment of Pediatrics at Beijing United Family Hospital & Clinics (BJU) recently started the Developmental and Behavioral Pediatric Services (DBPS) to devote more resources to the developmental needs of families.

What are developmental-behavioral issues?

Child development is the result of the biological, psychological, and sociological changes that occur in human beings between birth and the end of adolescence. Child development is the result of a complex interaction between genetically-controlled processes, environmental factors and learning.

During these complex interactions, problems can arise which have developmental and behavioral consequences. This could lead to a delay in achieving developmental milestones in motor skills, speech, social, emotional and mental areas. In turn, these delays can lead to behavioral problems, which could include sleep issues (nightmares, trouble sleeping,), misbehaving (aggression, tantrums), unexplained pain, bed-wetting, excess crying, bowel control problems and general phobias.

Why establish a clinic for developmental-behavioral issues?

The motivation for establishing DBPS is to give children the time and attention required to properly assess their issues and develop a treatment plan. This process involves a lot more time than a regular Pediatrics clinic is prepared to give to a single appointment. The children that DBPS serves would receive the special testing they need.

Developmental pediatrics requires recognition of the essential unity of the body and mind. With a developing child, there is no way to separate the body from the mind. Therefore, treating developing children requires a bio-psychosocial approach. Too often, pediatrics deals only with purely physical issues. And the Psychological Health Center deals with purely psychological issues. But there is a whole group of kids out there that need a more holistic treatment approach.

For example, imagine that a set of parents brings their 2-and-a-half-year-old in for a consultation. The parents are concerned because the child has not started speaking yet. Most doctors would agree that this is a cause for concern. However, this concern is premature if the child’s family situation is not considered. If the child is born in China to expatriate parents who speak two different languages, and the child is attending a Chinese school, then context has a huge influence on the child’s delayed speech. DBPS has the resources to explore further whether the child’s problem is situational, developmental or psychological.

Early screening, early detection, early intervention

Studies have shown that detecting developmental or behavioral problems and addressing them early in childhood can lead to significant benefits for children. These types of concerns and complaints are best addressed by using a bio-behavioral approach. Partnering with BJU’s Psychological Health Center, DBPS will evaluate and monitor progress in children who are at risk for developmental and behavioral disorders on the basis of a variety of factors, both biological and psychosocial.

I encourage parents to bring children for a consultation if they or their children have any of the following:

-        concerns about language or motor development

-        concerns about social, emotional or mental development

-        concerns about learning difficulties

-        concerns about attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)

-        concerns about autism or an autistic spectrum disorder

All graduates of Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICUs) are encouraged to come in for a consultation, especially children who were considered a “very pre-term birth” (gestational age less than 32 weeks) or “extremely pre-term birth” (gestational age less than 25 weeks).

Additionally, children who experience the following are also encouraged to consult me:

-        school problems

-        cerebral palsy

-        Down Syndrome (Trisomy 21) and other genetic syndromes

-        colic

-        repetitive behaviors/tics

Advances in neuroscience have shown that early intervention yields great benefits in the lives of children with developmental delays, and this clinic is the first step toward building a program to support that.

dr-alanTo contact DBPS, please call the BJU Pediatrics Department at (010) 5927 7222.  


By Alan Mease, MD

Developmental Pediatrician, Director of Specialty Pediatrics Clinic

Beijing United Family Hospital and Clinics (BJU)


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