We work to understand the challenges children face. And we help them develop to their full potential.
Autism, or autism spectrum disorder, refers to a range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. We now know that there is not one autism but many types, caused by different combinations of genetic and environmental influences. The term “spectrum” reflects the wide variation in challenges and strengths possessed by each person with autism. Autism’s most-obvious signs tend to appear between 2 and 3 years of age. In some cases, it can be diagnosed as early as 18 months. Some developmental delays associated with autism can be identified and addressed even earlier. Autism Speaks urges parents with concerns to seek evaluation without delay, as early intervention can improve outcomes.
Cerebral palsy, or CP, is a group of disorders that affect balance, movement, and muscle tone. “Cerebral” means the disorder is related to the brain, and “palsy” refers to weakness or a muscle problem. CP starts in the area of the brain that controls the ability to move muscles. Cerebral palsy can happen when that part of the brain doesn’t develop as it should, or when it is damaged right around the time of birth or very early in life. Most people with cerebral palsy are born with it. That’s called “congenital” CP. But it can also start after birth, in which case it’s called “acquired” CP. People with cerebral palsy can have mild issues with muscle control, or it could be so severe that they can’t walk. Some people with CP have difficulty speaking. Others have intellectual disabilities, while many have normal intelligence.
As a baby develops during pregnancy, body tissue and special cells from each side of the head grow toward the center of the face and join together to make the face. This joining of tissue forms the facial features, like the lips and mouth. A cleft lip happens if the tissue that makes up the lip does not join completely before birth. This results in an opening in the upper lip.
The roof of the mouth (palate) is formed between the sixth and ninth weeks of pregnancy. A cleft palate happens if the tissue that makes up the roof of the mouth does not join together completely during pregnancy. For some babies, both the front and back parts of the palate are open. For other babies, only part of the palate is open.
Newborn congenital anomalies, often referred to as birth defects, have a variety of causes ranging from pregnancy or birth complications to genetic malformations to viral infections in utero. In many cases, however, a congenital anomaly may have no known cause.
As you watch your child grow, remember that each child develops at his or her own pace and the range of normal is quite wide. However, it is helpful to be aware of red flags for potential developmental delays in children. These delays are significant lags in one or more areas of emotional, mental, or physical growth. If your child experiences a delay, early treatment is the best way to help him or her make progress or even to catch up.
Down Syndrome is usually identified at birth by the presence of certain physical traits: low muscle tone, a single deep crease across the palm of the hand, a slightly flattened facial profile and an upward slant to the eyes.
Failure to Thrive
A child is said to have failure to thrive when they don’t meet recognized standards of growth. More recently known as faltering weight or weight faltering, is a term used in pediatric medicine, to indicate insufficient weight gain or inappropriate weight loss.
Feeding Disorders in infancy or early childhood is a child's refusal to eat certain food groups, textures, solids or liquids for a period of at least one month, which causes the child to not gain enough weight, grow naturally, or cause developmental delays. Feeding disorders include problems gathering food and getting ready to suck, chew, or swallow it. Swallowing disorders, also called dysphagia (dis-FAY-juh), can occur at different stages in the swallowing process:
- Oral phase – sucking, chewing, and moving food or liquid into the throat.
- Pharyngeal phase – starting the swallow, squeezing food down the throat, and closing off the airway to prevent food or liquid from entering the airway (aspiration) or to prevent choking.
- Esophageal phase – relaxing and tightening the openings at the top and bottom of the feeding tube in the throat (esophagus) and squeezing food through the esophagus into the stomach.
Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome
NAS is a group of problems that occur in a newborn who was exposed to addictive opiate drugs while in the mother's womb.
A premature infant is a baby born before 37 completed weeks of gestation (more than 3 weeks before the due date).
If you deliver a preterm baby, your baby will likely need a longer hospital stay in a special nursery unit at the hospital. Depending on how much care your baby requires, he or she may be admitted to an intermediate care nursery or the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Doctors and a specialized team with training in taking care of preterm babies will be available to help care for your baby. Don't hesitate to ask questions. Your baby may need extra help feeding, and adapting immediately after delivery. Your health care team can help you understand what is needed and what your baby's care plan will be. While not all premature babies experience complications, being born too early can cause short-term and long-term health problems. Generally, the earlier a baby is born, the higher the risk of complications. Birth weight plays an important role, too.
Your brain is made up of billions of nerve cells called neurons, which communicate with one another through tiny electrical impulses. A seizure occurs when a large number of the cells send out an electrical charge at the same time. This abnormal and intense wave of electricity overwhelms the brain and results in a seizure, which can cause muscle spasms, a loss of consciousness, strange behavior, or other symptoms.
A language delay is different from a speech disorder or developmental languagedisorder. A speech (sound) disorder is when children have difficulty pronouncing the sounds in words. This can make their speech difficult to understand. That is, they understand words and sentences well and can form sentences the right way. A language delay is when children have speaking and understanding difficulties that are unusual for their age. These might be difficulties with:
- Saying first words or learning words
- Putting words together to make sentences
- Building vocabulary
- Understanding words or sentences.
A speech (sound) disorder is when children have difficulty pronouncing the sounds in words. This can make their speech difficult to understand. Children with a speech disorder might have language skills that are otherwise good. That is, they understand words and sentences well and can form sentences the right way.
Spina bifida is a type of birth defect called a neural tube defect. It occurs when the bones of the spine (vertebrae) don't form properly around part of the baby's spinal cord. Spina bifida can be mild or severe. The mild form is the most common. It usually doesn't cause problems or need treatment. You can't see the defect, but some people may have a dimple, birthmark, or hairy patch on their back. Most people with this form don't know they have it until they get a back X-ray for another reason. A rare and more severe form is meningocele (say "muh-NIN-juh-seel"). In this form, fluid leaks out of the spine and pushes against the skin. You may see a bulge in the skin. In many cases, there are no other symptoms. The most rare and severe form is myelomeningocele camera.gif (say "my-uh-loh-muh-NIN-juh-seel"). It's what most people mean when they say "spina bifida." Part of the spinal nerves push out of the spinal canal, and the nerves are often damaged. You may see a bulge in the skin. In some babies, the skin is open and the nerves are exposed.
In newborns, torticollis can happen due to positioning in the womb or after a difficult childbirth. This is called infant torticollis or congenital muscular torticollis. Babies with torticollis will act like most other babies except when it comes to activities that involve turning. A baby with torticollis might
- Tilt the head in one direction (this can be hard to notice in very young infants).
- Prefer looking at you over one shoulder instead of turning to follow you with his or her eyes.
- If breastfed, have trouble breastfeeding on one side (or prefers one breast only).
- Work hard to turn toward you and get frustrated when unable turn his or her head completely