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Parents Key To Detecting Atypical Development In Children Under Two

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RALEIGH — You know when you have a gut feeling that something may be wrong with your child? Trust the feeling, and do not wait to get it checked out.As a Raleigh couple learned, it could make all the difference in your child's future.

Aaron Boettler looks like a typical toddler, but a few months ago the 21-month-old's parents sensed something was wrong.

"We were concerned that he wasn't hearing us. He wasn't really responding to words for different objects. Anything you said to him, he wouldn't repeat after you. He wouldn't look in that direction if you pointed," says Marianne Boettler.

Aaron's hearing was not the problem.

At the Developmental Evaluation Center in Wake County, Aaron was diagnosed with

sensory integration dysfunction


Caught early, children with atypical development can be taught to overcome their delays and function at a high level.

"It's very hard to get a report saying that your child is developing at the level of a 9-month-old when your child is 15 months old," says Boettler.

"We know that we can make an impact the earlier we work with a child," says psychologist Mary Ann Olsen.

Olsen says atypical development is best treated if caught when a child is under 2 years old, but can be treated even after that age.

Olsen says parents should seek treatment before age 2 if they feel their child is unusual in the following ways:

  • Absence of back-and-forth communication with gestures, vocalizations and eye contact
  • Unresponsive to their name
  • Unusual reactions to environment: noises, sights, textures and activities
  • Takes no notice of remarkable objects or events
  • No functional or pretend play with toys after 18 - 20 months
  • Aaron is getting help from therapists and from his parents who stimulate him constantly to help build his verbal and interpersonal skills.

    "He's gone from two words three months ago to over 20 words," says proud father, Jeff.

    Olsen says that dedication from parents like the Boettlers can make all the difference in a child's life.

    "[Parents] often know that there's something a little bit askew in their child's development. They need to follow that hunch and have it followed up," she says.

    If you think your child may be suffering from some kind of a delay, there are developmental evaluation centers that can help.A pediatrician is a good place to start to get an initial evaluation.

    Where to call for advice or assessment:

  • TEACCH: 919-966-5156.
  • Raleigh DEC (for counties around Wake Co.): 919-662-4600
  • Durham DEC (for counties around Durham Co.): 919-560-5600
  • Fayetteville DEC (counties around Cumberland Co.): 910-486-1605
  • Local Health Departments
  • Project Enlightenment (Wake County): 919-856-7774
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