Child Development Program helps children with hard-to-diagnose

It’s a fact of nature that kids grow up – but sometimes they need a little help. “When people think of children and hospitals they tend to think of physical ailments like broken legs,” says paediatrician Dr. Emmett Francoeur, Director of the MUHC’s Child Development Program. “While we are acutely aware of children’s physical health and genetic make up, we focus on other parameters such as socio-emotional health, physical and motor movements, language, behaviour and cognition.”

The Child Development Program, based at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, helps children who require specialized care, assessing and referring them to community-based health professionals for long-term management. Because children have such a wide range of different needs, four clinics have evolved to serve them.

Younger children who are delayed in language or emotional and social interaction are referred to the Developmental Progress Clinic. For children ages six to 12 who aren’t doing well in school, there is the Learning Progress Clinic, which assesses learning problems. The Developmental Behaviour Assessment and Continuity Clinic assesses children with hard-to-define problems such as sleeping, soiling or gender identity, while the Feeding Program helps children who have difficulty eating, thriving or swallowing.

Multidisciplinary team brings range of skills to process

Assessing children with developmental difficulties can be challenging. “We’re often dealing with complex issues that don’t fit into the traditional medical model,” says Dr. Francoeur. “This is one reason we always operate as a multidisciplinary team, bringing many different skill sets to the process of assessment.”

During its 25-plus year history, the program has steadily grown and evolved. “Initially, we were regarded with scepticism by some,” recalls Dr. Francoeur. “However, people soon realized we were dealing with complex questions that not everyone was trained to deal with. Our multidisciplinary approach to child development issues is now widely accepted in the hospital community.”