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J Child Neurol. 2001 Sep;16(9):645-50.

Profile of referrals for early childhood developmental delay to ambulatory subspecialty clinics.

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  • 1Department of Neurology/Neurosurgery, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada.


The objective of this study was to determine the profile and pattern of referral to subspecialty clinics of young children with suspected developmental delay together with the factors prompting their referral. All children under 5 years of age referred to either developmental pediatrics or pediatric neurology clinics at a single tertiary hospital over an 18-month period were prospectively identified. Standardized demographic and referral information were collected at intake, final developmental delay subtype diagnosed was identified, and referring physicians were surveyed regarding factors prompting referral. A total of 224 children met study criteria. There was a marked male preponderance (166/224), especially among those with either cognitive or language delay. Two delay subtypes, global developmental delay and developmental language disorder, accounted for two thirds of the diagnoses made. For slightly more than one third of the children (75/224), the delay subtype diagnosed following specialty evaluation was different from that initially suspected by the referring physician. A mean delay of 15.5 months was observed for the cohort as a whole between initial parental concern and specialty assessment. For referring physicians, the major factor prompting referral was the severity of the observed delay. The most important aspects of the specialty evaluation according to referral sources were the identification of a possible etiology and confirmation of delay. A profile of referrals and the rationale thereof for a cohort of children with suspected developmental delay is presented that, although locale specific, has implications for service provision and training.

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