Q & A with Dr. Susan Buttross of Mississippi Thrive!
Q: What is Mississippi Thrive?
A: Mississippi Thrive!, a partnership between the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s pediatrics arm, Children’s of Mississippi, and Mississippi State University’s Social Science Research Center, is working to make sure that every child in Mississippi benefits from a professional assessment of their overall development. The project is funded by a three-year $10.5 million Health Resources Services Administration grant.
Q: Why is early childhood behavioral and developmental screening important?
A: The most dramatic brain growth and development happens in early childhood, from birth-6 years, in a fairly systematic fashion. We like to think of “screenings” as simply “marking milestones.” As we mark those milestones, sometimes we find that a child is developing differently than expected. The sooner we identify and begin addressing a developmental or behavioral need, the better because when intervention happens very early, it is easier for your child’s brain to accept the modifications we are attempting. Timely interventions will help them thrive in school and beyond.
Q: How would these screenings and, if needed, interventions improve child health and development in Mississippi?
A: Increasing rates of developmental screening can lead to earlier identification and treatment, if indicated. In Mississippi, one out of every 20 children younger than age 6 has been diagnosed with a developmental delay, so the need exists. In addition to serving as the home of Mississippi Thrive!, UMMC’s Center for Advancement of Youth in Jackson is also working with pediatric clinics around the state to increase access to developmental screenings.
Q: How can parents access early childhood screenings?
A: It is recommended that primary care providers, such as pediatricians, family doctors and nurse practitioners do a formal check on development for young children at certain ages, which is one reason it is important for your child to be followed regularly by a primary care provider. I suggest asking your child’s medical provider about developmental screening at your next visit. Learning how to mark your child’s developmental milestones is another great step for families. Our website, MississippiThrive.com, offers lots of developmental resources, including a checklist for your baby’s ages and stages, along with tips to help parents support their child’s development.