Q & A with Dr. Ruth Patterson of Mississippi Thrive!
Q: What are some of the developmental milestones parents should watch for in their child’s first year?
A: Babies are changing rapidly in their first year. The changes that happen are called developmental milestones, which measure how children move, develop language, communicate, develop social skills and in how they learn. There is a normal range for children to obtain these skills. For example, a child learns to walk, on average, at around a year old, but some might take their first steps at 9 months while others walk at 15 months. Your health care provider can help determine what is normal for your child. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a detailed list of developmental milestones that is available on the Mississippi Thrive! website, MississippiThrive.com.
Q: What can parents and caregivers do to support their children’s developmental growth?
A: At Mississippi Thrive! we are working to make early childhood developmental screenings and interventions available across the state, but we know that the first developmental help starts at home. Parents and caregivers can help children develop by just talking, singing, and reading to them! These are great brain-building activities. Even if you are looking at a picture book, you can talk with them about what they’re seeing: “Look at those pretty red apples! How many are there? Let’s count them! One, two, three!” These conversations build brains and relationships. Downloadable materials to encourage talking, reading and singing to your baby are available at MississippiThrive.com.
Q: Are there signs of developmental delays that parents should watch for as their children grow?
A: All children should show signs of progression in their development by marking developmental milestones at every wellness visit. Parents should be concerned when their children are not meeting these measures. A bigger red flag for parents is if they see their children losing skills they once had. The CDC has a list of signs of possible developmental delays, which is available on our website.
Q: If parents have concerns about their children’s development, what should their next step be?
A: The first place parents should go with questions or concerns about their child is to their medical home, whether a pediatrician, a family medicine physician or a nurse practitioner. That health care provider will know your child and will be able to gauge development. Formal developmental screenings should be done at 9, 18, 24, and 30 months but can be done at any time the family or provider has a concern. If necessary, a referral can be made to a specialist in developmental and behavioral health for further testing and services as needed. Early intervention can mean a better outcome.
Dr. Ruth W. Patterson, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Mississippi School of Medicine, joined Mississippi Thrive! this year as part of a practice transformation team to
encourage and assist pediatric practices in performing formal screenings and to support providers in accessing services for children. A graduate of Howard University School of Medicine, she completed her residency at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. She joined UMMC faculty as medical director of the Newborn Nursery in 1992 and transitioned to ambulatory pediatrics in 1999. She was a staff pediatrician at the Medical Center until her retirement in 2018.