Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program
There have been some big changes in the Heart Center at Children’s Medical Center Dallas and we are excited to share with you the benefits of our Heart Center Developmental Clinic.
Children who have had cardiac surgery during infancy may experience delays affecting their learning, thinking, and movement (gross and fine motor) abilities. Close developmental follow-up is recommended by the American Heart Association and American Academy of Pediatrics.
Our clinic offers close developmental screening, evaluation, and follow-up to help support your baby’s development and growth. The first three years of life are critical for brain developmental and overall functioning. Identifying developmental delays early will help your baby receive intervention services that can improve your baby’s developmental skills and quality of life.
Why Children's Health℠?
For more than 100 years, Children’s Health has been dedicated to making life better for children, including lifelong care of congenital heart disease. Building off the success of similar efforts for other conditions, we are developing a comprehensive program to identify children at risk for development delays then connecting them and their families with the full range of specialized care and support available at Children’s Health.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Why does my child need this?
Babies who are born with complex heart problems can be at risk for developmental delays. Early identification of developmental delays allows children to receive the benefits of early childhood intervention services, such as physical, occupational, and speech therapies. Early childhood intervention services increase the chances for improving developmental skills and quality of life.
- When do we start?
Children who have had complex heart surgery will complete regular developmental screening from 6 months through 5 years of age. Children whose screenings suggest the need for additional testing will be referred to our cardiac developmental clinic for a developmental testing appointment.
- What if my child does not need testing?
We will continue to monitor your child’s development during outpatient cardiology clinic appointments. If you have concerns about your child’s development, talk with your primary care doctor, pediatrician, or cardiologist about developmental screening or a referral to our developmental clinic.
Developmental Testing Appointments
- The process
During a developmental testing appointment, our Heart Center Psychologist will meet with you and your child. Each appointment will take place at the Heart Center at Children’s Medical Center Dallas. The developmental appointment lasts approximately 2 - 3 hours and involves playful activities, similar to games you play with your baby at home.
After testing you will meet with our Heart Center psychologist to talk about your child’s development and recommendations. At that time resources and referrals will be provided as needed and you can ask any questions you have.
- Program benefits
Your child’s pediatrician, primary care doctor, and/or cardiologist will receive a copy of your child’s developmental screening results and, if needed, your child’s developmental testing report. This will provide your care team with specific information about your child’s development and growth. Appropriate referrals will be made for children who demonstrate a need for treatment services.
It is recommended that children complete developmental screening every 3-6 months through age 3. This allows us to monitor your child’s developmental progress over time and provide referrals as needed. If your child needs additional support beyond age 3, our psychologist will be available to assist with resources.
Treatments and Referrals
Developmental testing will also allow for your care team to make appropriate referrals for various treatment services, as needed. Examples of some treatment programs and referrals for infants and children include:
- Speech therapy: Speech therapy focuses on teaching your child how to speak to the best of their ability and how to understand others. Treatment may focus on articulation, auditory processing, and expression.
- Feeding therapy: This is a form of speech therapy that focuses on teaching infants how to feed properly. Treatment may focus on basic feeding skills, such as sucking and swallowing, or tube feed weaning.
- Physical therapy: Physical therapy focuses on helping your child gain endurance and strength, decrease pain, and increase gross motor function. Treatment may focus on balance, coordination, and strength. Some goals may include sitting without support, crawling, and walking independently.
- Occupational therapy: Occupational therapy focuses on helping your child progress in sensory-processing, fine motor skills, and cognitive skills. Occupational therapy treatment may focus on daily “occupational” skills for a child, such as holding a bottle while drinking, grasping objects, and bringing their hands to their mouth.
- Audiology evaluation: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children at risk for developmental delay receive ongoing hearing screening through 2.5 years of age.
- Autism evaluation and treatment: Rates of autism in the congenital heart defect population are increasing. The Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities provides comprehensive evaluations and care for children with autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders.
- Early childhood behavior evaluation: The Early Childhood Clinic provides assessment and treatment of children evidencing social, cognitive, mood, and/or behavior difficulties.