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Coronavirus Causing Developmental Delays In Children, Expert Says

Woman with phone headset sits at computer
The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay
A member of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay Child Development Infoline team speaks on the phone. The center is now offering development screenings for children under five.

The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay offers free screenings that detect possible developmental delays in children.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused young children to miss opportunities for developmental milestones and language development, health officials say.

Children are not able to learn to take turns or share with their peers. They are not seeing mouths moving because of masks, meaning they can’t actually observe words being spoken, said Clara Reynolds, president and CEO of the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay.

“We’re certainly seeing it across the nation that very young children, ages 2 and 3, are experiencing significant behavioral issues because of COVID-19,” Reynolds said. “We are also starting to see some speech delays as well.”

The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay is offering families free child screenings that test for developmental delays.

These screenings use a questionnaire called Ages and Stages, which records milestones, such as when the child communicates, gross and fine motor skills and problem solving.

“The Ages and Stages questionnaire is a very simple, great diagnostic tool, meaning you can do it very quickly,” Reynolds said. “We do it here at the crisis center, over the phone with a parent, but it can be done in a doctor's office.”

After completing the initial screening, children can be referred for more in-depth screening if needed.

If the screening shows signs that a child is slightly behind, that’s the perfect opportunity to intervene, Reynolds said.

“Children are so resilient and so amazing that when you give them that early intervention, not only is it going to take root, but it's also going to result in them starting kindergarten, ready to learn and on track,” she said.

The Early Childhood Council of Hillsborough County also provides monthly developmental screenings, to measure things like speech and language, height and weight to make sure children are on track.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children should be screened at nine months, 18 months, 30 months and each year thereafter to make sure they are progressing.

“Putting these milestone dates in place of nine months, 18 months and 30 months for these types of screenings is so beneficial,” said Reynolds. “Not just for the child, but for the parents to know that this is one of the things that they need to make sure that they accomplish with their child.”

Courtney Holland is the WUSF radio news intern for the fall of 2020.
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