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Health Examinations for Infants and Preschool Children are Fun!

Japanese Chinese

When I worked at a university hospital, I took over from an older doctor and began giving health examinations for infants and preschool children at a daycare center twice a year. I continue giving these examinations, and including the branches of the daycare center, this involves examining the health and development of about 120 children between the ages of 0 and 5 years in half a day. It is exhausting work, but for me, it is a truly enjoyable time. And I enjoy it for two major reasons.

First, it is an opportunity for me to have direct contact with healthy infants and young children. In a few years, the infants who first cried upon seeing me and squirmed on the knees of the daycare worker become young children who are able to speak and cooperate in the check-up.

As I place the stethoscope on their chest, I am even touched to see the children trying hard not to move even though it is clearly not a pleasant experience for them, and wonder where they learned this sort of social behavior. This may be related to the fact that as a doctor who specializes in treating children with developmental disorders, I don't have many opportunities to see children with affluently developed social skills and empathy. As a specialist in human development, it is also a meaningful experience for me to be able to check each child's growth and development twice a year. Children who couldn't walk or talk a half a year ago are able to walk and talk in what seems to be an instant in the life of an adult. This occurs so quickly that it almost goes unnoticed in daily contact, and when seeing them once every six months, it has the speedy feeling of a fast-forward film.

This day-care center accepts children with various disabilities. Also included are children who have been diagnosed at a medical institution with autism spectrum disorder. However, as I wrote in a past blog post on "overdiagnosis," most show social behavior such as "understanding the intentions of others" and "looking at the face and eyes of others," and on several occasions, I have told parents that I did not think the child had autism spectrum disorder.

In a recent checkup, two children who appeared to have been overdiagnosed in the past as having autism spectrum disorder came to me for the regular checkup. Both had grown to be quite ordinary children who were very talkative. I asked the daycare worker if the children had any specific problems taking care of them, and I was happy to hear that they were just like all the other children.

And that is the other reason why I find giving health checkups to infants and preschool children to be so much fun.

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sakakihara_2013.jpg Yoichi Sakakihara
M.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Ochanomizu University; Director of Child Research Net, Executive Advisor of Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute (BERD), President of Japanese Society of Child Science. Specializes in pediatric neurology, developmental neurology, in particular, treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Asperger's syndrome and other developmental disorders, and neuroscience. Born in 1951. Graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Tokyo in 1976 and taught as an instructor in the Department of the Pediatrics before working with Ochanomizu University.
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