OBJECTIVES: The goals were to investigate parents' and early intervention (EI) specialists' beliefs and experiences regarding discussing child development in primary care and to identify communication barriers and opportunities.

METHODS: Focus groups were held with (1) mothers of young children with typical development, (2) mothers of young children who received EI services, and (3) EI specialists. Seven groups (N = 46 participants) were conducted in the greater Cleveland, Ohio, area. Meetings were audio-recorded, transcribed, coded, and analyzed, to identify themes.

RESULTS: Most mothers reported a preference for a nonalarmist style of communication when developmental delays are suspected. In contrast, some mothers preferred a more direct style, including the use of labels to help them understand their child's development. The importance of preparation to accept information about developmental delays emerged as a theme in all groups. Elements contributing to preparedness included information about expected developmental skills, suggestions for promoting skills, and a specific time frame for follow-up evaluation. Mothers of children with disabilities perceived that early reassurance of normalcy by providers in response to their concerns led to self-doubt and increased difficulty accepting the diagnosis.

CONCLUSIONS: Mothers and EI specialists have clear ideas about factors that promote or impede communication regarding child development. This information can inform primary care providers' approaches to monitoring and screening the development of young children and to communicating with parents regarding suspected developmental delays.

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