Parents who believe their child may have an intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder or another type of developmental delay may have to wait up to three years to access diagnostic assessments, specialized early intervention services and family support—measures that are critical to improve a young child’s prognosis and the quality of life of their relatives.
Mélina Rivard, professor in the Department of Psychology at UQAM, her team in the Épaulard lab and a number of clinical partners are leading research projects to establish ways to provide families with assistance as soon as they suspect a developmental delay.
For example, in collaboration with the Miriam Foundation and public health and social services network, researchers are exploring the potential of a multidisciplinary assessment clinic to reduce wait times for intellectual disability and autism diagnoses on the island of Montréal and facilitate access to early intervention services. The experts are currently following some 250 children and their families over a five-year period.
Mélina Rivard and her colleagues are also investigating the behavioural and mental health disorders that often come with development delays. Indeed, these issues constitute the greatest barriers to effective intervention since they are still largely misunderstood. To bridge the gap, the researchers followed a cohort of approximately 800 children in 13 regions across Québec from the time of their diagnosis to their entry to kindergarten. A risk behaviour management program was translated, adapted and assessed in the Québec context for this purpose, and the tool will soon be implemented for 200 service providers in Montérégie and possibly other areas. The initiative was a finalist for the 2019 Prix Collaboration scientifique awarded by the Institut d’administration publique de Québec.