Disney Rapunzel character in the park with a young girl.

Kids Should Feel Whole Inside and Out

If you’re a parent whose child has behavioral disorders, pervasive developmental disorders or developmental delays, you’ll find the support you need – and the help your loved one deserves – at AdventHealth for Children. Our Childhood Development Program brings together leading specialists from across the medical field who will work with you to develop an integrated plan of care aimed at helping your child blossom physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Find the right pediatric developmental expert or location that’s convenient for you.

Empowering Patients Through Compassionate Care

Early Help for Pervasive Developmental Disorders

While the most common type of PDD is called PDD-NOS for “pervasive developmental disorder - not specified,” other well-known disorders such as autism, Asperger’s syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorders and Rett syndrome also fall under this category. Symptoms of a pervasive developmental disorder in children may include uncontrollable and repetitive temper tantrums, anxiety, aggression, extreme noise sensitivity, not being able to relate to other people's feelings, not understanding facial expressions and obvious repetitive movements. Effective treatments are available and can make a major difference in patients’ long-term wellbeing when provided at an early age.

Behavioral Disorders

Kids who display inappropriate or disruptive behaviors including self-destructive actions, cruelty to pets or siblings, frequent temper tantrums, stealing, lying and doing poorly in school should be evaluated by a physician with expertise in diagnosing and treating behavioral disorders. Excellent therapies are available to help children with these problems, including not just medications but also family counseling, social skills training and behavioral therapy. Other behavioral disorders include oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorder and pediatric bipolar affective disorder. If you notice a pattern of aggressive, disruptive or harmful behaviors that continues for months in your child, seek expert evaluation with our specialists.

The ABCs of ADHD

Children who have difficulty focusing on a particular task or who are prone to impulsive and uncontrollable behaviors may be diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD) or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This condition is very common in people of all ages, and is sometimes paired with other conditions including depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Because of the complex nature of this condition and the fact that symptoms can vary from one patient to the next, it is wise to seek medical help from a doctor who specializes in treating ADHD if your child is experiencing problems.

OCD Diagnosis and Management

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a common psychological disorder that manifests itself in repetitive actions a person can’t help themselves from undertaking – whether washing their hands, arranging items in a certain order, checking and re-checking to see if a door is locked, or thinking unwanted or inappropriate thoughts. When a person realizes that their behavior is not normal but still can’t stop doing it, when they spend an inordinate amount of time each day engaging in repetitive behavior, or when a particular “habit” causes problems in their everyday life, medical evaluation is recommended for a possible obsessive-compulsive disorder. While OCD can occur and be diagnosed at any age, most patients are identified with it before the age of 20. A specific cause of the disorder has not yet been found, but evidence suggests that certain brain abnormalities may be involved. Treatments can include oral medications, psychotherapy and clinical trials.

Diagnosis Process

To diagnose your child, we utilize the most effective behavioral screenings that are designed to detect physical, neuromotor, emotional, psychosocial and other disorders. These screenings may include any of the following:

  • Complete Physical Exam to Rule Out Contributing Physical Problems
  • Lab Tests for Thyroid Function, Alcohol and Drug Use
  • Mental Health Evaluation Including Cognitive Skills Testing
Fast Help for Development Delays

Contrary to what some people think, a developmental delay is not the same thing as a developmental disability. While early intervention of cognitive, physical and social developmental delays can make a dramatic difference in helping kids keep up in school, maintain a positive self-image and function at an optimal level as they grow, developmental disabilities cannot be grown out of or managed by therapeutic means. At AdventHealth for Children, we help kids with all types of developmental delays and disabilities to meet the challenges they face with courage, skill and positivity.

Delays Associated With Prematurity

Premature birth and other pregnancy complications can result in a child’s delayed development of cognitive, language, motor and/or behavioral skills. Our physicians who specialize in developmental and behavioral pediatrics can thoroughly evaluate infants for these issues and provide targeted, effective therapies to help kids learn the communication, thinking and self-help skills they will require. Early assessment and treatment of developmental delays is very important, with follow-up education services provided as children grow to school age.

Language Delays

Speech and language development skills include not just being able to learn and use new words but also understanding body language and gestures, and being able to communicate with others. These skills are harder for kids to develop when they have a vision or hearing deficit, cognitive impairment or psychosocial disorder. A child with a language delay is developing his or her communication skills in the right order, but slower than others; this is among the most common developmental issues, impacting up to 10 percent of all pre-school aged kids. Early interventions such as concentrated speech and language therapy, along with corrective instruments for vision and hearing, can dramatically improve a child’s ability to avoid potential social and learning problems associated with their communication disorder.

Motor Delays

When a child is unusually slow to master gross motor skills such as walking or fine-motor skills like being able to hold a spoon, this is what’s known as a motor delay. This type of developmental issue can be caused by a neurological problem or traumatic injury during the child’s birth. Early evaluation and treatment for motor delays is very important and may include both occupational therapy and physiotherapy. While most children who start out with relatively minor motor delays can overcome them and function at an equal level as their peers, even those with more severe motor delays can learn to cope with their challenges and go on to a productive life.

Pediatric Provider Emily Forrest

Meet Our Medical Director

Emily Forrest, MD

Emily Forrest, MD, is a board-certified developmental-behavioral pediatrician who specializes in the treatment of children with developmental delays, ADHD, autism, anxiety and learning disabilities. She also performs developmental evaluations of premature babies and is a leading provider of care for these special patients at AdventHealth for Children.

Meet Your Team

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Emily Forrest, MD

Emily Forrest, MD

Medical Director


Jeannier Johnson, APRN, CPNP

Cora playing outside

Hope and Healing: Cora's Story

Cora was growing and thriving like any other child her age until she began falling to the ground unexpectedly. After a trip to the AdventHealth for Children ER for an evaluation, the family was faced with an epilepsy diagnosis and their lives were changed forever. Cora bravely underwent brain surgery and began her journey with our developmental and behavioral team to ensure she has a bright future and continues to thrive. Watch this awe-inspiring story that combines a family's hope with world-class pediatric care to transform a young girl's medical diagnosis and help her live the life she deserves.

Conditions We Treat

  • ADHD
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Behavioral Problems in Children and Adolescents
  • Depression and Mild Mood Disorders
  • Developmental Delays in Speech, Cognition and Physical Ability
  • Developmental Delays Associated With Prematurity
  • Learning Difficulties
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Selective Mutism

Special Expertise For Our Most Special Patients

Whether your child is being evaluated for a behavioral disorder or for a developmental delay or disability, your family will experience a complete continuum of care as you move from evaluation to diagnosis to treatment planning and follow-up care. Superior outcomes are our specialty, so you can be confident that your child is the right hands to get the right start on life.