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Q: My friend has just had a baby. The doctors have said that the baby has brain atrophy. What does this mean? What can my friend do?
A: Brain atrophy is not likely to be a diagnosis. Instead, it is probably a description of the baby's brain. It would mean that the baby's brain has not developed properly.
In addition to returning to the physician who gave this diagnosis and asking him more questions, your friend can get in touch with early intervention services in your state. Children identified at birth (and their parents) can get a great deal of assistance from early intervention services.
If this baby already has a pediatrician, your friend can talk with the pediatrician. Since the baby's problem involves the brain, a pediatric neurologist is a medical specialist who needs to be involved as well. Your friend may need to push the doctors regarding a specific diagnosis by explaining that it is important to her/him to get such information in order to learn as much as she/he can. At the same time, doctors may not be able to identify a specific diagnosis with an infant.
Your friend can benefit from contact with other parents of babies with problems. To find such resources, contact the PTI (Parent Training and Information Center) in her/his area.
Your friend will need your help and the help of other friends and family. Please let me know if I can be helpful in any other way.
Please note that since I have not examined the child in question personally, my suggestions need to be reviewed with appropriate professionals who do know the child.
Stanley D. Klein, Ph.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
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Stanley D. Klein, Ph.D., is the former Editor in Chief of Exceptional Parent magazine. A clinical psychologist and editor, Klein cofounded the magazine in 1971. Klein serves as a Research Associate in Medicine (Pediatrics) at Children's Hospital (Boston), where he teaches health care professionals about working with the parents of children with disabilities, with particular focus on the challenge of delivering difficult diagnostic news.