What is Childhood Development Screening?

What is Childhood Development Screening?

Development screening is a procedure used to identify children of all ages who may show signs of developmental delays. These screenings can allow for earlier detection and intervention for developmentally delayed children. This can improve the health and well being of the child. The earlier the detection the better the outcome for all those involved. There are many opportunities for those children identified with behavioral and/or developmental delays.

In the United States about 17 percent of children have some sort of development or behavioral delay. Less than 50 percent of these children are identified before they begin school. These missed opportunities can cause significant delays and can impact school readiness. Examples of developmental or behavioral disabilities that are screened for include autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and intellectual disabilities. Studies have shown that early detection of all these disorders can benefit greatly from early detection.

Development screenings can be done by various healthcare professionals. They can be done by your healthcare provider at the well child visits done in infancy and toddlerhood. Infants and toddlers between the ages of 0-3 should be monitored for development by a primary care health professional. Early intervention has been shown to provide the best results so emphasis is placed on early identification and treatment. Parents look to their healthcare provider for information and guidance although about 65 percent of pediatricians feel inadequately trained to access developmental status in their patients.

Early identification and intervention for children with developmental delays is mandated by law. States are required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to provide early identification and provide services to infants and toddlers. They are mandated to identify developmental delays, establish conditions associated with the delays and identify children at risk for developmental delays. States are also mandated to refer children, free of charge, for comprehensive evaluation by a team of professionals who then, with the family, develops an individualized plan of services. The National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center lists early intervention programs by states along with contact information.

Screening tools are not designed to provide a specific diagnosis. A positive screening should be followed up with a more thorough assessment by a specialized professional. Screening tools can be specific for a certain type of disability or a more generalized assessment. If you know what specific type of delay or condition you are looking for it makes it easier to choose the correct healthcare professional to administer the developmental screening.