Screening for Developmental Issues

Little girl visiting her doctor at hospital

Healthcare providers can take charge of ensuring that kids with developmental delays get the specialized help they need as soon as possible. Healthcare professionals should closely observe children’s development when they are between 3 to 6 years old. For the most part, they should use observation in play to diagnose kids with developmental delays.

During regular well-child appointments, keep an eye on the youngster’s growth. To discover any concerns that may require further study or evaluation, check children every now and again with validated testing at the proper ages. If risks are discovered during more in-depth developmental evaluations, ensure that they are followed up on.

A number of healthcare, community, and school personnel may perform developmental monitoring and screening in collaboration with parents and caregivers. Because pediatric primary care physicians have frequent contact with youngsters before they reach school age, as well as their families, they are in a unique position to encourage children’s healthy development. The AAP suggests that pediatric care providers give family-centered, anticipatory guidance about child development to all parents, including those who are limited English proficient (LEP).

The process of identifying youngsters who might be at risk for developmental delays is known as developmental monitoring. The AAP advises that developmental monitoring should take place at every well-child preventive care visit. Using a brief checklist of accomplishments, for example, maybe considered developmental monitoring rather than complete testing. The following are some elements of good developmental monitoring:

  • Inquiring about parents’ worries. Obtaining a developmental history is necessary. Watching the youngster is crucial. Risk and protective elements are identified. The results are recorded in writing. Share data with early childhood experts as needed.
  • On the other hand, developmental screening is a smaller part of pediatric preventive care. It’s useful for finding youngsters with concerns that could be addressed early.
  • The AAP proposed the following guidelines for pediatricians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants when developing a developmental screening plan:

If concerns are discovered through developmental monitoring, they should be addressed as soon as possible with accurate screening tools to identify and address any danger or concern that has been detected.

Screening for Developmental Issues

  • Developmental screening is more detailed than monitoring and may reveal children with a developmental risk that was not detected during regular well-child visits. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends developmental and behavioral screening for all children throughout their first three years in the following settings:
  • 9 months
  • 18 months
  • 30 months

AAP also suggests that all children be screened for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during well-child visits at the following locations:

  • 18 months
  • 24 months

Even if there are no concerns, all children should have a developmental screening using an accepted test at these ages. Healthcare professionals may screen a child more frequently if there are any additional risk factors, such as preterm birth, low birth weight, and lead poisoning.

The effectiveness of screening tools that include reports from parents and early childhood experts may be enhanced by using evidence-based assessments. Screening tests for a variety of ages, situations, and goals are available (e.g., Ages and Stages Questionnaire, 3rd edition, Parents’ Evaluation of Developmental Status with Developmental Milestones, Child Development. Screening tools can address a specific illness (for example, autism), an area of study (for example, cognitive development, language, or gross motor skills) or the possibility of abuse (Child Protective Services).

Some healthcare professionals may use a checklist of questions to identify children who should be referred for further follow-up. Others, such as developmental specialists and early childhood experts, often have training in using these checklists. If concerns are identified, they need to be followed up using a well-validated screening tool specific to the age of the child. Some screening tools are available in different languages.

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