Developmental screening, what’s it all about?
By Annaliese Stone, originally published on Daily Record News
Developmental screening involves a questionnaire that looks for signs of delay in achieving developmental milestones and identifies children who should have further evaluation for delays or who might benefit from intervention or education services.
Developmental milestones are specific activities or behaviors that are seen in other children the same age. These milestones include speech, social skills, play, learning, behavior and control of their muscles for movement, eating and writing. Parents can also monitor their child’s development at home using a checklist, which can be a helpful tool when talking to their primary care provider. However, this does not take the place of screening.
When should screening happen?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening for all children at 9 months, 18 months, and 24 or 30 months. Some children may be screened more frequently, such as those born prematurely or with a low birth weight. Other children are screened because a parent or other caregiver has a specific concern about a child’s speech, walk or behavior. This is different from monitoring, which occurs constantly at home and at every doctor’s appointment.
Why is this important?
Many children with developmental delays are not identified until fifth grade, or do not receive services until they reach school age. This means that they may already have significant delays that interfere with education and opportunities for treatment have been missed. The earlier the delay is noticed the sooner appropriate therapies can be started. Through home-directed therapy a delay can be targeted and improved, preventing school age difficulties including disruptive behaviors.
How can I access screening?
The best source for screening is through a child’s medical home. That is the medical provider who takes care of the child and coordinates care with other community resources or specialists who may be outside Kittitas County. If a child does not have an established medical home, you may access Bright Beginnings for Kittitas County. This is a nonprofit organization that provides a wide range of services, including the Early Head Start program with classrooms in Ellensburg. They provide free community screenings throughout the year, resources and referrals as needed.
Kittitas County Early Learning Coalition also provides free screenings at each of their events. Their event schedule is posted on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/KittitasCountyELC. There are also some online resources with access to free screening tools, such as the Survey of Well-being of Young Children. This survey is provided through Tufts University and offers a version in Spanish as well as a scoring card for providers.
What resources are available in Kittitas County for assistance to children with developmental delays?
Birth to Three is responsible for infants under 36 months of age. They first evaluate children who have abnormal developmental screening. Based on the results they can provide in home care and training to parents and caregivers.
The school district takes over for children from 3 to 18 years. The transition for infants from Birth to Three to the school district is carefully organized starting at 30 months to prevent loss of services. The school district provides on site services and coordinates care for children who are not on site.
If you have any questions about this or other health concerns for your child please contact your primary care provider.
Additional resources online include:
- Bright Beginnings for Kittitas County BBFKC.org and on Facebook at BBFKC
- Ellensburg School District ESD401.org
- Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center at the Office of the Administration for Children and
- Families in the Department of Human Health and Services ECLKC.ohs.acf.hhs.gov
- Child Development at the CDC www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/screening
- Center for Parent Information and Resources ParentCenterHub.org
- National Association for the Education of Young Children NAEYC.org
Annaliese Stone, DO is a resident physician at Community Health of Central Washington in Ellensburg.