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Developmental Screening

Screening tools utilize the observations of parents and physicians. While there are different kinds of tools that may be used to perform a developmental screening, the best tools are accurate, quick, flexible, and affordable.

There are a variety of ways that physicians can incorporate a developmental screening into each well-baby visit. A developmental screening takes just a few minutes to complete with a simple screening form that can be filled out by parents in the doctor’s waiting room, at home before a well visit, and with the assistance of a nurse, physician, or other professional in the examination room.

There are a number of developmental screening tools, but they share a common purpose: to make sure that a child is on the right developmental path. A complete list of tools, including those recommended by First Signs, Inc. can be found in the Screening Tools section.

A good developmental tool must be:

  • accurate, both in terms of sensitivity and specificity;
  • quick and easy to use;
  • flexible for use at each well-baby visit;
  • affordable, both at the initial and re-ordering stages.

Generally, a parent completes a simple checklist, and a physician (or other qualified health care professional) follows up with additional questions and evaluates the results. A developmental screening is not intended to diagnose a child, but rather, to use parent observations and developmental milestones as a means to identify concrete concerns about a child’s development.

Parents, if you have concerns about your child and your physician has not conducted a routine developmental screening, please visit our developmental milestone checklist, take the time to see if your child has met his/her key milestones and discuss these milestones with your child's physician at the next well visit. Although the checklist is not a screening tool, its results might help open a dialogue about your concerns with your physician and prompt the next step in the screening process. If a child isn’t screened, parents and pediatricians won’t be able to track a child’s development.

Physicians, please refer to the Screening Kit.

No one wants to label a child, or to diagnose a child with a disability. Screening provides an opportunity to describe a child’s challenges, not to define a child.

“In developmental screening, information from parents is critical. They can fill out questionnaires and other screening tools in the waiting room. While the pediatrician is busy, the family can be put to work. With screening tools, pediatricians can detect 70% or 80% of children with problems.” (Frances Page Glascoe, Ph.D., Professor of Pediatrics)

For more information, please see examples of Screening Tools.

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Last update: 01/06/12
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