Importance of Developmental Monitoring and Screening- Pranaah CDC

Pranaah CDC

FEB. 20, 2021

Many children with developmental delays or behavior concerns are not identified as early as possible. As a result, these children must wait to get the help they need to do well in social and educational settings (for example, in school, at home, and in the community).

In the United States, about 1 in 6 children aged 3 to 17 years have one or more developmental or behavioral disabilities, such as autism, a learning disorder, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder1. In addition, many children have delays in language or other areas that can affect how well they do in school. However, many children with developmental disabilities are not identified until they are in school, by which time significant delays might have occurred and opportunities for treatment might have been missed.

Developmental monitoring observes how your child grows and changes over time and whether your child meets the typical developmental milestones in playing, learning, speaking, behaving, and moving. Parents, grandparents, early childhood providers, and other caregivers can participate in developmental monitoring. You can use a brief checklist of milestones to see how your child is developing. If you notice that your child is not meeting milestones, talk with your doctor or nurse about your concerns.

When you take your child to a well visit, your doctor or nurse will also do developmental monitoring. The doctor or nurse might ask you questions about your child’s development or will talk and play with your child to see if he or she is developing and meeting milestones. A missed milestone could be a sign of a problem, so the doctor or another specialist will take a closer look by using a more thorough test or exam.

Your childcare provider can also be a valuable source of information on how your child develops.
Developmental screening takes a closer look at how your child is developing. Your child will get a brief test, or you will complete a questionnaire about your child. The tools used for developmental and behavioral screening are formal questionnaires or checklists based on research that ask questions about a child’s development, including language, movement, thinking, behavior, and emotions. Developmental screening can be done by a doctor or nurse, but also by other professionals in healthcare, early childhood education, community, or school settings.

Developmental screening is more formal than developmental monitoring and normally done less often than developmental monitoring. Your child should be screened if you or your doctor have a concern. However, developmental screening is a regular part of some of the well-child visits for all children even if there is not a known concern.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends developmental and behavioral screening for all children during regular well-child visits at these ages:

9 months
18 months
30 months
In addition, AAP recommends that all children be screened specifically for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during regular well-child visits at:

18 months
24 months
If your child is at higher risk for developmental problems due to preterm birth, low birthweight, environmental risks like lead exposure, or other factors, your healthcare provider may also discuss additional screening. If a child has an existing long-lasting health problem or a diagnosed condition, the child should have developmental monitoring and screening in all areas of development, just like those without special healthcare needs.

If your child’s healthcare provider does not periodically check your child with a developmental screening test, you can ask that it be done.

Developmental Evaluation
A brief test using a screening tool does not provide a diagnosis, but it indicates if a child is on the right development track or if a specialist should take a closer look. If the screening tool identifies an area of concern, a formal developmental evaluation may be needed. This formal evaluation is a more in-depth look at a child’s development, usually done by a trained specialist, such as a developmental pediatrician, child psychologist, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, or other specialist. The specialist may observe the child, give the child a structured test, ask the parents or caregivers questions, or ask them to fill out questionnaires. The results of this formal evaluation determines whether a child needs special treatments or early intervention services or both.