Screening for Developmental Delays in Children
Is my child on target for his developmental milestones? Grandma says he isn’t. What do I do? It is important to know if a child is meeting and making progress in his overall development. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) defines developmental screening as the administration of a brief standardized tool that aids in the identification of children who are at risk of a developmental delay. The general areas that are screened include speech, hearing, and vision, along with cognitive, physical and social/emotional skills. Approximately one in five children (20%) under the age of five have some kind of developmental delay, and only half of these are identified before they begin school.
An untreated developmental delay can decrease your child’s self-esteem, increase your child’s frustration level, negatively impact your family and/or interfere with your child’s future physical or academic success. It is important that a parent know and keep track of his or her children’s development because 75% of the time it is the parent who seeks help from a health care provider to determine if there is a problem. Early identification of a problem, if one does exist, leads to early intervention. This process of assessment is crucial when providing services to young children with detected delays.
There are many agencies, organizations and locations where you can go to find information or assistance to have your child screened. The list can include health care providers, child development centers, public schools, universities, home health agencies, private clinics and licensed specialists. The specialists who may be involved in the screening process can include speech-language pathologists for communication problems; audiologists for hearing difficulties; physicians, physical therapists and occupational therapists for physical skills; ophthalmologists and/or optometrists for poor vision; and educational specialists, psychologists and /or neurologists for cognitive and social/emotional delays. The public school system identifies and serves children from three years-old to school-aged. Some states also provide identification and services to children under the age of three.
Most professionals will ask parents questions in reference to their child’s developmental history. Some questions can include, “when did he start sitting, walking, talking, etc.?” The more detail parents can give a professional, the easier it is to determine their child’s strengths and weaknesses. Some agencies will screen a child at no cost. However, if a full evaluation is in order, payment will be expected. Fees may vary for different institutions. There is no cost for an evaluation by the public school, if your child qualifies. Public schools generally have a screening in the spring for preschool children and in the fall for school-aged children.
Research studies have indicated that the academic success of a child can be determined by the time he is in third grade. It is important that your child has the advantage to achieve his or her potential.
If you need a good resource for normative data, refer to My Baby Compass, Birth to Two, Two to Four, or Four to Seven.
– Kathryn Thorson Gruhn, MA CCC-SLP, author of My Baby Compass series