Early Childhood Providers

Developmental Screening

Early care and education providers have an important role to play in ensuring that children receive developmental screenings when appropriate. Identifying and intervening in early childhood is the most efficient use of resources and provides the best results for families. About 20% of children have developmental disorders. It is recommended that children are screened at 9, 12, 18, and 30 months, or any time that there is a concern about the child’s development. Yet routine developmental screening by pediatric providers is not being done as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Only 20-30% of children with developmental disorders are identified before entering school, which means too many kids are not entering school ready to succeed.

Additionally there is a long tradition of developmental screening in the early care and education setting. Head Start Programs routinely screen children for developmental delays within 45 days of admission as part of their performance review process.

As an early childhood practitioner, you are uniquely positioned to help ensure that children are screened at 9, 12, 18, and 30 months (or any time there is a concern).

You can:

  • Communicate with the medical home about your observations of a child and ensure that the screens have occurred
  • Learn about developmental screenings  and consider conducting them yourself; these screenings are parent questionnaires that can be easily scored
  • Ensure that children are referred to appropriate services if a concern is identified—you can help to coordinate children’s care
  • Learn how to connect families with services to address concerns
  • Educate parents about stages of child development and encourage parents to ensure developmental screening occurs
  • Be a strong voice for policies that support developmental screening

Priority Issues

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Babies make 700 new neural connections per second.

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University