Developmental Screening

About 1 in 5 children have developmental disorders or delays in speech, cognition, or overall. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended standardized developmental screening since 2001. Despite these numbers and recommendations, provider surveys since then suggest that less than half of providers are screening at the recommended ages using evidenced-based screens. This has led to less than 30% of children with developmental disorders or delays being identified before entering school, which means too many kids are not entering school ready to succeed.

Identifying and intervening in early childhood is the most efficient use of resources and provides the best results for families. Docs for Tots works with pediatricians and community partners to increase the use of standardized developmental screening procedures. To do this, Docs for Tots:

  1. Promotes emphasizing child development in medical practice through use of developmental screening and coordination of care, including offering MOC credit for a Developmental Screening Quality Improvement Project.
  2. Provides education, training, materials/tools, and technical assistance directly to community partners.
  3. Coordinates referrals using the Help Me Grow model.
  4. Works with other community partners across early childhood settings to ensure that kids are screened in whatever environment is presented—doctors’ offices, early childhood education and care settings, or home visits.
  5. Educates and empowers parents to ensure that their children are screened.
  6. Works at the systems and policy level to promote developmental screening.
  7. Engages a broad base of advocacy partners to advocate for developmental screening.

In 2019 Docs for Tots developed an ongoing learning collaborative model on Long Island to train child care providers to utilize development and social emotional screening tools. Read more here.

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Identifying developmental problems and disabilities, including autism, in children as early as possible and providing effective interventions is a public health imperative.

Marian Earls, MD, FAAP