Developmental Screening

Developmental screening is a more formal process that uses a validated screening tool at specific ages to determine if a child’s development is on track or whether he or she needs to be referred for further evaluation.32 Screening alone is not enough to identify a developmental concern. Rather, it helps staff and families decide whether to refer a child for more evaluation by a qualified professional. The earlier a possible delay is identified, the earlier a program can refer a child for further evaluation and additional supports and services.

Most children with developmental delays are not identified early enough for them to benefit from early intervention services; early care and education programs can help change that. Although about 1 in 6 children has a developmental disability, less than half of these children are identified as having a problem before starting school. Too often, adults don’t recognize the signs of a potential developmental disability, they are not sure if their concern is warranted, or they don’t have resources to help make their concern easier to talk about. But pinpointing concerns and talking about them is very important to get a child the help he or she might need.34 Developmental screening involves:

 Research-based, standardized developmental screening tools

 Information from family members, teachers, and other staff who know the child

 Written parental consent before starting the screening

 Communication with families in their home language

Appropriate Screening Tools When searching for screening tools, keep the following in mind.

 Screening tools must be research-based and designed to be a brief measure of development that identifies if the child needs a more in-depth evaluation.

 Screening tools should be o Age-appropriate o Culturally appropriate o Sensitive to the family’s home language o Used by trained and qualified personnel o Valid for the intended results o Reliable across users o Clearly identified for use in screening

Programs need to make careful and informed decisions about whether to screen a child who is a dual language learner (DLL) in their home language, English, or both. Some skills may look different depending on the child’s culture and background. Use a screening tool that considers the child’s cultural context. When a culturally appropriate screening tool is not available, asking families about their child’s typical behavior becomes even more critical. This information helps staff interpret screening results.

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