Why Screen?
Screening young children is an effective, efficient way for professionals to catch problems and start treatment when it does the most good—during the crucial early years when the child’s brain and body are developing so rapidly.Because delays can be subtle and can occur in children who appear to be developing typically, most children who would benefit from early intervention are not identified until after they start school. Even pediatricians, the child health specialists, fail to detect delays more than 70% of the time when they rely on clinical judgment alone.[2]Research underscores the importance of early intervention:
  • Developmental delays, learning disorders, and behavioral and social-emotional problems are estimated to affect 1 in every 6 children.[3]
  • Only 20% to 30% of these children are identified as needing help before school begins.[4]
  • Intervention prior to kindergarten has huge academic, social, and economic benefits. Studies have shown that children who receive early treatment for developmental delays are more likely to graduate from high school, hold jobs, live independently, and avoid teen pregnancy, delinquency, and violent crime, which results in a savings to society of about $30,000 to $100,000 per child.[5]
Given the overwhelming benefits of early identification and early intervention, more and more groups are calling for routine screening:
  • The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires states to identify, locate, and evaluate all children with disabilities who are in need of early intervention or special education services.
  • The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all infants and young children be screened for developmental delays as a regular part of their ongoing health care.[6]
  • The American Academy of Neurology (AAN) and the Child Neurology Society (CNS) call for developmental screening at all well-child visits from infancy through school-age and “at any age thereafter if concerns are raised about social acceptance, learning, or behavior.”[7]
  • Medicaid’s Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit requires screening at each well-child visit.
Studies show that when professionals use reliable and valid screening instruments, they are able to identify 70% to 80% of children with developmental delays.[8]