Developmental and Behavioral Screening

The Issue

Recent statistics indicate that as many as 1 in 4 children aged 0-5 are at moderate or high risk for developmental, behavioral, or social delay (National Survey of Children’s Health, 2011-12).  In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that about 1 in 6 children aged 3-17 has a parent-reported diagnosis of developmental delay or disability such as autism, intellectual disability, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), hearing or vision impairment, or other developmental delay (CDC, 2011).  Early identification of developmental delays is a critical step in providing children and families with the services and support they need to prevent further delay.  Making sure our youngest children are screened and given support early is a priority for the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education.  Our agencies are teaming up on a coordinated effort to encourage developmental and behavioral screening and follow-up with support for children, families, and the providers who care for them.

The PartnersThree kids playing in a sand box

The Plan

Our three-pronged approach to promote developmental and behavioral screening includes:

  1. A public outreach campaign to promote developmental and behavioral screening and follow-up. This launch will include:
    • A compendium of screening instruments that meet specific validity and reliability criteria;
    • Companion guides, designed for providers from multiple sectors as well as the communities in which they live (e.g. early care and education providers; home visitors, pediatricians; social workers; behavioral health providers; early intervention specialists), to assist in selecting screening instruments;
    • A collection of resources, including CDC’s “Learn the Signs. Act Early.” program, to bring awareness to parents and providers about typical and atypical child development.
  2. Validation of a comprehensive developmental and behavioral screening tool for use in the public domain.
    • ACF is currently funding a small study on Native American reservations to determine the cultural appropriateness of a public domain screening instrument in American Indian populations.
    • The Departments of Health and Human Services and Education are identifying other methods to validate public domain tools in diverse populations, such as child care/Head Start children, foster children, English language learners, and children enrolled in home visiting programs.
  3. Development of interventions and prevention strategies to support children and families with developmental concerns, but who:
    • are not eligible for Early Intervention,
    • do not have access to adequate or appropriate services, or
    • have yet to be evaluated and receive appropriate services