Screening Infants for Developmental Delays

Parents of children who develop severe disabilities often question if there was any way to have prevented the disabling condition. When the answer to that question is yes, parents are not only left heartbroken but painfully regretful over what could have been.

Researchers and practitioners nationwide are working to prevent scenarios like this by encouraging pediatricians to screen children early for disabilities and delays. According to a report recently released by the Commonwealth Fund, the prevalence of developmental delays in young children is at least 10 percent. Yet only 2.3 percent of parents of children under 3-years-old take advantage of early intervention programs aimed at addressing these concerns. In other words, nearly four-out-of-five potentially eligible children are not served, often because they were not screened.

The report highlights how parents of disabled children often had to wait months to have their children screened after they began to suspect a disability. Doctors were also cited as being dismissive of parents’ concerns, often stating that a child was ‘too young’ for screening. The more severe the disability, the more likely the child received an early screening – even though the more mild cases respond best to early treatment.

Fortunately, recently revised guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that pediatricians perform routine screenings at three specific ages in early childhood – nine, 18 and 30 months. This may lead to an increase in early intervention and better futures for our children. Also, Dr. Laura Sices, author of the influential report, gave specific recommendations on how and when children should be screened.

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