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The Importance of Developmental Screening

Updated: May 10

When it comes to our children, we want to do everything possible to ensure that they are healthy and growing as expected. One way to do this is by making sure that they receive developmental screenings at regular intervals.

In this article, we will discuss the reasons why developmental screening is so critical, the various screening tools used by medical professionals, and the role that you play as a parent.

In this article:

What is developmental screening?

Why is developmental screening important?

Types of screening

Developmental screening

The three primary screening tools used today: ASQ-3, SWYC, PEDS

The Denver Developmental Screening Test

Autism screening

Frequency of screening

Other types of developmental monitoring

What happens if developmental surveillance or screening detects a concern?

The Takeaway

What is developmental screening?

Your child's brain growth

The first five years after your child’s birth are particularly crucial to their health, well-being, and the overall trajectory of their life.

In fact, 90% of your child's brain develops by age 5. This is the time when the foundations for future learning, health, and behavior are established.

During these five years, your child will achieve hundreds of developmental milestones–tasks or skills that most children can do by a certain age.

Generally, children achieve developmental milestones in a set pattern: for example, they crawl, then stand, then walk.

Monitoring baby milestones is a way of tracking a child's development and making sure that they are progressing neurotypically.

Pathfinder Health divides child and baby milestones into four major developmental domains:

  1. Motor/movement

  2. Social and emotional

  3. Speech and language

  4. Cognitive.

Each one of these areas is equally important in helping your child reach full developmental maturity.

What does developmental screening do?

Screening is used by medical professionals to detect potential health conditions in people who do not yet show any symptoms. It allows them to quickly and easily assess risk and identify who requires more comprehensive follow up, such as additional testing.

The type of widespread screening done in early childhood is known as developmental screening.

Developmental screening refers to a formal assessment of the milestones that a child has achieved at a very specific point in time, which provides important insights into how the child is developing, where they might need additional help, and what might come next.

This process can occur at any time during a child's development but is typically done at regular check-ups.

Screening does not diagnose developmental delays. Rather, it highlights where there is a concern and a child should undergo further examination and possibly developmental evaluation by a specialist.