We are pleased to share with you some important information on Developmental Screening of young children and how this may help you foster and enhance growth and development of your precious little one.
A Developmental Screening Tool is a vehicle to assist you when you observe your child. It helps focus your observations in relation to developmental stages at certain ages.
These Developmental Milestones act as checkpoints in child development for the “average” child at a particular age. Keep in mind that an “average” is just a statistical measure.
Seldom if ever, is any given child exactly that average. Some may be above that average, while some below that average. This average is based on what we sometimes refer to as “Norm-Reference Screening” using developmental age.
Developmental Age is referred to how closely a child’s physical and mental development parallels with normal developmental milestones such as walking, talking, moving, etc. The stage at which these milestones are due to be reached is the average age at which research (or Norm-Subjects) achieved these skills or functions.
Developmental milestone checklists or charts, sometimes referred to as Developmental Screening Tools, are used as guides to what is called “normal” for a particular age range and can be used to highlight any areas in which a child might need enhancement or further stimulation.
There are several categories within the developmental milestones which are considered. The following are the most common:
- Large Motor Skills are typically the first to develop in young children, (i.e., sitting, turning over, crawling, standing, and walking).
- Fine Motor Skills are developed a little later and requires greater precision, (i.e., using an eating utensil or picking up small or delicate objects).
- Cognitive or Mental milestones refer to the child’s developmental abilities to think, learn, and solve problems.
- Social and Emotional milestones pertain to the child’s ability to express their own emotions and respond to social interactions that they have with you as a parent or others, (i.e., a six-month-old child should begin to recognize familiar faces).
- Communication and Language milestones are the child’s developing verbal and non-verbal communication skills, (i.e., a one-year-old child is typically learning to say single words, while an older child can speak in complete sentences).
Why Should Parents of Young Children Periodically Use Developmental Screening Tools?
The following are a few of the reasons to use Developmental Screening Tools which may help you focus on specific areas of your child’s development, (i.e., stages and ages):
- Helps you identify needs relative to pre-determined markers, or to just help you flag specific skills and functions that may need a comprehensive assessment
- May indicate and alert you so early signs of risk that may require a closer look
- Can help you narrow the focus for the observations
- Provides to you, as a parent, with more information that can be used to talk with your child’s healthcare provider to determine if a closer or more detailed assessment or evaluation of your child may be appropriate
- Gives you multi-opportunities to observe how your child’s growth and change over time and whether your child meets or exceeds the typical developmental milestones for moving, speaking, playing, learning, and behaving
As a parent, we encourage you to use developmental screenings routinely since your child develops quickly and at different pace across the various developmental areas.
More formal developmental screenings are frequently recommended at 9-, 18-, 24-, and 30-months of age by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This should be part of the Well-Child visit to your child’s healthcare provider.
You are encouraged to share your developmental screening results with your child’s healthcare provider. This up-to-date information can provide additional opportunities to dialog and communicate with others.
When using a developmental screening with your own child, keep in mind that the focus is to enhance your observations. The purpose is not to diagnosis a disorder or plan a treatment approach. It is rather to suggest any further needs for observation, assessment, or evaluation.
Research does show that parent observations when using a structured vehicle for observing, recording, and reporting a child’s growth and development patterns tends to be as accurate and comprehensive to that of professionals.
In summary, here are a few of the benefits that you, as a parent, can derive for your child by doing periodic developmental screenings at the leisure and comfort in your own home:
- A checklist or developmental screening serves as a developmentally sequenced roadmap for stimulating growth and development of your young child
- May help you “flag” developmental concerns
- Allows you to provide additional information of what you observed in the home setting to your child’s healthcare provider.
- Allows you to see what changes occur in your child’s growth and development in different areas without necessarily waiting for the formal screenings that are frequently recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- Gives you the opportunity to observe the various developmental ages across the different developmental milestones over time. This will give you a better picture of the growth spurts that may be occurring at different times as your child grows.
- Use some of the items listed on the developmental screening tools to help focus on some of your child’s specific activities that can be promoted with your child. Gives you an opportunity to watch positive progress or growth in your child’s development in multiple areas at your leisure and convenience.
- There are many developmental screening tools and instruments available. Use tools as your vehicle for observations that can be done in less than 15 minutes and are easy to score while you’re interacting and observing your child.
Make your parent-child interactions positive and use opportunities to carefully observe your child systematically and periodically.