Early Childhood Screenings: Another Form of Wellness Checks!

About this resource
Reviewed: 2015

Young children visit public health offices or their doctor for wellness checks and vaccinations as many as a dozen times before entering kindergarten. These visits are important for ensuring that young children are growing as expected, are healthy, and are receiving the appropriate vaccinations to ensure future health. These are also opportunities for parents to talk with health professionals and ask questions about their child.

Parents are a young child’s most important advocate. They can ask during well-child visits what they can do to help their child grow and learn; they can raise questions about any concerns. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents jot down their top three to five questions to prepare for a well-child visit. Questions can range from toilet training to nutrition to sleeping to concerns about language and development.

Your child’s health care professional may give you a list of development milestones that children typically reach by a certain age. At a one-year visit, your provider may ask such questions as “Does your baby wave good-bye?” or “Does your baby respond to her name when you call it?” Parents and caregivers can find typical milestones on websites sponsored by AAP and the federal government (see “Additional Resources” below). You can access these milestones and check what you might expect when your child is 18 months or 48 months old.

If you are uncertain about your child’s developmental progress, you may ask your provider about developmental screenings. Many parents, especially new parents, would like the assurance that their child is healthy and developing typically.  Developmental screenings may be a part of your well-child visit. But if they are not, feel free to ask for a screening or where you can call for a free screening. In Illinois, families can call their local Child and Family Connections office for children under the age 3 and ask for a developmental screening. If you have concerns about developmental delays once your child turns 3, you can call your local school district and ask them about screenings and when they conduct Child Find—the name for screenings to assess potential developmental delays or disabilities.

Your child care provider or preschool teacher also is a resource for parents who would like to know if their child is developing at a typical rate. Your child care provider may use a screening tool to monitor the progress of all children in the class. Typical developmental screening tools may include Ages & Stages Questionnaire, Battelle Developmental Inventory, or Brigance Screens-III.

While most children follow a typical pattern of development, about 8% of children in the United States are identified as experiencing delays during their school years. Less than half of these children are identified during their first few years of life.

It may be possible to provide supports and services during the early years to lessen the impact of a delay. The first step is a developmental screening. As a parent, if you have a concern, be sure to speak about it with your child’s health care provider or teacher. They can provide you with information that addresses your concerns and they can refer you to services for children with developmental delays.

Source: U.S. Department of Education. (2014). 36th annual report to Congress on the implementation of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Washington, DC: Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services.

Susan Fowler

Dr. Susan Fowler, professor of special education at the University of Illinois, will take one of our popular Tip Sheets and provide specific suggestions that benefit children with developmental delays or disabilities. Most of our Tip Sheets work for all families, but some can use “tweaking” or additional tips to support children with disabilities.
Biography current as of 2/2017