In our first year implementing a new developmental screening program, we found that 20 percent of children screened had possible delays in their development. Developmental screening is an important first step in diagnosing children who might have developmental delays or autism, yet many young children fail to receive it.
“About one in five children face developmental disabilities or disabling behavioral problems before age 18, but only half are identified before age five,” said Sean Casey, Executive Director of First 5 Contra Costa. “Developmental screening increases the chances of identifying children with developmental concerns when they are very young – the time when intervention is most effective and least expensive.”
As a result, 1,540 children – most of them from low-income families – received developmental screenings last year. Twenty percent were referred for additional assessments and nearly 40% had results indicating a need to monitor the child’s developmental progress.
In a study released last year, the MIND Institute found that children in Spanish-speaking families were least likely to receive an early diagnosis of developmental delays or autism, in part because they do not receive developmental screening. Of the children screened in our program last year, 41% lived in Spanish-speaking households.
Parents interested in developmental screening should contact their pediatrician or visit a First 5 Center.