More than 4,400 children have received developmental screening since we began training our partners to provide this critical yet underutilized service three years ago. Developmental screening is an important first step in diagnosing children who have developmental delays or autism, yet many young children fail to receive it.
To address this need, we started training children’s services providers on the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) in 2011. Since then, 280 providers from 58 agencies in Contra Costa County have been trained. Contra Costa County Public Health Nurses account for half of all providers trained.
The ASQ screens children in five areas of development: communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving, and personal-social. Each area of development is scored as ‘on schedule’, ‘in need of monitoring’, or ‘in need of a referral’ for more specialized assessment.
Of the 4,400 children screened in our funded programs, over one-third had concerns with their development, with 19% scoring in the referral zone and 22% flagged for careful monitoring on a specific issue.
Evaluation results indicate that the screenings are catching issues early and helping children to resolve concerns or delays. Fifty-six percent of children who were re-screened showed improvements, moving from the monitoring or referral zones to on-schedule. Conversely, new developmental concerns were identified in 11% of children who were re-screened.
One area of progress we’re particularly proud of is providing this service to Spanish-speaking families. Research shows that children in Spanish-speaking families are the 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 programs, 44% were monolingual Spanish-speaking, and another 10% were bilingual.
Our goal is to move toward developmental screening for all children. To get there, we’re starting with children in greatest need. A few years in and already screening efforts by our funded programs have reached 11 percent of all children ages birth to five in low-income communities in Contra Costa County. Additionally, we’ve trained several community partners not funded by First 5 to implement this service, so the percentage of children screened countywide is even higher.
Parents interested in developmental screening should contact their pediatrician or visit a First 5 Center.