Seventy percent of children with developmental delays go undetected until kindergarten. Developmental screening can help detect delays much earlier, but too few California children receive them. AB11 will change that.
Introduced by Assembly Members Kevin McCarty and Rob Bonta and co-sponsored by the First 5 Association, AB11 would require pediatricians to provide babies and toddlers with routine developmental screening using a validated screening tool. The requirement would apply to children who receive health coverage through Medi-Cal.
According to Children Now, which graded California’s developmental screening practices a “C-“ in their 2018 California Children‘s Report Card, California ranks near the bottom among states for the rate of young kids who receive screening. Screening rates are even lower for children of color.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children receive developmental screening when they reach 9, 18, and 30 months old. California’s MediCal program has adopted these recommendations, but there is confusion in the medical field about developmental screening practices. Pediatricians often do not use a validated screening tool to identify children at risk for developmental delays, or use screening tools inconsistently.
First 5 Contra Costa has expanded developmental screening services locally in the last few years, screening about 3,000 low-income children every year. We’ve helped community and county health clinics and other pediatricians serving low-income kids adopt screening practices in line with AAP recommendations.
This is a great start, but ensuring all children get the screening and developmental services they need requires policy change. AB11 would provide explicit language requiring how and when pediatricians conduct developmental screening. This will help more young children access timely and effective intervention services and reach their greatest potential.
We’ve made great progress in our second year implementing the Help Me Grow (HMG) model, a system to streamline early screening and intervention services for young children and families.
Screening young children for developmental delays and linking them to effective services provides immediate relief to concerned families and reduces the costs for special education or other services down the road. In California, most developmental concerns are not identified or addressed until children start kindergarten – missed opportunities to begin interventions early.
Contra Costa’s Help Me Grow system is working to change this in four effective ways:
Children behind on their developmental milestones are getting help catching up, thanks to the developmental playgroups we’re funding at our First 5 Centers.
We launched the playgroups in 2013 on the heels of our new developmental screening program, which led to an increase in children being identified with developmental concerns or delays at a time when state funding for early intervention services had dwindled. With delays not serious enough to receive state-funded services, yet still in great need, we created the playgroups to make sure these vulnerable children didn’t fall further behind. Continue reading
The following is a letter sent to the Delta First 5 Center from a parent whose daughter benefited from developmental screening.
During the early stages of development of my daughter Evalyn Grace, I felt she was underdeveloped in her communication skills. Being a first time mother and hearing constantly, “every child is different” and “do not compare her to other kids,” I began to feel as if I was doing something wrong. I did feel she was different. She did not interact with others well. I did compare her to other kids her age; she was not talking like them.
I began to feel overwhelmed and alone towards my opinion of where my daughter should be developmentally. Her developmental growth was inconsistent. She would go months without trying a new word. I was later referred to First 5 for developmental screening shortly after Evalyn’s second birthday.
During her first screening, Ms Rhea (First 5 staff member) asked her to repeat a sound. After a few tries, Evalyn had a breakdown. As usual, when asked to make a sound or word she would start breathing heavily, turn red, and cry after not being able to speak.
We began attending classes at First 5 where Evalyn was able to be in an environment with more children her age. Ms. Rhea was able to refer us to the Lynn Center. I was happy to see improvement after attending First 5 for four months. It was a rough start, but I was finally seeing growth in her development in all aspects. After a year attending First 5, Evalyn was able to participate in group exercises and say her name during the introduction songs. Continue reading