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11. Young Children Screened for Developmental, Behavioral and Social Delays

Preventive well-child visits almost always focus on the physical health of the child. While important, physical health is only part of a child’s overall health. Child screening is important for early detection of developmental and social-emotional issues. In general, the earlier a child with developmental and/or social emotional delays receives services, the better the outcome. Screening should include developmental, behavioral and social delays. In addition, it should identify environmental factors with a compounding effect on overall development, such as poverty, parental depression and domestic violence. For most young children, especially those under two years, the health provider is the only professional in contact with the family. Therefore, this often is the only opportunity for a young child to have a comprehensive developmental screening that includes environmental risk factors. 

What Can the Data Tell Us?

Data from the National Survey on Children’s Health show that most children are not receiving developmental screenings as a routine part of regular well-child visits (Table 20). And, unlike most indicators in this report, there is little difference across racial and income groups. In part, this may be because Medicaid emphasizes the importance of screening through its Early, Periodic, Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) provisions. Still, parents of fewer than one-third of all young children reported the child received a developmental screen during routine health visits. Encouraging practitioners to include developmental screening as part of preventative well-child visits is critical to identifying and responding to young children and families who may need additional support.  

Table 20. Percentage of children ages 10 month-5 years who during the past 12 months were not screened for developmental, behavioral, and social delays using a parent-reported standardized screening tool during a health care visit, U.S. and States, 2011-2012.