Know your child’s milestones.
Developmental milestones are clues that your child is growing as expected. The way kids listen, talk, act, and learn at specific ages are big milestones. These are key to a healthy start in life.
What is developmental screening?
Developmental screening allows a parent to complete a questionnaire about their child’s growth and emotional well-being. The questionnaire will provide insights as to whether the child’s growth and emotional health are on track. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends a system of developmental monitoring and screening in order to identify conditions or delays impacting children’s development over the long and short term. The Academy recommends the promotion of early detection and intervention for developmental disorders to improve the well-being of children and families.
Developmental delays and disabilities such as autism, behavioral disorders, speech, and language challenges are frequently missed until the child reaches school age — which is too late. Research shows the earlier the detection, the better the chances for a child with developmental delays to improve. Developmental screening is therefore critical to ensuring a child’s school readiness and social emotional health.
Know your child’s milestones
Developmental milestones are clues that your child is growing as expected. The way kids listen, talk, move, act, and learn at specific ages are big milestones. These are key to a healthy start in life.
Milestones by age
There are ways that children speak, act, and learn by certain ages. For example, most babies make a lot of sounds and say “mama” by nine months. A doctor or childcare provider can check to make sure a child is on track. When they are not, it’s time to get help.CDC Milestone Checklist
The screening result is just a snapshot of a child’s development. It is not an assessment. After the screening, there are three possible result levels: High Risk, Medium Risk, or No Risk. High Risk means there’s a greater chance of delays and the need to refer to an early intervention program for further assessment. Medium Risk means the child could show a level of developmental delay in one or more areas of development. If a child needs an evaluation, depending on their age, one of two organizations will reach out.
Staff from Birth to Three (commonly known as Child Development Watch) or Child Find will then contact the family, assess the child, then coordinate services to help the family. If families also have other issues such as housing insecurity, food insecurity, etc., providers make a referral to Delaware’s Help Me Grow 2-1-1 call center.
Why screen kids?
Developmental delays and disabilities like autism, behavioral disorders, speech, and language challenges can be missed until the child reaches school age. That’s too late. Research shows the earlier developmental delays are detected, the higher the chance for improvement. That’s how developmental screens help.
These are the screeners the state prefers:
Ages and Stages (ASQ)
- These are FREE screenings the Delaware Department of Education (DDOE) offers to all families with children 0-5. They are also used by Home Visiting programs, childcare, and education settings.
- For ages birth to 34 months (birth to 3 years), access the Birth to Three Early Intervention Program’s screener
- For ages 34–60 months (3–5 years), access your child’s school district program’s resources.
- Parents’ Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDS) online screen
- Used in pediatric and family medicine practices.
- Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) screen
- Used by doctors’ offices only.
- Parent completes the questionnaire and a follow-up interview is conducted for more details.
In Delaware, health care providers use the Parents’ Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDS) online tool. Home Visiting programs, childcare, and education settings use the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ).
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Bright Futures recommends Developmental Screenings at 9, 18, 24, and 30 months, and every year after. The new Delaware legislation requires licensed childcare centers to do annual developmental and social emotional screening. If you’re worried about a child’s developmental progress, talk to friends, family, or reach out to your child’s doctor for more information and help.
According to House Bill 202 childcare providers will administer developmental and social emotional screening to identify children who may be eligible for Early Intervention or special education services.
Talking to Those Around You
Talking to your health care provider
Each time you take your child to a well visit, you can get them a developmental screening. Even if you don’t have any concerns, you can ask to have your child screened. If you do have concerns about your child’s development, share them with the doctor. Visit the CDC for more information.
Family and Caregiver Guide for Developmental Concerns offers information to help understand the steps to take if a child is referred due to developmental delays.
Here are tips on how to share concerns about your child’s development:
- Be Prepared. Make notes about what milestones you think your child is missing. Be specific and give examples. This can help your doctor understand your concerns.
- Be Persistent. Your child’s healthy development is essential. Your concerns can be emotional. It is crucial to be clear and concise. Do not accept unclear answers from the doctor like “don’t worry” or “let’s wait and see.” If you still do not get clear answers, ask for a referral to see a pediatrician specializing in development or behavior.
- Ask Questions. Ask for clarity if you don’t fully understand the terms your doctor uses. Make sure you ask for results after a screening or tests and what those results mean. If you are unsure, also ask about the next steps.
- Follow Up. Ask for screenings at 9, 18, 24, and 30 months, and every year after. Suppose a screening suggests your child is at risk for developmental delays. In that case, you can get a follow-up from an early intervention program. Your doctor can refer you to an early intervention program, or you can call 2-1-1 for the Help Me Grow call center.
Below are resources and outside services that can help.
Developmental Screening QR Code Tabletop Handout
Information for parents and guardians about developmental screening for children from birth to 36 months of age. Two-sided — English and Spanish — with a QR code to the Ages & Stages Questionnaire.
Delaware Division of Behavioral Health
The Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services, also known as DPBHS, provides an array of prevention, early intervention, and behavioral health treatment services statewide.
Division of Social Services for SNAP Benefits
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a food supplemental program that enables low-income families to buy a variety of food that is the basis for better nutrition.
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
WIC helps pregnant women, new mothers, and young children eat well, learn about nutrition (WIC Smart), and stay healthy.
Delaware Child Psychiatry Access Program (DCPAP)
Delaware Child Psychiatry Access Program (DCPAP) provides pediatric primary care professionals with free child psychiatry consultation and behavioral health training.
Kindergarten Registration Checklist in English and Español
The Delaware Department of Education provides tools to register for kindergarten and instructions on how to do so.
Children & Families First
Children & Families First helps children facing adversity on their journey to adulthood. The organization uses proven methods to help families raise their children to flourish.
The goal of Delaware Stars is to invest in participating programs to increase access to high-quality care for all of Delaware’s children, especially those from low-income families.
Looking for information about lead? DHSS has information about lead poisoning and tools to help keep children safe.
Easter Seals programs across the country provide a wide variety of interventions that help individuals of all abilities, including those with Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Children’s Beach House
CBH helps preschool children and youth with developmental delays and special needs.
Autism Delaware/Delaware Autism
Autism Delaware has resources for families affected by autism that include support groups, adult services, and scholarships.
Center for Disease Control & Prevention
From birth to 5 years, your child should reach milestones in how he plays, learns, speaks, acts, and moves. Track your child’s development and act early if you have a concern.
National Center for Healthy Safe Children
The National Center for Healthy Safe Children offers resources and technical assistance to states, tribes, territories, and local communities to come together to promote well-being.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)
ACOG is a professional membership organization for obstetricians and gynecologists. It offers education and resources to improve women’s health.
Updated CDW & Childfind Comparison
Help in understanding similarities and differences between Part C Early Intervention Services and Part B Preschool Special Education Services. Includes information on evaluation, eligibility, family support, cost, and more.