The first few years of life set the stage for a child’s future. Experiences during early childhood (prenatal to kindergarten) inform social, emotional and cognitive development, as well as overall health, determining early in life whether a child is set up to reach his or her optimal health. Health promotion supports the healthy development of the child. Encouraging the development of the growing child references early brain growth and development. Even more important are the influences of stimulation and positive social ties with family, culture, and community.
Since 2006, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended that assessment for developmental problems among young children be incorporated into every preventive health visit and that formal screening occur at regular intervals, including the 9-, 18-, and either 24- or 30-month well-child visits. According to data from the 2011-2012 National Survey of Children’s Health, only 30.8 percent of children ages 10-60 months were screened for developmental, behavioral and social delays using a parent-reported standardized screening tool during a health care visit.
Developmental screening is critical to the early identification of developmental delays and the provision of early intervention services and treatments that have the capacity to change both short- and long-term developmental trajectories of children who may be experiencing such delays or have a developmental disability. The importance of timely developmental screening is underscored by its inclusion as a national objective for Maternal, Infant, and Child Health in Healthy People 2020.