Meet Chris – He and his family have moved 7 times since he was born and are now staying with friends. Chris was referred to your program by his mother at the suggestion of her friend’s mom. The referral said that Chris was 29 months old and not walking. When you arrive for the screening, you see that Chris’s legs are scissoring and he’s experiencing high muscle tone. Turns out that Chris hasn’t been to a doctor since he was 5 months old and living in another state.
Meet Aliyah – Aliyah was taken to the doctor regularly but saw a different medical professional each time, rotating through whoever was available. She is 33 months old and is using mostly “ah” sounds to mean many things. She makes great eye contact and is very social and very bright. Recently, her child care provider completed a screening at her mother’s request, which resulted in a referral to EI. Her mother was frustrated because she’s been worried for a while. Because Aliyah is so social and “so smart,” she’d been repeatedly told by many people that Aliyah would eventually talk so to just wait a little longer…
Sigh…Why’d It Take So Long to Find Chris and Aliyah?
Okay, I know I’m preaching to the choir. We’re early interventionists…early screening and identification are what we DO. Yes, we know all about it, but do others? I think an important job of every early interventionist is to help spread the word about the importance of early screening to our community partners. We want our choir to grow to include more home visiting program staff, medical partners, child care providers, social services folks, and of course families!
The reality is that no early identification system is perfect. There are so many variables that influence whether or not a child is identified early and appropriately referred for evaluation. Family preferences or instability, screener error, the “wait and see” approach, follow-through after the referral is made (by the family and the receiving program) – so many cracks in the system. We can’t fix all of the cracks but we can do our best to be sure that the information is available to those who are helping us find children who may benefit from early intervention.
Spread the Word about these Early Identification Resources!
Rather than going on about the importance of finding children and families early, I thought I’d highlight some wonderful resources. Check out these links and please, share them with your community partners!
Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive – A federal effort to support families and providers in celebrating milestones, accessing universal developmental and behavioral screenings, increasing early identification of delays and concerns, and enhancing developmental supports.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Resources – The CDC website has a plethora (love that word!) of resources for early developmental screening, too many to list, really. Check out these pages for a start:
- Child Development – Tons of resources about screening tools, research, recommendations, etc. Includes info for medical providers about how to manage screenings in their practices. You can also order lots of free materials to support your screening efforts! One interesting fact – according to the CDC site, did you know that only 1 in 5 parents report that their child has received a developmental screening??
- Learn the Signs. Act Early. – Great resources for early screening and identification of children with autism spectrum disorder.
- Hearing Loss – This is one example of a topic page that’s full of info about screening and diagnosis. Be sure to search for other similar topics too.
- Facts about Vision Loss (PDF, New Window) – This is one example of a fact sheet that community partners can use during screenings. The CDC site has lots of other fact sheets so search the site for other topics.
Identifying Infants and Young Children with Developmental Disorders in the Medical Home: An Algorithm for Developmental Surveillance and Screening (AAP) – Share this resource with your local medical partners to get a conversation started about how to support screening and referral.
Developmental Screening and Assessment Instruments with an Emphasis on Social and Emotional Development for Young Children Ages Birth through Five (NECTAC) (PDF, New Window) – This booklet includes info about many screening tools, including a description, age range, time frame, scoring, psychometric info, and who may administer. A great place to start if you’re looking for good tools.
Infant/Toddler Development, Screening,and Assessment (Zero to Three)(PDF, New Window) – This training module/booklet is designed to be used with child care providers to support their knowledge.
Talking to Families of Infants and Toddlers about Developmental Delays (NAEYC) – This handout is another resource to help community partners start that conversation with families when there is a developmental concern. (The link I have for this doc is acting a little funny today but I wanted to include the handout anyhow. Try searching by the title another day to get to the handout. It’s a great one.)
There are tons of other screening resources out there. Even though we know about them, we need to continue the effort to get the word out in our communities. Let’s grow our choir and help others know about the benefits of early screening for children and families. Let’s help our community partners make sure children like Chris and Aliyah get what they need as early as possible!
Share your favorite screening and early identification resource in the comments below and let’s see if we can add to this list! Share your experiences and struggles with early screening and identification – have you met a child like Chris or Aliyah? I know I have…
You can also find more info about Screening and Assessment on the Virginia Early Intervention Professional Development Center website.