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Developmental Screening Critical for Early Childhood Education

Doctors say developmental screening should be part of every well-child visit. Credit: DocsforTots.org

Doctors say developmental screening should be part of every well-child visit. Credit: DocsforTots.org
August 28, 2015

NEW YORK - Many children are about to start school for the first time, but doctors say the key to successful learning may be found long before children enter a classroom.

In the first years of life, according to pediatricians, children's brains develop at a remarkable rate, and developmental problems often are detectable well before a child reaches school age. Dr. Dina Lieser, co-director of Docs for Tots and director of community pediatrics at Nassau Community Medical Center, said it's something that should be part of regular health care.

"Every single child should have a developmental screen done at nine months of age, at 18 months of age, and at 24 or 30 months of age," she said.

According to Zero to Three, the National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families' website, about one out of every seven children in the United States experiences a developmental or behavioral problem before age 18. But a national survey by the Child and Adolescent Health Measurement Initiative showed that from 2011 to 2012, almost 80 percent of New York children ages 1 to 5 years, had not had a developmental screening in the past 12 months.

For example, Lieser said, language problems are noticeable in infancy and early childhood, and should be dealt with as soon as possible.

"Our capacity to make a difference becomes much more labor-intensive the older children get," she said, "as well as much less potentially effective."

Advocates also cite a strong correlation between poverty and developmental disabilities, but children in low-income families and those without health insurance are less likely to get early screening.

Lieser, who chairs the American Academy of Pediatrics' National Council on Early Childhood, said early screening and intervention are key for successful school years and beyond.

"Those years of development truly set the foundation for their lifelong development, school success, life success and health," she said.

Lieser added that about 20 percent of developmental disabilities may not be detected in a single screening, so parents are encouraged to make them part of every well-child visit to the pediatrician.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY