Families & the Community

CDC: Nearly Eight in 10 Children Miss Developmental Screenings

By Christina A. Samuels — September 15, 2014 2 min read
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Only about 21 percent of parents in 2007 reported that they were asked to fill out a questionnaire from their health-care provider asking about their child’s developmental, communication, or social behaviors—an essential step in steering children to early-intervention services, according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

The CDC released the information Sept. 10 as part of an analysis on the use of several preventive services for infants, children and adolescents. In general, children are not receiving enough preventive care, the agency concluded. CDC recommendations are that young children be screened for developmental delays at 9, 18, and either 24 or 30 months, and for autism spectrum disorder at 18 months and at either 24 or 30 months.

For its analysis, the CDC turned to the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health and focused on children from 10 to 47 months olds. Children were not more or less likely to be screened based on gender, race or ethnicity, family structure, parental education, household income, or location. However, parents were the least likely to report an official screening if the child had not had insurance in the past year; only 9 percent of parents reported that request.

The study did note that a majority of parents, about 52 percent, reported that a health-care advisor asked them informally if they had any concerns about their child’s learning, development, or behavior. However, indications of a parental concern or risk for a developmental delay did not result in additional screening for those children, and informal inquiries are less likely to pick up on the children who need help, the report said. Health-care providers may be overrelying on their own judgment or distrustful of parent reports, the researchers hypothesized.

The CDC noted other gaps in the preventive screening that connect to potential disabilities. Using surveys collected in 2009 and 2010, the CDC found that 50 percent of infants who failed their hearing screening were not documented to have received testing needed to diagnose hearing loss.

Also, 67 percent of children ages 1 to 2 years were not tested for blood lead or results were not reported to CDC in 2010; lead exposure can lead to serious negative consequences for a child’s developing brain.

“We must protect the health of all children and ensure that they receive recommended screenings and services,” said Dr. Stuart K. Shapira, the chief medical officer and associate director for science in CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Early Years blog.