Only 21 percent of children are receiving developmental screens

Twenty-one percent of children in the U.S. are not receiving routine developmental screens, and millions are not receiving key clinical preventive services, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released this week. Not only does this contradict the goals of the new Affordable Care Act, or ACA, but it may hamper a child’s ability to receive early interventions, according to the recommendations made in the American Academy of Pediatric’s “Motor Delays: Early Identification and Evaluation” report.

The CDC report, issued this week, surveys parents of children ages 10 to 47 months on their level of participation and awareness of recommended screening procedures. Findings report that slightly more than 50 percent of the parents acknowledged that their child’s doctor engaged them in informal discussions about possible developmental concerns. But, 79 percent of parents in one survey said they had not been asked to participate in screening efforts in the previous year.

“Increased use of clinical preventive service could improve the health of infants, children and teens and promote healthy lifestyles that will enable them to achieve their full potential,” said Stuart K. Shapira, M.D., Ph.D., chief medical officer and associate director for science in CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, or NCBDDD. He recommends that parents and public health communities work together to ensure children have adequate health insurance coverage and receive vital preventive care.

For its part, the Affordable Health Care Act was designed to create greater access to health care services, expand health insurance coverage, and increase preventive care.

“The Affordable Care Act requires new health insurance plans to provide certain clinical preventive services at no additional cost – with no copays or deductibles,” said Lorraine Young, M.D., M.P.H., a medical epidemiologist with CDC’s NCBDDD. She stresses that many health insurance plans offer free screens and vaccinations.

These guidelines and findings are in line with recommendations made in May of 2013 by the American Academy of Pediatrics, or AAP, in a clinical report titled, ”Motor Delays: Early Identification and Evaluation” that strongly recommends early diagnosis so children receive early interventions when their brain is still developing, up to 5 years of age.

“Early identification of motor delays allows for timely referral for developmental intervention as well as diagnostic evaluations and treatment planning,” the report said. The AAP report provides a 12-step guide for evaluating children for developmental and physical delays.

“If parents or health care providers express concern about the child’s development, administration of a developmental screening tool to address the concerns may be needed,” the AAP report said. They recommend formal developmental screening at the nine, 18, 30 and 48 month well-child visits. If developmental delay is suspected, it is recommended that the child begin early intervention while concurrently testing for delay; not waiting until delay is determined.

Why the urgency? The early childhood years are considered crucial to a child’s development. Language and communication skills are formed, powerful bonds are made, social behaviors are developed, motor skills begin, and the foundation for learning is created.

For children that eventually are diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, early evaluations and diagnosis means that treatments and therapies are prescribed while the child’s brain is still able to “rewire” and repair connections. It is believed that early treatment may mitigate the extent of physical impairment of motor coordination and control, reflexes, balance and spasticity, in some instances.

Early diagnosis allows parents to enroll in early intervention, qualify for health care coverage, and gain government assistance to manage their child’s condition.

If you feel that your child is delayed, or have concerns about their development, simply ask your child’s doctor about all the clinical preventive services your child is entitled to.

For more information on the types of screens that are used in diagnosing a child for Cerebral Palsy, visit “Screens, Tests and Evaluations for Cerebral Palsy.”


On September 10, 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a report, “Millions of children not getting recommended preventive care.”

On May 27, 2013, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a Clinical Report in Pediatrics® titled,”Motor Delays: Early Identification and Evaluation,” detailing the process and need for early diagnosis of motor delays. To download this report now and share with your child’s primary care physician, visit Motor Delays: Early Identification and Evaluation.


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