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Guide to Developmental and Behavioral
Screening for Children
Developmental and Behavioral

snapshot of a child’s health and developmental status
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Screening provides a quick snapshot of a child’s health and developmental status and indicates whether further evaluation is needed to identify potential difficulties that might necessitate interventions or special education services.


This handbook will help parents become aware of screening and has been designed primarily to support early childhood practitioners in the choices they make when selecting or changing their developmental screening tools. Practitioners should not interpret this compendium as recommending or requiring the use of a particular tool.


What is the Purpose of Developmental Screening?


To better understand the information covered in this compendium, it is important to articulate the purpose of developmental screening and how it differs from assessment.


Important considerations regarding developmental screenings that early childhood practitioners should be aware of include:


•  Screenings are designed to be brief (30 minutes or less).

•  Screenings cannot capture the full range of development, skill, or capacity among children. Because      screenings are designed to identify risk or potential developmental issues, they tend to focus on            distinguishing developmental skills and abilities in the lower range of performance and are not              useful for capturing skills and abilities in the higher range of performance.

•  Screening only indicates the possible presence of developmental delay or difference and cannot           definitively identify or describe the nature or extent of a disability.

• Screening must be followed by a more comprehensive and formal evaluation process in order to             confirm or disconfirm any red flags raised by the screening procedure.


Assessment is a continual process of observing, gathering, recording, and interpreting information to answer questions and make developmental and instructional decisions about children.


Child assessment differs from screening in the following ways:

•  Assessments can be used to serve several purposes, such as documenting children’s developmental      progress or helping early childhood practitioners plan to meet the individual needs of children;              whereas screenings are used only to monitor whether children are at risk for delays in their growth          and development.

• Assessment measures young children’s performance over time rather than attempting to measure          their skills and abilities at one point in time.

• Assessment is often a lengthier process than screening and may require collecting information about     children from multiple sources in order to create a comprehensive picture of their skills and abilities.

Glimpse of Enclosed Topics

What influences child development and behavior?

What is developmental and behavioral screening?

What is developmental monitoring?

How often should children be monitored and screened?

When should I talk to families about development and screening?

How do I engage families in the screening process?

Walking families through the screening process.

Talk to families after an “at risk” screening result.

Talk to families after a “low risk” or “no risk” screening result.

How do I refer families to the right specialist after screening?

How can I use screening results to individualize support for the children I care for?

How do I select the right screening tool to fit my needs?

How do I use this list of screening tools?

Making a difference

Developmental Screening
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