The Importance of Early Childhood Developmental Monitoring and Screening

Childhood Developmental

When a child grows, they are expected to reach certain developmental milestones. Specifically, these expectations prepare childcare professionals and parents to ensure the health and proper development of young children.  As a leading provider of childcare services in Fresno, California, CMC Fresno advocates the importance of early childhood developmental monitoring and screening. This article will examine the importance of tracking your child’s development and different ways to evaluate it. 


Your Child’s Development: A Quick Overview

Milestones refer to first-time display of skills relevant to the individual’s age. Developmental milestones include first smiles, first roll-over, first steps, and first words like “ma-ma.” Each child develops at their own pace. This variance makes it hard to predict when a child will develop a new skill. Milestones fall into developmental domains. Behaviors within these domains gradually emerge, providing the foundation for learning and growth. The domains are:

  • Cognition: problem-solving, reasoning, and understanding
  • Motor skill: bending, jumping, stooping, catch and throw, hopping, stacking 
  • Social interaction: making friends, playing with others
  • Adaptive: dressing, eating, bathing

While each child is different, early child development typically follows a predictable progression. These milestones can give a general idea of how a child compares to their peers and what behaviors and skills they could exhibit next. Keeping a close eye on your child’s progress will help you spot certain “red flags.” In this way, you can tell if they are developing normally. If your child does not meet the developmental expectations for their age, speak with your child’s doctor.


Why Is It Important to Track a Child’s Developmental Milestones?

Developmental monitoring and screening can give a broad overview of a child’s abilities, accomplishments, and potential delays. Having this information allows parents to know that their child is growing well. It also gives families direction on encouraging and supporting their child’s growth.

Using monitoring and screening tools can aid parents and doctors in determining whether a child’s development is not normal and address any concerns they may have. Identification at an early age allows parents and professionals to intervene earlier, resulting in better, more cost-effective treatment in lieu of expensive special education services as the child gets older.

Children benefit greatly from early intervention as it lays the foundation for future success. Providing early intervention for developmental delays significantly impacts a child’s social, economic, and educational progress. It increases the chances of completing their studies, getting a job, living independently, and avoiding risky behavior such as teen pregnancy, delinquency, and violent crimes.

How to Deal with Concerns About Your Child’s Development

1 out of 7 children suffers from developmental delays, learning disorders, behavioral issues, and emotional problems. Unfortunately, only a tiny percentage of these children (20% to 30%) receive help before school starts. Some delays are not evident at first glance. Autism, behavioral problems, and speech and language impairments are developmental delays that may not be detected until a child starts school. Children must undergo developmental monitoring and screening to maximize their chances of academic success and success in life.  Let’s now have a look at how they differ.


A Look at Developmental Monitoring

The development monitoring process focuses on following your child’s progress over time to see whether they are reaching typical milestones in play, learning, speaking and behaving.

Monitoring your child’s development involves observing how they grow and change over time. It is a continuous process, which begins at birth up to 5 years or more, that helps parents identify whether their child has any developmental delays.

Talk to a pediatrician if your child is not meeting milestones. Apart from checking your child’s development progress, your pediatrician will ask you pertinent questions during well-baby visits. Using developmental monitoring, you can gauge whether a child is on track and determine if early intervention services are required.

Who Conducts the Monitoring?

Those who provide care for young children, such as parents, grandparents, and early childhood providers, play an integral part in developmental monitoring.

How Does it Work?

The list of development monitoring methods includes: 

  • Watching the development of children through the way they play, move, react to sounds and objects.
  • Organizing a portfolio that documents the development of each child, such as photographs, observations, and videos. 
  • Documenting milestones reached using development checklists. To keep track of your child’s development, you can use these developmental milestones tools:

Learn the Signs. Act Early 

CDC Milestones Tracker App


A Look at Developmental Screening

In general, developmental screening occurs when developmental monitoring reveals delays. Developmental screening is the practice of systematically detecting and monitoring signs of a young child’s potential delay on one or more developmental domains. 

Screening for developmental delay does not establish a child’s diagnosis but allows professionals to decide whether further assessment is necessary. Unlike developmental monitoring, screening tools may target a specific condition, such as autism, a particular developmental domain, or cover several areas at once.

Who Conducts the Screening?

An in-depth developmental screening may be performed by a pediatrician or nurse, but also by caregivers, early childhood general and special educators, home visitors, parent educators, public health workers, educators in schools, and other early childhood professionals.

How do they work?

The process of developmental screening is more formal than developmental monitoring, and it is most often performed less frequently. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, general development screenings should occur at 9, 18, or 30 months and for autism at 18 and 24 months. Developmental screening is also done routinely in well-child visits. When your child’s doctor is not performing these screen tests, you can request them.

There will be a brief test for your child, or you will fill out a questionnaire about them. For developmental and behavioral screening, research-based questionnaires or checklists measure the development of a child, including physical development, cognitive development, language, emotions, and behavior.

Developmental Screening Tools

Some child development assessments are used mainly by pediatricians and others by schools and other community services. Here are just a few screening tool examples. Your healthcare provider may suggest additional screenings if your child faces a greater risk of developmental problems because of premature birth, underweight, exposure to environmental hazards like lead, etc. You can find a comprehensive overview of developmental screening instruments here.

Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ-3)

Ages and Stages screening tool identifies potential delays and determines which children require further evaluation or monitoring. In total, the test measures five domains: social-emotional competence, fine motor skills, gross motor abilities, and problem-solving. Parents complete this questionnaire, which takes about fifteen minutes, and the professional then scores it. The screening tool is for children ages 2 – 60 months. Translations of the Ages and Stages Questionnaire 3RD Edition (ASQ-3) are available in several languages.

Parents Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDS)

PEDS is a comprehensive tool for assessment and surveillance that both detects & addresses a range of developmental issues, including behavioral & mental health concerns. Ten carefully constructed questions elicit the concerns of parents to encourage parent-provider collaboration. There are currently translations in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese.   

Bayley Infant Neurodevelopmental Screen (BINS)

The BINS is specifically designed to identify infants who are neurologically impaired or who struggle with developmental delays. This approach emphasizes a process orientation in understanding how an ability manifests, rather than simply if it is shown. BINS examines these areas of capability: cognitive process, receptive/expressive functions, and basic neurological functions/intactness. 

Each item set in the BINS is appropriate for a developmental age range of 3 -6 months; the item sets cover a wide range of developmental ages. A set contains between 11 and 13 items. The BINS is available in English only.  


Early Intervention Matters: Talk to Your Pediatrician

Please don’t hesitate to contact your child’s pediatrician if you have concerns. Taking action early can make a big difference. If you want to know more about your child’s development and would like to schedule a developmental screening, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. CMC Fresno is happy to answer any questions regarding your child’s development. Call or schedule an appointment today.

Select location to chat with us