Father and Son Outside Doing Math

You know your child best, and your doctor and child care provider are your partners in paying attention to your child’s growth and development.

Developmental screening is a way to tell if children are learning basic skills when they should, or if there are delays. Developmental screening can be done by professionals in health care, community, or school settings. A developmental screening will help tell if your child needs to see a specialist.

Talk with your child’s doctor or nurse if you notice signs of a possible developmental delay in your child. Your doctor, nurse, or child care provider should be able to link you with screening services for young children in your area. Screening is recommended at certain ages, but it should be done at any age if you are concerned about your child’s development. Learn more about your child’s development, including typical developmental milestones.

Why are developmental screenings so important?

Developmental screenings can help you find out if your child needs more help with development or needs more evaluation. As many as one in four children through age 5 are at risk for a developmental delay or disability. For a lot of children, these delays are not identified as early as possible. As a result, these children wait to get the help they need to do well at school and at home.

I have concerns that my child could have a delay. Who can I contact to get my child a developmental screening?

Many people can help you get developmental screening for your child, including your child’s doctor, teacher, or child care provider.

Also, your state has resources that can provide a free screening. You do not have to wait for a doctor’s referral to access these screenings. Who you call depends on the age of your child:

  • If your child is younger than 3 years old, you can contact your state’s early intervention system, which is there to help all children with development delays get help through a wide range of services. Find your state’s early intervention contact information here.

  • If your child is 3 years or older, contact your local public school system. Even if your child is not old enough for kindergarten or enrolled in a public school, the school system will be able to help you find local help.

    It can be challenging to access developmental screenings and navigate the early intervention and public school level systems. It can be especially hard if you are feeling concerned about your child. Ask your child care provider or doctor for help if you need support. Sometimes it helps to plan out what you will say. For example, you could say something like this:

    “I’m concerned about my child’s development and would like to talk with someone about having my child screened. Can you help me or let me speak with someone who can?”

    You will be asked for some general information about yourself and your child, and you will want to be prepared to share your specific concerns about your child.

    All children under 21 who are covered by Medicaid are provided physical, mental, developmental, dental, hearing, and vision screenings. This is called the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit.

    Additional Resources