Developmental checkups – also called developmental screenings – use simple, fast, accurate tools to identify children who have developmental concerns or problems. These tools flag children who need a closer look – that is, children who need assessment, evaluation and possibly intervention.
Child development is every aspect of how a child grows and learns, not only vision and hearing, but also:
Yes. Screening uses a specific, validated tool and is different from surveillance, which is a less formal observation of a child, usually by a physician.Developmental screening with a good tool identifies 70-80% of children with and without developmental concerns or problems. Surveillance (also called clinical assessment) identifies fewer than 30% of children with mental retardation, learning disabilities, language impairments, and other developmental disabilities, and fewer than 50% of children with serious emotional and behavioral disturbances.
Developmental screening identifies twice as many children who need early help as surveillance or a physician’s clinical assessment during an office visit.
Regular developmental checkups are important because early intervention works. Good screening tools identify concerns before they become obvious and serious. And the earlier an issue is identified, the sooner intervention can start and the more effective it will be.
Many young children could benefit from early intervention. About 13% of children have a developmental concern. One child in eight has a problem with movement or mental health, autism, hearing, hyperactivity, language, learning, seizures or sight.
All young children need regular developmental screening, not just children with suspected problems. The idea behind screening is to identify children who need help before a problem festers and becomes obvious. Regular developmental checkups using a screening tool should be as normal as regularly checking a child’s height and weight.
Yes. While any child can have an issue with how they are growing and learning, some children are at greater risk. For example, a child who:
Federal laws require that states ensure developmental screening of children from birth to 36 months old who have been abused, neglected or drug-exposed. The two laws are:
Special Information for Pediatricians and Family Physicians
Yes. The AAP recommends:
Integrating a developmental screening tool into a medical practice not only identifies young children who need help. It can also lead to more satisfied patients and an improved patient flow.
The Developmental Screening Toolkit for Primary Care Providers website can help primary health providers:
The Primary Health Care Provider’s Role in Early Intervention brochure, published by the California Department of Developmental Services, includes information about Early Start (the federal early intervention program for children from birth to 36 months of age), including eligibility and qualifying an infant or toddler for services, referrals, and the role of physicians.
Yes, in fee-for-service settings, developmental screenings – such as ASQ, PEDS, and PEDS:DM – are reimbursed by health insurance policies. Specifically, developmental checkups are billable under CPT code 96110, the code for Developmental Screening (also called Developmental Testing, Limited).
For more information about how to bill health insurance plans, see How to Bill from the Developmental Screening Toolkit for Primary Care Providers and the sections of the AAP’s DB Peds website on Coding Conundrums.