Nav: Home

Screening tools to identify developmental delay in healthy young children not beneficial

March 29, 2016

The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care recommends against using a screening tool to identify developmental delay in children aged 1 to 4 years who have no apparent signs or parental concerns, according to a new guideline published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Developmental delay is characterized by delay in age-appropriate functioning, including motor skills, speech and language, social skills, daily living activities and/or cognition. Risk factors for developmental delay may include low birth weight, premature birth and birth complications, family history and other factors.

This recommendation applies to children with no visible signs of developmental delay. Screening differs from developmental surveillance, in which a physician regularly monitors a child's development, parental concerns and risk factors, and from case finding, which identifies cases of developmental delay in children with one or more risk factors.

"Clinicians should perform developmental surveillance on an ongoing basis and consider the possibility of developmental delay in children with signs that may suggest a delay in a developmental domain, those whose parents, caregivers or clinicians have concerns about their development, or those with significant risk factors," states Dr. Patricia Parkin, a pediatrician at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and member of the developmental delay guideline working group, with coauthors.

The guideline found no evidence from randomized controlled trials (RCTs) indicating that use of a screening tool for developmental delay in primary care improves outcomes for children. Most screening tools are standardized parent-completed checklists.

"The lack of RCT evidence demonstrating any clinical benefits associated with screening for developmental delay and the relatively poor diagnostic properties of available screening tools warrant a strong recommendation against population-based screening," write the authors.

In addition, screening tools for developmental delay are not accurate, and can lead to a high number of false-positive results that can cause parental anxiety as well as incorrect labeling of children who are developing normally. These false-positive results would likely lead to further testing, referral and diagnosis that might be better focused on children with true developmental delay.

"Primary care providers should remain vigilant in monitoring a child's development at each clinical encounter (i.e., developmental surveillance) and should focus on confirming the diagnosis of developmental delay among children in whom it is suspected," the task force concludes.
The guideline and knowledge translation tools are available at

The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care has been established to develop clinical practice guidelines that support primary care providers in delivering preventive health care. The mandate of the task force is to develop and disseminate clinical practice guidelines for primary and preventive care, based on systematic analysis of scientific evidence.

Canadian Medical Association Journal

Related Children Articles:

Do children inherently want to help others?
A new special section of the journal Child Development includes a collection of ten empirical articles and one theoretical article focusing on the predictors, outcomes, and mechanisms related to children's motivations for prosocial actions, such as helping and sharing.
Children need conventional CPR; black and Hispanic children more likely to get Hands-Only
While compressions-only or Hands-Only CPR is as good as conventional CPR for adults, children benefit more from the conventional approach that includes rescue breaths.
Cohen Children's Medical Center study: Children on autism spectrum more likely to wander, disappear
A new study by researchers at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York suggests that more than one-quarter million school-age children with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental disorders wander away from adult supervision each year.
The importance of children at play
Research highlights positive strengths in developmental learning for Latino children in low-income households based on their interactive play skills.
Racial disparities in pain children of children with appendicitis in EDs
Black children were less likely to receive any pain medication for moderate pain and less likely to receive opioids for severe pain than white children in a study of racial disparities in the pain management of children with appendicitis in emergency departments, according to an article published online by JAMA Pediatrics.
UofL offers vaccine trial for children with relapsed tumors at Kosair Children's Hospital
Children with relapsed tumors and their parents are finding hope in a Phase I research study led by Kenneth G.
Dana-Farber/Boston Children's opens immunotherapy trial for children with leukemia
Dana-Farber/Boston Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center has joined a clinical trial of immunotherapy for children with relapsed or treatment-resistant acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).
Children less likely to come to the rescue when others are available
Children as young as 5 years old are less likely to help a person in need when other children are present and available to help, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.
IPT for children with anaemia
Researchers from Tanzania and South Africa, who are part of the Cochrane Infectious Disease Group, hosted at LSTM, have conducted an independent review to assess the effect of intermittent preventive antimalarial treatment for children with anaemia living in malaria endemic regions.
Safety first, children
Children are experts at getting into danger. So, how can parents help prevent the consequences?

Related Children Reading:

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#532 A Class Conversation
This week we take a look at the sociology of class. What factors create and impact class? How do we try and study it? How does class play out differently in different countries like the US and the UK? How does it impact the political system? We talk with Daniel Laurison, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Swarthmore College and coauthor of the book "The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged", about class and its impacts on people and our systems.