Early Childhood Screening: FAQ

It’s important to identify children with developmental delays or behavior concerns as early as possible.

Research shows that early intervention and treatment greatly improves healthy development.

Many children with developmental delays or behavior concerns are not identified as early as they could be. As a result, these children have to wait to get the help they need to succeed in social and educational settings (in school, at home, and in the community).

Explore the questions and answers on this page to help you understand developmental screenings, why they are important, and the process of Early Intervention.

Parents and caregivers want the best for their child, and it’s normal to wonder if your child is on track developmentally.

It’s easy to monitor your child’s development by reviewing checklists of child development milestones and observing your child in their daily activities.

Remember, these checklists are just a guide and all children grow and develop at their own pace.  If your child is not hitting every milestone exactly on time, don’t worry too much. Babies and young children will develop skills at different rates.

That’s why regular developmental screening at your pediatrician’s office or child care provider is the best way to find out if your child needs more support or additional screening.

Developmental screenings are done regularly during the first year of life and then once a year from age 1 to 5. It is important to complete the screening carefully and ask your provider to review the results with you. If there is anything you do not understand about the results, be sure to ask.

If after speaking with your provider you still need help understanding screening results, call the Early Childhood Consultation Warmline at: 303-432-5455.

This is one area where screening can help answer your question.

Ask your provider for a “social-emotional development screening” if they haven’t already offered one.

There are many reasons for challenging behavior:

  • Some behavior is a normal part of development as children learn self-control and build new skills.
  • If you think your child’s challenging behavior may be the result of a traumatic experience, check out these resources and talk to your child’s pediatrician.

If you are concerned that your child might have a developmental delay or special needs, start with a screening to determine if more evaluation is needed.

A developmental screener is a way that health care and child care providers can quickly assess how your child is developing in a given area compared to other children of the same age.

Many screeners are paper or online checklists that a parent fills out about their child and gives back to a provider (i.e., a teacher, medical provider, etc.)  Developmental screeners can assess a child’s current strengths and challenges in a variety of areas, such as their physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development.

An example of a developmental screener that looks at physical and cognitive development is the ASQ (Ages and Stages Questionnaire). The ASQ is typically offered by a child’s pediatrician or medical provider at Well Child visits. Screenings occur frequently during a child’s first year and annually afterwards.

The ASQ asks questions about how your child is developing physically, and how they are thinking about their world and solving problems.  Some examples of questions on the ASQ for a 2-year-old are:

  • “Does your child correctly use at least two words?”
  • “If your child wants something she cannot reach, does she find a chair or box to stand on to reach it?”

An example of a developmental screener that looks at social and emotional development is the ASQ-SE (Ages and Stages Questionnaire: Social Emotional).  The ASQ-SE may be given at your child’s medical office, or it may be offered by a teacher at your child’s school, or by a mental health professional.

The ASQ-SE screener evaluates the parts of a child’s development that have to do with how they relate to others and understand and manage their own thoughts and feelings.  Some examples of questions on the ASQ-SE for a 2-year-old are:

  • “Does your child cry, scream, or have tantrums for long periods of time?”
  • “Does your child like to hear stories or sing songs?”

Other screeners may be given to you at certain Well Child visits, when medical providers are screening for other areas of development or assessing whether your family needs any additional support.

For example, your medical provider may give you forms to fill out to see if you need any support with housing or other resources.  They may also ask certain questions to check for maternal postpartum depression, the impact of a traumatic situation on your child’s development, or a risk of autism.  If you have a question about a screening or questionnaire your medical provider asks you to fill out, be sure to ask.

Medical providers often ask families to fill out the ASQ (Ages and Stages Questionnaire, see above for explanation) at most Well Child checks between birth and age 5.

Your child’s development is being tracked by their medical provider to assess for any delays or advances over time. It is common for parents fill out a screener and not hear anything from the medical provider, which most likely means there were no significant concerns about your child’s development.

Since every child develops at their own pace, your child’s medical providers may not alert you if they notice a lower score in one area of development, especially if your child seems to be on track in other areas of their development.

Providers often use the term “watch and wait,” meaning they may give some suggestions to help the child catch up in one area, and they will ask about it again at the next visit.

If your child’s medical provider does notice a “delay” in one or more areas – don’t be overly concerned!  Simply ask your provider about next steps to either work with your child on strengthening that area of development, or to get a referral to a program that can help evaluate your child and give recommendations.

If you are looking for tips and ideas of activities that are good for all areas of brain development in little ones, check out our resources.  Make sure to get all your questions answered!  Ask your child’s medical provider to:

  • Go over screening results with you
  • Help you understand more about how they are thinking about your child’s development
  • Explain what they would recommend

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that your child’s medical provider checks on developmental progress at every visit, and does screening at various times in the first few years of life (and more often if a concern is identified).

If you are worried that your child is not being screened regularly or adequately, talk to your child’s medical provider.

It is especially important that we continuously screen a child’s development in the early years of life.

Children’s brains are about 85% developed by the time they reach age 3, which means they are learning very quickly in the first few years!  If we can screen children early on, we are able to intervene when their brains have an easier time learning new skills.

It is much more difficult to intervene later on, when the young person’s brain learns and develops at a slower rate.

Early screening leads to early intervention when needed, and can ensure that children are given the services they need in order to support their development. Additional services might include physical or occupational therapy, mental health support or consultation, or extra support in their classroom or childcare center.

It’s common to feel anxious if your pediatrician says that your child’s development is “delayed” or “atypical” for their age.

However, the good news is that most of the time, early screening can lead to very positive outcomes and help children get back on track.

Since children’s brains develop so quickly in early childhood, working to ensure they have healthy relationships and positive experiences is the best way to promote positive brain development. Get tips on how to support your child’s social-emotional development.

If you live in Jefferson County and would like some information on how to get a screening done for your child, talk to your medical provider or contact the Early Childhood Consultation Warmline at 303-432-5455.

If you child’s screening identifies areas of development that could benefit from formal support, your doctor may refer you to Early Intervention. To learn more about the process of engaging with Early Intervention, see below.

Colorado’s Early Intervention program provides support and services for children with developmental delays or disabilities between birth and age three.

Research shows that the first three years of life are the most critical for brain development and learning. Intervening to support healthy development during this time may decrease the need for additional help later in life.

Early Intervention (EI) providers help children with special needs develop to their full potential by teaching parents, caregivers, and families how to promote their child’s development through support with everyday activities and routines.

There are local agencies known as Community Centered Boards (CCBs) throughout Colorado that are responsible for implementing the local Early Intervention Colorado program. In Jefferson County, Developmental Disabilities Resource Center (DDRC) serves as our Community Centered Board.

DDRC employs an interdisciplinary team of service providers, including speech therapists, occupational therapists, behavioral specialists, physical therapists, and mental health clinicians, to work with families to implement the work laid out in the Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).

Early Intervention visits often take place in the family’s home, where EI providers work with children and their caregivers in their natural environments to guide and support learning, behaviors, and skill development that support healthy development.

If you or someone who cares about your child has concerns about his or her development, a referral can be made to DDRC’s Early Intervention team.

Although other people may contact Early Intervention in your county on behalf of your child (such as a doctor, child care provider, neighbor, or family member), no evaluation of your child, development of an individualized plan, or provision of EI services will be provided without your consent.

When DDRC receives a referral for Early Intervention, a Service Coordinator is assigned to your family.

A Service Coordinator is a person who works with you during your child’s involvement with the EI Colorado program to assist you in accessing services and to inform you of your legal rights. Federal and state laws require that all children and families served by the EI Colorado program have a Service Coordinator.

Your Service Coordinator will work with you to schedule an evaluation for your child.

All infants and toddlers referred to the EI Colorado program have the right to a free evaluation and/or assessment. The evaluation will look at all areas of your child’s development. It is a process that will help you to better understand your child’s developmental strengths and needs and how EI services can help. (In Jefferson County, evaluations for Early Intervention may be conducted by either DDRC or by Child Find, an evaluation team at Jeffco Public Schools. Your Service Coordinator will work with you to coordinate this process.

Information from the evaluation is used to determine whether your child is eligible for Early Intervention services.

A child may be determined eligible because he or she has a significant delay in one or more of the following areas:

  • Adaptive development (taking care of self when doing things like feeding or dressing)
  • Cognitive development (thinking and learning skills)
  • Communication development (understanding and using sounds, gestures, and words)
  • Physical development (moving, seeing, and hearing)
  • Social-emotional development (responding to and developing relationships with other people)

A child may also be determined eligible because he or she has been diagnosed with a condition that will likely result in a significant delay in development. A list of diagnoses that will automatically qualify a child for the EI Colorado program is available at http://www.eicolorado.org.

The list is located in the “Make a Referral” tab and it is called “Database of All Diagnosed Conditions.” If your child has a condition that establishes their eligibility, your child will still need an assessment to help plan for what services may be needed.

If your child is eligible, an initial Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) will be developed within 45 days of the referral date. The IFSP is your family’s written plan for Early Intervention services.

The IFSP meeting occurs at a different time from the evaluation, and must be held at times and locations that are convenient for your family.

This means that you will be an active team member and decision maker throughout the planning process. The IFSP is based on information from your child’s evaluation and from the concerns, resources, and priorities that you identify through a conversational interview about your day. It will list the EI services your child needs to develop and learn, and the services your family needs to support your child’s development. In addition, it will list the duties of everyone involved.

The Early Intervention services specified on your child’s IFSP are required to begin within 28 days of your consent for services.

Your Service Coordinator will work with you and your team of Providers to schedule appointments and monitor progress. Your child’s IFSP is reviewed at least every six months. However, your needs may change sooner, so more frequent reviews may take place. It is also rewritten at least once a year.

Services offered through Early Intervention Colorado:

  • Assistive technology services
  • Audiology services
  • Developmental intervention services
  • Health services
  • Medical services
  • Nursing services
  • Nutrition Services
  • Occupational therapy services
  • Physical therapy services
  • Psychological services
  • Sign language and cued language services
  • Social and emotional services
  • Speech language pathology services
  • Transportation services
  • Vision services

Early Intervention is only available to children until their third birthday. If your child has not met all of the IFSP outcomes and is demonstrating a developmental delay in the areas of thinking, moving, communicating, relating to others, or seeing or hearing, he or she may be eligible for preschool special education services.

Between the time your child is two years three months and two years nine months, the following are activities will occur as part of the transition planning process:

  • Unless you choose to opt out, your child’s information can be shared with the school district for the purpose of planning the transition from EI to special education services in preschool.
  • An IFSP meeting will be held to develop a Transition Plan to outline steps and services to ensure a successful transition out of the EI Colorado program.
  • With your approval, a transition conference will be held between EI, your child’s preschool, and your family. This may result in further evaluation by the school district and the development of an Individual Education Plan.

Navigating the world of developmental and educational support is challenging, and it looks different depending on the age of your child and the setting where your child grows and learns.

Developmental and educational supports are often described by different combinations of letters and numbers that sound similar and can be confusing for parents.

Below is a chart that defines and explains the different developmental and educational plans you may come across.

If you have questions about specialized service plans, contact the Educational and Family Advocacy Services with the ARC of Jefferson, Clear Creek and Gilpin counties. They offer one-on-one consultation with families and can explain everything to you.

IFSP (Individual Family Support Plan) IEP (Individual Education Plan) 504 Plan
Basic Description Used in Early Intervention for children ages birth to 3 years and their families A blueprint or plan for a child’s special education services at a public school.

An IEP is a written plan for special education and related services for children ages 3 to 21.

A blueprint or plan for how the public school will provide support and remove barriers for a student with a disability.

A 504 is a written plan for students grades K-12.

What It Does Provides a foundation for your family’s involvement with Early Intervention (EI) services.

It lays out what services your baby (or toddler) should receive and what results you and the team hope to achieve for your child.

A key principle of Early Intervention is that services occur in a natural setting – where you and your child feel most comfortable. This is usually your home, but it could also be a place like a nearby community center.

The IFSP focuses on what you need as a family to best support your child. The IFSP builds on the individual strengths of each family member. Together, this all helps personalize the plan for your family.

Provides individualized special education and related services to meet a child’s unique needs.

These services are provided at no cost to families and take place during the school day at your child’s Jeffco district school.

Provides services and changes to the learning environment to enable students to learn alongside their peers.

As with an IEP, a 504 plan is provided at no cost to families.

What Law Applies The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

This is a federal special education law for children with disabilities.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

This is a federal special education law for children with disabilities.

Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973

This is a federal civil rights law to stop discrimination against people with disabilities.

Who is Eligible? To get an ISFP, there are a few requirements. A child must:

1. be under the age of 3

2. meet criteria for a developmental delay in one or more areas, or

3. have an automatically qualifying diagnosis

IEPs apply to children aged 3 and older. To get an IEP, there are two requirements:

1. A child has one or more of the 13 disabilities listed in IDEA. The law lists specific challenges, like learning disabilities, ADHD, autism, and others.

2. The disability must impact the child’s educational performance and/or ability to learn and benefit from education. The child must need specialized instruction to make progress in school.

To get a 504 plan, there are two requirements:

1. A child has any disability. Section 504 covers a wide range of different struggles in school.

2. The disability must interfere with the child’s ability to learn in a general education classroom.

 

Who Creates It The IFSP team, including the parents or caregivers and related EI service providers who work with the child and will ensure the plan is put into action. The IEP team, including the parents or caregivers and related service providers who work with the child, determines the goals. A 504 plan is created by a team of people who are familiar with the child and who understand the evaluation data and special services options. This might include the parent or caregiver, teachers, and principal.