Developmental Monitoring and Screening | CDC (2023)

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Developmental Monitoring

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Developmental monitoring observes how your child grows and changes over time and whether your child meets the typical developmental milestones in playing, learning, speaking, behaving, and moving. Parents, grandparents, early childhood providers, and other caregivers can participate in developmental monitoring. You can use a brief checklist of milestones to see how your child is developing. If you notice that your child is not meeting milestones, talk with your doctor or nurse about your concerns.

When you take your child to a well visit, your doctor or nurse will also do developmental monitoring. The doctor or nurse might ask you questions about your child’s development or will talk and play with your child to see if he or she is developing and meeting milestones. A missed milestone could be a sign of a problem, so the doctor or another specialist will take a closer look by using a more thorough test or exam.

Your childcare provider can also be a valuable source of information on how your child develops. More information on developmental monitoring for early childhood educators.

Developmental Screening

Developmental screening takes a closer look at how your child is developing. Your child will get a brief test, or you will complete a questionnaire about your child. The tools used for developmental and behavioral screening are formal questionnaires or checklists based on research that ask questions about a child’s development, including language, movement, thinking, behavior, and emotions. Developmental screening can be done by a doctor or nurse, but also by other professionals in healthcare, early childhood education, community, or school settings.

Developmental screening is more formal than developmental monitoring and normally done less often than developmental monitoring. Your child should be screened if you or your doctor have a concern. However, developmental screening is a regular part of some of the well-child visits for all children even if there is not a known concern.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends developmental and behavioral screening for all children during regular well-child visits at these ages:

  • 9 months
  • 18 months
  • 30 months

In addition, AAP recommends that all children be screened specifically for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during regular well-child visits at:

  • 18 months
  • 24 months

If your child is at higher risk for developmental problems due to preterm birth, low birthweight, environmental risks like lead exposure, or other factors, your healthcare provider may also discuss additional screening. If a child has an existing long-lasting health problem or a diagnosed condition, the child should have developmental monitoring and screening in all areas of development, just like those without special healthcare needs.

If your child’s healthcare provider does not periodically check your child with a developmental screening test, you can ask that it be done.

Fact Sheet on Developmental Monitoring and Screening

Developmental Monitoring and Screening | CDC (3)

View and print a fact sheet pdf icon[657 KB, 2 Pages, Print Only]

(Video) Developmental Surveillance: What, Why and How | American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

Developmental Evaluation

A brief test using a screening tool does not provide a diagnosis, but it indicates if a child is on the right development track or if a specialist should take a closer look. If the screening tool identifies an area of concern, a formal developmental evaluation may be needed. This formal evaluation is a more in-depth look at a child’s development, usually done by a trained specialist, such as a developmental pediatrician, child psychologist, speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, or other specialist. The specialist may observe the child, give the child a structured test, ask the parents or caregivers questions, or ask them to fill out questionnaires. The results of this formal evaluation determines whether a child needs special treatments or early intervention services or both.

Developmental Monitoring

WHO: You — parents, grandparents, other caregivers

WHAT: Look for developmental milestones

WHEN: From birth to 5 years

WHY: To help you

(Video) Early Childhood Developmental Screening

  • celebrate your child’s development
  • talk about your child’s progress with doctors and childcare providers
  • learn what to expect next
  • identify any concerns early

HOW: With easy, free checklists – get yours at

Developmental Screening

WHO: Healthcare provider, early childhood teacher, or other trained provider

WHAT: Look for developmental milestones


  • Developmental Screening at 9, 18, 30 months of age
  • Autism Screening at 18 and 24 months of age

WHY: To find out

  • if your child needs more help with development, because it is not always obvious to doctors, childcare providers, or parents
  • if more developmental evaluation are recommended

HOW: With a formal, validated screening tool – learn more at icon

Developmental Evaluation

WHO: Developmental pediatrician, child psychologist, or other trained provider

(Video) CDC’s Developmental Milestone Checklists: An Overview of Revisions and Updates

WHAT: Identify and diagnose developmental delays and conditions

WHEN: Whenever there is a concern

WHY: To find out

  • if your child needs specific treatment
  • if your child qualifies for early intervention

HOW: With a detailed examination, formal assessment tools, observation, and checklists from parents and other caregivers, often in combination, depending on the area of concern

Why It’s Important

Many children with developmental delays or behavior concerns are not identified as early as possible. As a result, these children must wait to get the help they need to do well in social and educational settings (for example, in school, at home, and in the community).

In the United States, about 1 in 6 children aged 3 to 17 years have one or more developmental or behavioral disabilities, such as autism, a learning disorder, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder1. In addition, many children have delays in language or other areas that can affect how well they do in school. However, many children with developmental disabilitiesare not identified until they are in school, by which time significant delays might have occurred and opportunities for treatment might have been missed.

Services for Children with Developmental Disabilities

Research shows that early intervention treatment services can greatly improve a child’s development.

  • Early intervention services help children from birth through 3 years of age (36 months) learn important skills.
  • For children age 3 and older with an identified developmental delay or disability, special education services may be needed.

Services can include a variety of options, depending on the child’s need, such as therapy to help the child talk, move and walk, learn, and interact with others.

Child Find programsexternal icon are provided by each state to evaluate and identify children who need special education services. Early intervention programs can provide services from birth to 3 years of age. Local public school systems can provide the needed services and support for children age 3 years and older. Children can access some services even if they do not attend public school.

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) says that children with a diagnosed disability should get special education services. IDEA says that children younger than 3 years of age who are at risk of having developmental delays might be eligible for early intervention treatment services even if the child has not received a formal diagnosis. Treatment for particular symptoms, such as speech therapy for language delays, may not require a formal diagnosis.

Although early intervention is extremely important, intervention at any age can be helpful. It is best to get an evaluation early so that any needed interventions can get started. When parents are concerned about a child’s development, it can be very challenging for them to figure out the right steps to take. States have created parent centers. These centers help families learn how and where to have their children evaluated and how to find services. For information about services in your state, you can access your state’s parent centerexternal icon.

Links to Other Websites

“Learn the Signs. Act Early.”
This campaign educates parents about childhood development, including early warning signs of autism and other developmental disorders, and encourages developmental screening and intervention. It provides checklists to monitor your child’s development, information on how to talk to your doctor, and other resources.

Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive!external icon
Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! is a coordinated federal effort to encourage healthy child development, universal developmental and behavioral screening for children, and support for the families and providers who care for them.

(Video) Ask the Pediatric Expert: Developmental Promotion, Surveillance, and Screening

Overview of Early Interventionexternal icon
Learn more about early intervention services from the Center for Parent Information and Resources.

Bright Futuresexternal icon
Bright Futures materials for families are available on a wide range of mental, physical, and emotional health issues in children from before birth through 21 years of age.


  1. Lipkin PH, Macias MM, Council on Children with Disabilities, Section on Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics (2020). Promoting optimal development: Identifying infants and young children with developmental disorders through developmental surveillance and screening. Pediatrics, 145(1), e20193449.
  2. Boyle CA, Boulet S, Schieve L, Cohen RA, Blumberg SJ, Yeargin-Allsopp M, Visser S, Kogan MD. Trends in the prevalence of developmental disabilities in US children, 1997–2008. Pediatrics 2011;127:1034–1042.


What is developmental monitoring and screening? ›

Developmental monitoring observes how your child grows and changes over time and whether your child meets the typical developmental milestones in playing, learning, speaking, behaving, and moving. Parents, grandparents, early childhood providers, and other caregivers can participate in developmental monitoring.

Why is it important to measure and monitor children's growth and development? ›

The most important reason for monitoring each child's development is to find out if a child's development is on track. It is important to act early if there are signs of potential development delay because early treatment is so important for improving a child's skills and abilities.

What is developmental screening and why is it important? ›

Developmental screening provides a quick check of your child's development. It can be thought of a snapshot of your child's motor, cognitive, language, and social-emotional skills. Screening will help determine if your child is meeting the appropriate milestones for their age.

What is an example of a developmental assessment? ›

Example: one could administer a test at the beginning of a class, then ask the same students to take the same test at the end of a class. By comparing students' performances on the pre- and post-tests, an instructor could determine students' levels of development.

What are the 6 steps of developmental surveillance select the best answer? ›

Developmental Monitoring
  • Asking about parents' concerns.
  • Obtaining a developmental history.
  • Observing the child.
  • Identifying risk and protective factors.
  • Documenting the findings.
  • Share information with early childhood professionals.

How do you assess and monitor children's development? ›

Observations play a vital part in monitoring children's development and can be used in a variety of ways. Learning Journeys are kept for each child and contain that child's biggest achievements; these are personal to the child and provide an accurate reading of children's development.

Why is monitoring and measurement important? ›

The well-thought-out application of monitoring and measurement throughout the Quality Management System can help to ensure that the evidence used to make decisions best meets the needs of those making the decisions.

What are the main objectives of growth monitoring? ›

Objectives: Growth monitoring consists of routine measurements to detect abnormal growth, combined with some action when this is detected. As primary care workers worldwide invest time in this activity, we sought evidence of its benefits and harms.

Why is it important to observe and assess children's learning and development? ›

Observing, documenting, and assessing each child's development and learning are essential processes for educators and programs to plan, implement, and evaluate the effectiveness of the experiences they provide to children.

What are two main purposes of screening? ›

The 2 major objectives of a good screening program are: (1) detection of disease at a stage when treatment can be more effective than it would be after the patient develops signs and symptoms, and (2) identification of risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing the disease and use of this knowledge to ...

What are the benefits for screening children? ›

Developmental screening is important because it can help you celebrate when your child meets his or her developmental milestones. It is also important because it can help you to determine if your child needs additional support. Earlier support can lead to better outcomes as your child grows and develops.

What is the purpose of screening in education? ›

Screening is an assessment process that helps teachers identify students who are at risk for not meeting grade-level learning goals.

What is a full developmental assessment? ›

A developmental assessment for children under age 3 is an attempt to assess various aspects of the child's functioning, including areas such as cognition, communication, behavior, social interaction, motor and sensory abilities, and adaptive skills.

What are the 3 types of assessment and examples? ›

Classroom assessment is generally divided into three types: assessment for learning, assessment of learning and assessment as learning.
  • Assessment for Learning (Formative Assessment) ...
  • Assessment of Learning (Summative Assessment) ...
  • Comparing Assessment for Learning and Assessment of Learning. ...
  • Assessment as Learning.

What are the five developmental factors? ›

Five main factors identified in contributing to growth and developments at early childhood are nutrition, parent's behaviours, parenting, social and cultural practices, and environment.

What are the 6 components of a DRDP measure? ›

DRDP Measures–How Might It Look?
  • ATL-REG 4: Curiosity and Initiative in Learning. ATL-REG 5: Self-Control of Feelings and Behavior. ...
  • SED 1: Identity of Self in Relationship to Others. SED 2: Social and Emotional Understanding. ...
  • LLD 4: Reciprocal Communication and Conversation. ...
  • COG: MATH 2: Classification.

What are 3 of the goals of surveillance? ›

Information from surveillance systems can be used to monitor the burden of a disease over time, detect changes in disease occurrence (e.g., outbreaks), determine risk factors for the disease and populations at greatest risk, guide immediate public health actions for individual patients or the community, guide programs ...

What are the 5 steps of surveillance? ›

Steps in planning a surveillance system
  • Establish objectives.
  • Develop case definitions.
  • Determine data sources data-collection mechanism (type of system)
  • Determine data-collection instruments.
  • Field-test methods.
  • Develop and test analytic approach.
  • Develop dissemination mechanism.
  • Assure use of analysis and interpretation.

What methods can be used to monitor children's development? ›

Here are some different types of observation methods that will help the needs of early childhood development:
  • Anecdotal records. This method involves factual accounts of events that have taken place. ...
  • Running records. ...
  • Time samples. ...
  • Jottings. ...
  • Work samples. ...
  • Photographs.
May 23, 2019

How do you evaluate and monitor? ›

  1. Step 1: Identify Program Goals and Objectives. ...
  2. Step 2: Define Indicators. ...
  3. Step 3: Define Data Collection Methods and TImeline. ...
  4. Step 4: Identify M&E Roles and Responsibilities. ...
  5. Step 5: Create an Analysis Plan and Reporting Templates. ...
  6. Step 6: Plan for Dissemination and Donor Reporting.

What is the most important reason for monitoring and evaluation? ›

it provides a way to assess the crucial link between implementers and beneficiaries on the ground and decision-makers; it adds to the retention and development of institutional memory; it provides a more robust basis for raising funds and influencing policy.

What are the four reasons to monitor and measure? ›

We have four reasons.
Let's explore.
  • Assess Your Wellbeing. ...
  • Prevent Misdiagnosis. ...
  • Detect Underlying Health Problems. ...
  • Motivate Lifestyle Changes.

What are the benefits of monitoring? ›

Continuous system performance monitoring can do the following:
  • Sometimes detect underlying problems before they have an adverse effect.
  • Detect problems that affect a user's productivity.
  • Collect data when a problem occurs for the first time.
  • Allow you to establish a baseline for comparison.

What is meant by a developmental screening? ›

Developmental screening is early identification of children at risk for cognitive, motor, communication, or social-emotional delays. These are delays that may interfere with expected growth, learning, and development and may warrant further diagnosis, assessment, and evaluation.

What is the difference between screening and developmental assessment? ›

Screening and assessment provide valuable information about each child's interests, strengths, and needs. Screening gives a snapshot of whether the child's development is on track. Assessment is an ongoing process that includes observation and provides information about development over time.

What is developmental screening for autism? ›

Developmental screening is a short test to tell if children are learning basic skills when they should, or if they might have delays. During developmental screening the doctor might ask the parent some questions or talk and play with the child during an exam to see how she learns, speaks, behaves, and moves.

What are the 6 steps of developmental surveillance? ›

Perform the 6 steps of developmental surveillance at each health supervision visit:
  • 1.) review checklists/developmental history;
  • 2.) ask about concerns;
  • 3.) assess strengths and risks;
  • 4.) observe the child;
  • 5.) document; and.
  • 6.)

What is the goal of developmental assessment? ›

Importance of the developmental assessment

help identify possible developmental problems and the need for further diagnostic evaluation. provide an objective description of the child's abilities and deficits (a functional assessment) determine eligibility for programs (such as early intervention programs)

What are examples of screening assessments? ›

One type of useful screening assessment involves curriculum-based measures (CBMs). Examples include DIBELS Next or Aimsweb. Diagnostic assessments are used to assess specific skills or components of reading such as phonemic awareness, phonics skills, and fluency.

What 3 types of screening tests are there? ›

Common programs
  • Pap smear or liquid-based cytology to detect potentially precancerous lesions and prevent cervical cancer.
  • Mammography to detect breast cancer.
  • Colonoscopy and fecal occult blood test to detect colorectal cancer.
  • Dermatological check to detect melanoma.
  • PSA to detect prostate cancer.


1. The Developmental Screening Process | American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
(American Academy of Pediatrics)
2. Milestones Matter-Monitoring and Screening for Professionals
(MedMom Institute for Human Development)
4. Developmental Screening: ASQ-3 Training Module
(Bureau of Family Health)
5. Developmental Screening
(MSDE Early Childhood Development)
6. Part 1 — Developmental Screening: Purpose, Process, & Benefits
(SPAN Parent Advocacy Network)
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