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Developmental Delay and Autism Testing for Young Children
By Gateway Health

All children should be tested by their doctor for developmental delays and autism. A formal developmental screening (on paper) can be completed by the parent or Guardian, or questions may be asked by the doctor or nurse directly to the parent or caregiver to check the child’s progress in all areas of development (speech/language, movement, social/emotional, thinking). These formal developmental screenings should happen at the 9 months, 18 months, and 30 months well-visit.

Autism is a complex developmental disorder that affects social communication and interaction. A formal autism screening should be completed by the parent or guardian at the 18 months and 24 months visit. This screening is separate from the developmental screening. The autism screening looks for specific behaviors around social interactions, speech and language, and communication.

Doctors use these screenings to tell if children are on the right track for development or if a specialist should take a closer look at how the child is developing. These screens look at all areas of development including language/communication, problem-solving, social-emotional, and fine and gross motor skills.

Every child should receive these tests while they are young, as part of their regular well-care visits. Be sure to ask your healthcare provider if you have questions. Doctors may do these tests more frequently if a parent or guardian shares a concern about their child’s development. Early intervention will improve your child’s chances of overcoming identified delays. Specialists can work with parents or guardians to include them in a development plan. It is important to monitor a child’s progress as they enter preschool so they can observe growth in areas such as movement, language, communication, social and play skills.

Parents who have questions about their child's development may contact the CONNECT Helpline at 1-800-692-7288. The CONNECT Helpline assists families in locating resources and providing information regarding child development for children ages birth to age 5. In addition, CONNECT can assist parents by making a direct link to their county early intervention program or local preschool early intervention program.

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