Myths about Developmental Screening Tools

There are many myths concerning which screening tool is appropriate for use. Head Start/Early Head health and disabilities managers can use this tip sheet as a training guide for those program staff, who perform the screening, and as an education tool for parents. The resource, written by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, separates the myths from the facts concerning screening tools.


Myth: There are no adequate screening tools for preschoolers.
Fact: While this may have been true decades ago, today sound screening measures exist. Many screening measures have sensitivities and specificities over 70%. 1,2

Myth: It takes a great deal of training to administer screening correctly.
Fact: Training requirements are not extensive for most screeners. Many can be administered by paraprofessionals.

Myth: Screening takes a lot of time.
Fact: Many screening instruments take less than 15 minutes to administer, and some require only about 2 minutes of professional time. 2,3

Myth: Tools that incorporate information from the parents are not valid.
Fact: Parents’ concerns are generally valid and are predictive of developmental delays. Research has shown that parental concerns detect 70% to 80% of children with disabilities. 4,5

Today, a number of good screening tools are available that are designed for a variety of settings, ages, and purposes. Some screening tools are used primarily in pediatric practices, while others are used by school systems or in other community settings.

1Committee on Children and Disabilities, American Academy of Pediatrics. Developmental surveillance and screening for infants and young children. 2001;108(1):192-6.
2Glascoe FP. Collaborating with Parents. Nashville, Tennessee: Ellsworth & Vandermeer Press, Ltd; 1998.
3Dobrez D, Sasso A, Holl J, Shalowitz M, Leon S, Budetti P. Estimating the cost of developmental and behavioral screening of preschool children in general pediatric practice. Pediatrics 2001; 108:913-22.
4Glascoe, F. P. Evidence-based approach to developmental and behavioral surveillance using parents’ concerns. Child: Care, Health, and Development, 2000; 26:137-49
5Squires J, Nickel R E, and Eisert D. Early detection of developmental problems: Strategies for monitoring young children in the practice setting. Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics 1996;17:420-7.

Myths about Developmental Screening Tools. Developmental Screening. DHHS/CDC/NCBDDD. 2005. English.

Last Reviewed: June 2009

Last Updated: September 9, 2015