6.4 Screening


What Is It?

The purpose of screening is to identify children who should be referred for evaluation for possible developmental, health, or sensory concerns. Developmental screening is a brief process using standardized health screening and developmental screening instruments.

Screening is used to make judgment(s) about children in order to determine if a referral for further evaluation is necessary (Early Head Start Tip Sheet No. 6). Programs must perform or obtain linguistically and age-appropriate screening procedures to identify concerns regarding a child’s developmental, sensory (visual and auditory), behavioral, motor, language, social, cognitive, perceptual, and emotional skills

[Head Start Program Performance Standards (1304.20(b)(1)].

How To

You must complete the required developmental screening within 45 days of a child’s enrollment by:

  • involving parents from the very first meeting as you talk about their child’s development.

  • going slowly. You have six weeks in which to complete a screen for each newly enrolled child; most developmental screenings take less than 20 minutes to do. Use it as a way of building your relationship through your mutual interest in the child. Use it as a way of describing what the child is doing now and how that contributes to building the foundation of learning and development.

  • using a tool that is standardized and, preferably, requires parent input. Parent reporting is an important source of information about a child.

  • explaining to parents the purpose of screening. It is a snapshot of where a child is developmentally at a point in time. Their child may be ahead of or behind any particular assessment item without it necessarily meaning that the child is advanced or developmentally delayed.

  • using hearing and vision screening as well as the developmental screening tools.

  • describing to parents how development in each domain and the development of the senses create the foundation for school readiness.

Learn More

This webinar discusses how to integrate data from assessments into daily experiences. Early Head Start staff also learn how to identify behavioral and developmental concerns observed while working with infants and toddlers.


This list of developmental screenings and assessment instruments was gathered through a review of infant mental health literature. Disability coordinators may use this information to address multiple developmental and social–emotional domains. The list includes a description, the age range for which the instrument was validated, and the scoring procedure.