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Pediatrics. 2011 Jul;128(1):14-9. doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-2180. Epub 2011 Jun 27.

Trends in the use of standardized tools for developmental screening in early childhood: 2002-2009.

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Department of Research, American Academy of Pediatrics, 141 Northwest Point Blvd, Elk Grove Village, IL 60007, USA.



Early identification of developmental delays is essential for optimal early intervention. An American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2002 Periodic Survey of Fellows found <25% of respondents consistently used appropriate screening tools. Over the past 5 years, new research and education programs promoted screening implementation. In 2006, the AAP issued a revised policy statement with a detailed algorithm. Since the 2002 Periodic Survey, no national surveys have examined the effectiveness of policy, programmatic, and educational enhancements.


The goal of this study was to compare pediatricians' use of standardized screening tools from 2002 to 2009.


A national, random sample of nonretired US AAP members were mailed Periodic Surveys (2002: N=1617, response rate: 55%; 2009: N=1620, response rate: 57%). χ(2) analyses were used to examine responses across survey years; a multivariate logistic regression model was developed to compare differences in using ≥1 formal screening tools across survey years while controlling for various individual and practice characteristics.


Pediatricians' use of standardized screening tools increased significantly between 2002 and 2009. The percentage of those who self-reported always/almost always using ≥1 screening tools increased over time (23.0%-47.7%), as did use of specific instruments (eg, Ages & Stages Questionnaire, Parents' Evaluation of Developmental Status). No differences were noted on the basis of physician or practice characteristics.


The percentage of pediatricians who reported using ≥1 formal screening tools more than doubled between 2002 and 2009. Despite greater attention to consistent use of appropriate tools, the percentage remains less than half of respondents providing care to patients younger than 36 months. Given the critical importance of developmental screening in early identification, evaluation, and intervention, additional research is needed to identify barriers to greater use of standardized tools in practice.

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