Every family looks forward to seeing a child’s first smile, first step, and first words. Every child develops at their own pace, and these signs of healthy development, known as “milestones,” vary as children grow older. You can familiarize yourself with the CDC milestones to know what to expect as children grow. Regular developmental screenings with early childhood professionals can help keep track of your child’s developmental milestones and give you information and tools to support your child as they grow.
A new law requires doctors to screen children enrolled in Medi-Cal for developmental delays when they are 9, 18, and 30 months old, or whenever a concern is expressed. Screenings help determine if the child is developing as expected or might need additional support, such as speech therapy or occupational therapy to help build their motor skills.
You know your child best – if your child is not meeting the milestones for their age, or if you think there could be a problem with the way your child plays, learns, speaks, acts, and moves, talk to your child’s doctor and share your concerns.
How to Talk to Your Pediatrician if You Have Concerns
Voicing concerns about your child’s development can be scary, but it is critically important. To make sure you are prepared for a conversation with your child’s pediatrician, the CDC has created this guide with helpful hints to help you prepare for the conversation, ask the right questions, and make sure you are clear on any next steps.
What to Expect During Developmental Screenings
Developmental screening can be done by a doctor or nurse, but also by other professionals in healthcare, community, or school settings. It is a regular part of “well-child visits” for all children even if there is not a known concern.
During a developmental screening, your child will get a brief test or you will complete a questionnaire about your child. These tools are based on research about a child’s development, including language, movement, thinking, behavior, and emotions.
What Services Might Your Child Receive?
If your child’s evaluation shows that they qualify for services, then your pediatrician will refer you to an early intervention service coordinator who will work with your family to develop a plan based on the individual needs of your child, known as an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP).
The IFSP will include important information such as:
- Your child’s current levels of development
- Developmental goals for your child, which you help to identify
- What services your child and family will receive—such as home visits from a special educator, speech–language therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy
- When and how frequently your child will receive each service
- Where your child will receive these services. Services are often provided in your child’s “natural environment”—such as your home or your child’s care setting
The cost of developmental screening and many early intervention services are covered by Medi-Cal or private insurance. Your early intervention service coordinator will be able to explain what is covered based on your child’s IFSP. No matter what, your child will not be denied services if you cannot afford to pay for them.
Early developmental delays do not necessarily mean a child will always require special education or other supports long term. In many cases, early intervention can help correct delays before they become limiting for children long-term. Don’t just “wait and see.” The earlier concerns are addressed, the better!
Resources for Parents
Tracking Healthy Development
- Ages and Stages of Development – This resource provides insight into a child’s developmental stages from birth through fourteen years.
- CDC Developmental Milestones Developmental milestones offer guidelines for the activities and behaviors you might expect to see as your child grows.
- This app created by the CDC helps you can even track your child’s developmental milestones.
Talking with your Child’s Doctor
LA County Early Intervention Resources
- Regional Centers: Regional Centers provide and coordinate services and supports for individuals with developmental disabilities. Use this mapping tool to locate a Regional Center near you for information on an evaluation and services.
- Family Resource Centers: Early Start Family Resource Centers (ESFRCS) provide parent-to-parent support, outreach, information and referral services to families of children with disabilities.
- CDC Early Intervention Resources
- Birth to Five: Watch Me Thrive! is a 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.
- Positive Parenting Tips: Great tools to help you learn more about your child’s development at any age.