In March Turning Point’s Children’s Services launched a program offering free developmental screenings for infants and toddlers (2 months – 5 years). “The biggest thing we’re seeing in the clinic is speech and language delays,” says Diana White, Director of Children’s Mental Health Services for Turning Point Community Programs.
She recalls one little boy, “just shy of four years old,” who only spoke one word at a time. “His mother was concerned, but, again and again, her pediatrician advised her to ‘just wait and see.’” White remembers how relieved and validated that mother felt after her son’s screening. She left with a referral to County Mental Health, to help her son with behavior issues associated with his speech delay, and received assistance setting up IEP services with the school district.
“The bigger the gap between a child’s age and developmental level, the harder it is to help that child get back on course,” White explains. Pediatricians usually do a great job of screening little ones’ vision and hearing, says White, but they often lack the time and resources to do developmental screenings for things like fine motor skills or cognitive and social-emotional development. This means most have to rely on their best judgment to detect problems and give referrals. But research suggests that doctors’ instincts are no match for standardized screenings. White says pediatricians typically catch only about 30% of developmental delays, while screenings catch 70-90 percent.
Turning Point offers free screenings to all parents, regardless of insurance or income status, and whether or not they have any specific concerns. It only takes about an hour. Parents answer some questions, kids might perform some fun and simple tasks (like skipping, drawing shapes, or stringing beads), and the staff goes over the results right away with parents. A screening won’t yield a diagnosis, but families can receive referrals and support services if needed.
Sometimes, White tells me, it’s as simple as sending handouts home, so parents can do activities with their little ones. “There’s so much parents can do,” White says, “and the things parents do with their child will have a bigger impact—that relationship can really help a child develop nicely.”