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Developmental Problems: Testing

Topic Overview

Health professionals who see infants and children screen for (watch for early signs of) developmental disabilities at every well-child visit. Developmental problems can affect how a child can talk, move, concentrate, and/or socialize.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends developmental testing for children at ages 9-, 18-, and 30-months, with specific checks for autism at ages 18 months and 24 months.1, 2 The doctor will use developmental tests (questionnaires) and then review your child's results. He or she will compare your child's abilities with the normal milestones of children of the same age.

Your child will be evaluated right away if the doctor discovers obvious signs of developmental delays, such as:

  • No babbling, pointing, or other gestures by 12 months.
  • Saying no single words by 16 months.
  • Saying no two-word spontaneous phrases by 24 months, with the exception of repeating phrases (echolalia).
  • Any loss of language or social skills at any age.

If there are no obvious signs of developmental delays or any unusual results from the tests, most infants or children do not need further evaluation until the next well-child visit.

Children who have a sibling who has autism need continued monitoring. Along with the normal check-ups at each well-child visit, these children need to be screened for language delays, poor social skills, and other problems that could be a sign of autism.2 Some children may need to see a developmental pediatrician after the screening is done.

When socialization, learning, or behavior problems develop in a person at any time or at any age, he or she should be evaluated.

References

Citations

  1. Council on Children With Disabilities, Section on Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics, Bright Futures Steering Committee and Medical Home Initiatives for Children With Special Needs Project Advisory Committee (2006, reaffirmed 2010). Identifying infants and young children with developmental disorders in the medical home: An algorithm for developmental surveillance and screening. Pediatrics, 118(1): 405–420. [Erratum in Pediatrics, 118(4): 1808–1809.]
  2. Johnson CP, et al. (2007, reaffirmed 2010). American Academy of Pediatrics clinical report: Identification and evaluation of children with autism spectrum disorders. Pediatrics, 120(5): 1183–1215.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Louis Pellegrino, MD - Developmental Pediatrics
Last Revised July 19, 2012

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