Background. In 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) adopted a policy that all infants and young children should be screened for developmental delays at regular intervals. The policy statement promoted the use of valid reliable instruments. It is unknown, however, what proportion of pediatricians follow this recommendation and whether such a practice is associated with improved identification of children with developmental difficulties.
Objectives. To describe the use of developmental screening tests among board-certified pediatricians practicing general pediatrics and to determine the association between standardized screening and the self-reported identification of children with developmental difficulties.
Methods. We mailed a survey to a random sample of AAP members. We used multivariate logistic/linearregression analyses to determine the association between standardized screening and the self-reported identification of children with developmental disabilities.
Results. Of the 1617 surveys mailed, 894 were returned, for a response rate of 55%. Of the respondents, 646 practiced general pediatrics and were included in the analysis. Seventy-one percent of those pediatricians indicated that they almost always used clinical assessment without an accompanying screening instrument to identify children with developmental delays. Only 23% indicated that they used a standardized screening instrument. The most commonly used instrument was the Denver II. Logistic regression modeling demonstrated odds ratios between 1.71 and 1.90 for a >10% rate of identification of developmental problems among patients of pediatricians reporting standardized screening. Each adjusted odds ratio bordered on statistical significance. Linear-regression models estimating the difference in mean proportions of children identified with developmental problems across screening groups failed to show a statistically or clinically significant difference in physician-reported identification rates.
Conclusions. Our findings indicate that, despite the AAP policy and national efforts to improve developmental screening in the primary care setting, few pediatricians use effective means to screen their patients for developmental problems. It is uncertain whether standardized screening, as it is practiced currently, is associated with an increase in the self-reported identification of children with developmental disabilities.