Developmental Screening

Developmental screening takes a closer look at how your child is developing. Your child will get a brief test, or you will complete a questionnaire about your child.

Who does Developmental Screening?

Developmental screening can be done by a doctor or nurse, but also by other professionals in healthcare, early childhood education, community, or school settings.
Additionally, if you are concerned about your child’s development, call Help Me Grow District of Columbia (HMG DC) at 1-800-MOM-BABY (1-800-666-2229) and speak with a care coordinator. HMG DC offers the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) to families in the District. There are two ASQ screenings available: general and social-emotional development.

When should Developmental Screening be done?

Your child should be screened if you or your doctor have a concern. However, developmental screening is a regular part of some of the well-child visits for all children even if there is not a known concern.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends developmental and behavioral screening for all children during regular well-child visits at these ages:
  • 9 months
  • 18 months
  • 30 months
In addition, AAP recommends that all children be screened specifically for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) during regular well-child visits at:
  • 18 months
  • 24 months
You can use a screening passport, to keep track of your child’s screening history and results.

What if my child is not being screened?

If your child’s healthcare provider does not periodically check your child with a developmental screening test, you can ask that it be done.
If your child’s doctor has told you to “wait and see,” but you feel uneasy about that advice:
  • Talk with another doctor to get a second opinion, AND
  • Call for a free evaluation to find out if your child can get free services that can help.
Contact DC’s Child Find programs, Strong Start DC Early Intervention Program (if your child is age 0-3 years) or Early Stages (if your child is between 2 years, 8 month and 5 years 10 months).

What Happens if Developmental Screening Raises Concerns?

There are many different types of screening tools. Screening tools for general developmental concerns are sometimes called “Level 1 Screening Tools.” Screening tools for specific developmental concerns (e.g., autism symptoms), are sometimes called “Level 2 Screening Tools.” If a Level 1 Screening Tool identifies a problem, your child’s healthcare provider may use a Level 2 Screening Tool. If a Level 2 Screening Tool identifies a problem, they may refer your child for further evaluation(s). Note that sometimes providers will directly refer for an evaluation after a Level 1 Screening Tool.