On average, 70 percent of young children with developmental delays are not diagnosed until they enter school. This means, by the time kindergarten begins, these children are already behind their peers. Thanks to Smart Start’s Assuring Better Child Health and Development (ABCD) program, more Tarheel children are screened for developmental delays and referred to services for help before they start school.
Families with children 0-5 know the value of regular well-child check-ups to keep up with vaccines and to evaluate their child’s growth in inches and pounds. But, these check-ups are also a chance to see how children are developing in the areas of communication, gross motor skills (arm and leg movements), fine motor skills (such as picking up cheerios), problem solving and social skills. The sooner challenges such as speech delays, learning disabilities, social/emotional problems, and autism are properly diagnosed, the sooner children can receive therapeutic interventions. When children get the interventions they need at a young age, they are more likely to graduate high school, hold a job, and avoid delinquency as adults.
The ABCD program is a national, evidence-based program that helps busy pediatricians and other primary healthcare providers incorporate developmental screenings into regular check-ups. Older screening approaches were too time-consuming and not practical for the typical 15 to 20 minute check up. ABCD uses standardized questionnaires about a child’s development that the parents answer. When results show a child is at-risk for a developmental delay, primary health care providers refer them for an in-depth evaluation.
In 2007, Smart Start implemented ABCD in doctors’ offices serving more than 19,000 children in eight counties: Brunswick, Chatham, Lee, Martin, Montgomery, Moore, Pitt and Richmond with great success. The percentage of children who received recommended screenings in practices in these counties increased from 80 to 98 percent. Of the children who were considered at-risk for developmental concerns, there was an increase in referrals for follow-up services from 53 to 65 percent. Smart Start ABCD project has expanded to serve Rowan, Alexander, Caldwell, Johnston, Cabarrus, Craven, Pamlico, Lenoir, and Greene counties. Union County is planning to start an ABCD program later this year.
We have reliable, easy-to-use screening tools and a strong early intervention system , it only makes sense that we screen all children during their well-child check-ups. ABCD helps make that happen.