Bright Start TN Clearinghouse


Developmental and Behavioral Screening

What is it?

The first five years of a child’s life are critical for physical, cognitive, linguistic, and social-emotional growth and development. While children may reach developmental milestones at different times, a milestone that isn’t met during a specific timeframe may indicate a developmental delay. Research indicates that as many as one in four children, ages birth through five, are at moderate or high risk of developmental or behavioral delays. Developmental screening provides a snapshot of a child’s development and indicates potential developmental issues. Screeners usually involve either a parent questionnaire or an observational tool that has been validated by research. Early and frequent developmental and behavioral screening identifies potential problems and provides an opportunity for children to access the services they need to address the delay. 

What is the evidence base?

Effective screening is identified early, repeated throughout early childhood, and identified by valid and reliable screening tools. By identifying developmental issues early, children can receive more effective treatment and prevent additional developmental deficits. Early intervention can significantly improve a child’s long-term development and school success. Children who are screened early and receive intervention services throughout early childhood demonstrate improved social and cognitive skills and have higher academic achievement than children who do not receive support. Early investments in screening and treating children are cost-effective: Screening reduces the need for special education services, grade repetition, and engagement with child welfare.  


What are the common types of developmental and behavioral screeners?

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