Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Perinatal Screening

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Perinatal Screening

Article excerpt

Parents are often offered the opportunity to have their child participate in a health or developmental screening. The screening may be provided in a physician's office, a school district, or a community agency, but its purpose is not always apparent.

In general, screenings are performed to identify children who have a high probability of delayed or abnormal development, or those who need a more complete evaluation. These children will benefit from special services as early as possible. Early intervention programs, for instance, may conduct screenings. Good screening tests are cost-effective and time-efficient, and should assess a variety of developmental areas. All screening tests have some flaws. The type of imperfection that is tolerable varies with the settings in which it is used. However, many programs, for example, prefer to use a test which gives false positives rather than one that might miss a child with a real delay.

Screening tests are just one step in the assessment process and are more limited than formal assessment tools. They cannot predict a child's future development. A screening cannot be used to establish a "label" such as mentally retarded or learning disabled.

The screener should be able to work quickly, managing your child's behavior calmly and professionally. The screener should respect your opinion and ideas during the testing. You should be able to ask questions of the screener at each stage in the testing. If the screener cannot answer your questions, ask to speak to a supervisor or contact your family physician. If you change your mind in the middle of the testing, do not hesitate to stop it.

The screener should interpret the results of the evaluation. The results may be reported to you as a raw score (number of items correct, for example), or as a derived score (such as an age equivalent). If you are given an age equivalent score, it means your child is functioning like a typical child of that age. Any score lower than the child's chronological age suggests a possible delay.

Some results may be reported in unusual terms that seem confusing to parents. An experienced screener will be able to judge the meaning of the test result for the individual child and suggest to the parent the appropriate next step.

If you are offered an opportunity to have your child screened, you should proceed carefully, asking the following questions:

* What is the purpose of the screening?

* What instrument will be used?

* what is the screener's professional training?

* Has the screener been trained with the specific test that he or she will be using to do the screening? …

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