When you’re a parent, you may not know what you don’t know. Children are complicated! If you feel like you have questions about your child’s behavior–a screening can help. 

What is a Screening?

Screenings can be a great way to ensure that your child is on track socially, emotionally, developmentally, and physically. The process can help identify potential areas for support, and it is a great way to get connected to expert help. 

Screenings ask specific questions about what your child can do. They give you a detailed look at your child’s development. Screenings are a great way to identify your child’s strengths. They can also highlight areas where your child may need more practice or support.

Sometimes, it can feel like there is a lot of stigma around mental health support or special education needs. The truth is that these things are just a part of life. By completing a screening, you can connect with doctors and specialists who are experts in these kinds of resources. It is so common for your child to need some developmental support early in their life to set them up for future success. When you screen early, your child can be supported effectively and sustainably before they start kindergarten.

What Happens After a Screening?

After you complete the screening, you may have questions. One in six children has developmental concerns that would benefit from follow-up, and research has shown that the sooner developmental services begin, the better the outcome. Services like speech therapy, physical therapy, and developmentally appropriate social activities can all help prepare a child for kindergarten and for life.

How to Get Free Health Screenings

Online screenings are FREE for parents in San Mateo County, and thanks to First 5 San Mateo County and our partners they are easily accessible. 

At the end of the day, developmental screenings are about ensuring that your child has all of the resources that they need to thrive in school and beyond.

How Screenings Can Help Answer Common Parenting Questions:

Next time you take your child to the doctor, consider asking for the following three screenings:

1. Ages & Stages Questionnaire (ASQ-3)

Is My Child on Track?

The Ages & Stages Questionnaire is a developmental screening tool that your pediatrician or child care provider might give you. You are the expert on your child, and this easy-to-use questionnaire captures a snapshot of your child that doctors are able to use to catch delays and celebrate milestones.

This questionnaire helps you assess your child’s communication, gross motor, fine motor, problem solving, and personal-social skills. You can expect questions like, 

Does your child point to, pat, or try to pick up pictures in a book?

Does your child stand up in the middle of the floor by himself and take several steps forward?

Does your child get your attention or try to show you something by

pulling on your hand or clothes?

Questions like these, believe it or not, can share a lot about the way your child’s brain is working and can help doctors, childcare providers, and you take stock of how they are doing. 

This screening is available free online, and once you fill it out, you can ask your doctor or childcare provider if you have any further questions. 

2. Social-Emotional Screening (ASQ-SE)

How Does My Child Make Friends?

Children’s ability to regulate their emotions and skillfully manage social interactions is critical to their healthy development and future success. If social-emotional problems are identified and addressed early, children are less likely to be placed in special education programs—and later in life, they’re also less likely to experience school failure, unemployment, and incarceration.

Social-emotional screening can detect and monitor signals that indicate whether a young child may be delayed in aspects of social-emotional development, like communication, autonomy, affect, and interaction with people. You can expect questions like,

Does your child like to be hugged or cuddled?

When upset, can your child calm down within 15 minutes?

Does your child like to be around other children? For example, does she move close to or look at other children?

Now, these screening results are not a diagnosis for your child—but they can help you decide on meaningful next steps if your child needs them. Typically, in many cases, the act of screening rules out the need for deeper assessment.

This screening is also available free online, and once you fill it out, you can ask your doctor or childcare provider if you have any further questions. 

3. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

Does My Child Have Trauma?

Important research has shown that traumatic or adverse experiences in childhood can have long-term effects on someone’s physical and mental health. Screening for ACEs helps doctors ensure that you and your family have effective ways to deal with toxic stressors if you need them. 

ACEs screenings will ask about things that your child and your family may have been through to figure out if those experiences have continued impacting your child. You can expect questions like, 

Did your child live with anyone who was a problem drinker or alcoholic, or who used street drugs?

Did a household member go to prison?

Has your child ever had to wear dirty clothes or go without food during mealtimes?

Even if it seems like a child might be too young to remember, it’s important to get to the bottom of experiences like this, because they can have long-lasting effects even if they are not consciously aware of them. 

What’s next for my child?

To receive an ACEs Screening, ask your doctor! Doctors in San Mateo County are excited to have the opportunity to provide your family with the most complete care possible. They can help you get connected to any available resources that will help you navigate your next steps. 

Now that you know about all these screenings, you can get all the information about your child’s healthy development. If you have any questions, you can always reach out to Help Me Grow San Mateo County for more information and additional support! 

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