Online tool aims to increase screening for developmental delays in Delaware children

Online tool aims to increase screening for developmental delays in Delaware children

Lt. Gov. Matt Denn
Delaware Lt. Gov. Matt Denn talked to Christiana Care pediatric staff about the benefits of PEDS Online, a new online tool intended to make it easier for doctors and parents to ensure that children are screened for developmental delays.

During a presentation to pediatric staff at Christiana Care, Lt. Gov. Matt Denn and Delaware Division of Public Health Director Karyl Rattay, M.D., emphasized the benefits of PEDs Online — a new online tool intended to increase the number of children who receive developmental screenings.

The tool provides test results, billing and diagnosis codes, summary reports for parents and even referral letters. It is part of Help Me Grow, a statewide initiative that connects children and their families to health, educational and social services. The initiative works in collaboration with several community-based maternal and child health organizations — such as the state’s early intervention program Child Development Watch — with the aim of increasing the percentage of children screened during routine well child visits. Doctors can sign up for PEDS Online through

“We hope you will share your knowledge about this tool with your colleagues, as it will help us identify early on the children who are in need of resources that already exist. The end result will be better outcomes for these children,” Dr. Rattay said.

The Help Me Grow initiative includes four components: telephone access; a community outreach campaign; a physician outreach campaign to support early developmental screening and intervention; and data collection and evaluation to identify service gaps and barriers impeding the current system.

Help Me Grow developed a free telephone access point for pregnant women, and children and their families, through its partnership with Delaware 2-1-1, a call center under the United Way of Delaware. Doctors and other health care professionals can refer pregnant women to Delaware 2-1-1, which provides referrals for a full range of health and human service needs. The 211 specialists with a background in early childhood development can provide parental education and support as well as connect them to existing state resources.

In the United States, about 13 percent of children between 3 and 17 years of age have a developmental or behavioral disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additionally, many children have delays in language or other areas that can affect school readiness.

Research shows that fewer than half of children with developmental delays are identified before starting school. By that time, significant delays already might have occurred and opportunities for treatment might have been missed.

But research also shows that early intervention treatment services can greatly improve a child’s development in order for them to better talk, walk and interact with others.

The 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health reported that the percent of children screened in Delaware was 10.9 percent, compared to the national average of 19.5 percent.

“Our number one concern at this point is that the pediatric practices sign up for [PEDs Online] and actively use it,” Lt. Gov. Denn said. “If this succeeds, we will be able to identify a dramatic number of kids who are in need of follow-up services. We’ll be able to connect them to those services.”