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Improving Developmental and Behavioral Screening for Spanish-speaking Children

Statement of Problem

It’s estimated that 10-20 percent of young children experience delays in development, manifest behavioral challenges or are at risk for autism. However, only 2.5 percent of children in the United States under the age of five are actively participating in Early Intervention services that could address these disorders, underscoring the need to improve early identification, referral and follow-up on services for affected children. Valid and reliable screening and diagnosis are essential to identifying children’s risk of developmental and behavioral delays and connecting children and caregivers with necessary intergenerational family services. These services can include supports for caregivers in pediatric settings and provide opportunities for education and referral to services, such as Early Intervention, but screening rates using standardized instruments are low.

Furthermore, culturally and linguistically appropriate screeners are particularly important when socioeconomic, cultural and language differences between parents and providers are present, which may heighten the potential for misunderstandings. As such, identifying early delays in children of Spanish-speaking immigrant families is especially difficult. This is unfortunate given that dual language learners in general, and Hispanic children in particular, are at high risk for developmental delays. Furthermore, familial factors such as maternal depression have shown to relate to delays in development and language and increases in behavioral challenges. Screening tools that effectively identify and diagnose children with developmental delays and behavioral concerns will facilitate connections to Early Intervention and other services, ultimately improving children’s overall well-being.


Next Steps

Currently, Dr. Gerdes and colleagues have completed data collection and are analyzing and interpreting that data. Over the next months, we will be focused on dissemination of the KiDDS study findings.

This project page was last updated in September 2019.


Suggested Citation

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, PolicyLab. Improving Developmental and Behavioral Screening for Spanish-speaking Children [Online]. Available at: [Accessed: plug in date accessed here]. 

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