Date Published: 2 October 2005

New test offered to Baltimore children to identify developmental delays (MD, USA)

Pediatric experts from the University of Maryland School of Medicine have developed a tool to identify potential developmental delays in children ages 16 days to 36 months. They will begin a clinical trial in September to evaluate the test's accuracy. Called the Best Beginnings Developmental Screen (BBDS), the test has shown promise in a pilot study conducted at the follow-up program in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

" What makes our test unique is its ability to evaluate the quality of a child's actions in addition to his or her ability to meet developmental milestones,"
said Brenda Hussey-Gardner, Ph.D., an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

" This is important because children may need and can qualify for early intervention services if they display atypical development or delayed development."

According to Dr. Hussey-Gardner, approximately five percent of children under the age of three have developmental delays. Developmental screening consists of a brief evaluation designed to identify children who may be in need of early intervention because of these delays.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and several federal, state and local organizations recommend that all infants and young children be screened for developmental delays during well-child checkups and prior to the start of pre-school.

Dr. Hussey-Gardner began development of the BBDS test in 2001. It contains 181 items, six to 12 items for each age, to evaluate six developmental domains ? social-emotional, adaptive, cognitive, fine motor, language, and gross motor. The test uses a set of materials such as a ball, book, cloth, crayons, cubes, cups, doll, flashlight and a mirror to test whether or not a child is meeting age-appropriate developmental milestones. It was reviewed by professionals from a variety of disciplines and first introduced to the NICU follow-up program in 2002, where feedback from neonatologists helped refine it.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, good developmental screening tests should demonstrate sensitivity and specificity of at least 70 and 80%, respectively. Sensitivity is the percentage of children correctly identified by a test as having a developmental delay; specificity is the percentage of children correctly identified as not having a delay. In the pilot testing, the sensitivity of the BBDS was determined to be 88.2% and its specificity was 90.6%, well past the recommended levels.

The BBDS clinical trial will recruit 99 children between the ages of 16 days and 36 months. Participation in the study requires one visit of 60-90 minutes where the child will complete the new BBDS test and the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, Second Edition ? the current gold standard in the assessment of infants and toddlers. Study visits will be conducted in Howard County, Baltimore City and Caroline County. At the conclusion of the visit, parents will receive a detailed description of their child's performance and handouts to help them foster learning and development. Participants will be reimbursed $20 for travel and/or childcare expenses.

" Participating in this test is an excellent opportunity for parents to receive detailed information on their child's development,"
said Dr. Hussey-Gardner.

" And we may identify some children who will benefit from early intervention services."

At the conclusion of the local study, Dr. Hussey-Gardner has plans to replicate the study in sites across the United States, enrolling approximately 750 children to prove the effectiveness of the BBDS test. Sites in Arkansas, California, Kansas, Kentucky and Ohio have already expressed interest in participating.

Source(s): University of Maryland Medical Center, MD (USA)

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