MONDAY, June 27 (HealthDay News) -- Although there's been some improvement in the number of pediatricians checking toddlers for developmental delays, more than half still don't routinely do so, a new study finds.
In 2002, just 23 percent of pediatricians reported always or almost always using one or more standardized developmental screening tools for infants and toddlers up to 35 months of age. By 2009, that number had risen to just under 48 percent, reported the study.
Early detection of developmental issues such as autism or impaired hearing is key to initiating early and effective treatment, experts said.
"There's more and more evidence that starting early intervention can make a big difference in developmental outcomes than if we wait," explained study co-author Dr. Nina Sand-Loud, an assistant professor of pediatrics and a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and Dartmouth Medical School in Hanover, N.H.
The new study, published in the July issue of Pediatrics, "is a follow-up to a study done in 2002 looking at the number of pediatric providers doing standardized screening on their patients," she said. "At that time, the number was pretty low. But, since that time, a lot of specific recommendations have been made about screening, so we looked to see if there was a change in practice."
Prior research has found that more than 40 percent of parents have at least one or more concerns about their young child's physical, behavioral or social development, according to the study.
The current study included a national, random sample of pediatricians. Almost 900 pediatricians responded in 2002, while 927 responded in 2009.
The researchers asked about a number of standardized screening tests for children under 3 years of age, such as the Denver Developmental Screening Test, Ages & Stages Questionnaires, or
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