Background: Developmental delay occurs in up to 5% of children under 5 years of age. This includes delays in speech and language development, motor development, social-emotional development, and cognitive development. General practitioners are in an ideal position to play a central role in the early detection of developmental and behavioural problems in young children.
Objective: This article discusses the advantages and disadvantages of various methods health professionals use to assess children's development. It recommends ongoing developmental surveillance (rather than point-in-time assessment) and a multidisciplinary approach.
Discussion: In a busy general practice, obtaining parent reports of development is a good "first line screen", and an efficient and effective way of selecting out children who require a more detailed assessment and/or referral. Early intervention is essential for optimising developmental progress in the delayed child.