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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Cell 302-357-7498

Date: May 11, 2012


Parents and medical providers have a new weapon in the battle for early identification and treatment of developmental problems. Parents can use the Parents' Evaluation of Developmental Status (PEDs) Online screening tool in the privacy of their own home to help identify potential developmental issues with their child. Medical providers can use the free, web-based tool to screen their patients and work closely with parents during well child visits to address behavioral and developmental challenges.

Early screening is vital. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when children with autism are identified early and enrolled in early intervention programs, they show significant improvements in their language, cognitive, social, and motor skills, as well as in their future educational placement.

Lt. Governor Matthew Denn and Delaware Division of Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay announced the availability of PEDS Online today at The Pediatric and Adolescent Center in Milton, the office of Dr. John J. Ludwicki.

"The earlier developmental delays are identified, the earlier interventions can begin so children can reach their full potential," Lt. Governor Denn said. "This new screening tool has the potential to be life changing for some of our kids."

"PEDS Online is a convenient, standardized and validated screening instrument that closes communication gaps between parents and providers," added Dr. Rattay. "As a pediatrician, I am urging child-serving medical providers to register their offices with PEDS Online. Registration is simple and free; the help this will provide their practice and their families is immeasurable."

Katie Hamilton, Executive Director of the Delaware Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, demonstrated the ease of using PEDS Online. First, providers register their offices by accessing and searching for "PEDS Online." Next, providers share their PEDS Online log-in information with parents whose children are due for developmental screening. Before the office visit, parents complete an assessment for their child.

Registration and use of the tool is free. The screening visit is reimbursable with insurance and Medicaid. Once the evaluation is complete, parents or medical providers will have a print-out that will show a summary of responses. The assessment is scored by the PEDS system then securely transmitted to the provider as well as providing the opportunity for the parent to print it. Any concerns can be addressed at the well child visit with the pediatrician.

A sample of the kind of information gathered is:

PEDS Online also provides printable parent education materials, and if indicated, the provider sends an automated referral letter to the state's early intervention program, Child Development Watch. Child Development Watch's mission is to enhance the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities or developmental delays and to enhance the capacity of their families to meet the needs of their young children. For families with limited computer access, paper forms will be provided.

Developmental delays can be caused by conditions such as Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, autism, Tourette syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, Spina bifida, and muscular dystrophy. They can also be caused by living conditions. Children living in poverty are at significantly higher risk for behavior and emotional problems, lower IQ and language delays.

It is vital that developmental and behavioral disabilities be identified before children start school. Currently, less than 50 percent of children in the U.S. with a developmental or behavioral disability are identified before school entry, by which time significant delays may have already occurred and opportunities for treatment have been missed.

Dr. Rattay thanked Lt. Governor Denn, the Delaware Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Nemours Health and Prevention Services, and DPH's Bureau of Maternal and Child Health for their efforts to increase validated developmental screening. The Delaware Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics will provide on-site training and technical assistance to provider practices implementing standardized screening.

PEDS Online is part of the new Help Me Grow initiative designed to create a central home for parents seeking information on services for young children. Medical providers or parents wishing to learn more about PEDs Online or other medical, social or educational services available can call 211.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.