A pilot study comparing two developmental screening tools for use with homeless children
Homelessness and poverty can present serious health issues for children, including those associated with developmental delays. Early identification and intervention may decrease risk associated with delayed development. Parent-completed measures have been used to help screen for children's development, but little is known about how they may enhance early detection with homeless children. The primary aims of this pilot study were to describe growth and developmental characteristics of homeless children and to compare a parent-completed measure with professionally-conducted developmental screening results. A prospective, comparative study was conducted with 20 homeless mothers and their 21 children. Health professionals used the Denver Developmental Screening Test II, identifying nine children with possible language delay. Mothers completed the Ages and Stages Questionnaires and identified three areas of concern: fine motor (n = 9), communication/language (n = 4), and problem solving (n = 4). The percentage agreement between these two tools was strongest in gross motor (95%) and personal social development (95%) but weakest in language development (67%). While it is essential for all children, developmental screening is particularly crucial for homeless children because of increased risks related to poverty and homelessness. Nurses and nurse practitioners are in a unique position to assess applicability of such instruments and to provide critically needed interventions for these children.
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