Denver Developmental Screening Test

The Denver Developmental Screening Test is considered one of the founding screening tools in behavioral psychology, learn the ins and outs and best use of this tool through this in-depth guide!

By Harriet Murray on Apr 08, 2024.

Fact Checked by Ericka Pingol.

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What is the Denver Developmental Screening Test?

The Denver Developmental Screening Test (DDST) is a widely used assessment tool designed to identify developmental delays in young children. Developed in the 1960s by Dr. William K. Frankenburg and Dr. Robert M. Wood, this test aims to evaluate a child's developmental progress across several key areas: personal-social, fine motor-adaptive, language, and gross motor skills.

The test is typically administered by healthcare professionals, educators, or trained professionals familiar with child development. It involves observing and interacting with the child to assess their abilities in various tasks appropriate for their age group. These tasks are structured to gauge the child's milestones and developmental achievements.

In the personal-social domain, the test examines the child's interactions with others and their ability to play, share, and communicate emotions. The fine motor-adaptive section evaluates hand-eye coordination, grasp, and manipulation skills, assessing tasks like drawing, stacking blocks, or using small objects. Language skills encompass the child's ability to understand and use words, express themselves, and follow instructions. The gross motor skills portion examines larger movements, including crawling, walking, jumping, and balance.

The DDST follows a structured format with specific milestones expected for different age groups. Professionals administering the test observe the child's responses and note any delays or deviations from the expected developmental norms. If a child exhibits delays or potential issues in any area, further evaluation or intervention may be recommended to address concerns early on.

While the DDST is valuable in detecting potential developmental delays, it's essential to understand its limitations. It serves as a screening tool rather than a diagnostic instrument. A child's performance during the test may be influenced by various factors such as their temperament, environment, or temporary distractions, impacting the results.

It is important to note that cultural differences, individual variations, and the potential for false positives or negatives should be considered when interpreting the test outcomes. Viewing the results in conjunction with other assessments and observations is crucial to make informed decisions about a child's development.

Printable Denver Developmental Screening Test

Download this Denver Developmental Screening Test to identify developmental delays in young children.

How does this assessment work?

Here are some simple steps to utilize the Denver Developmental Screening Test:

Step One: Gather your resources

Denver Developmental Screening Test templates are a valuable resource and essential to keep on hand. Make sure that you have a copy of the free printable PDF when the need arises by either clicking the “Download Template” or “Use Template” button or by searching “Denver Developmental Screening Test” on Carepatron’s template library’s search bar on the website or app.

Step Two: Collate essential information

A healthcare professional will collate all essential information about the child and their health and then create a comprehensive overview of the child's development by analyzing personal-social, fine motor-adaptive, language, and gross motor skills. This valuable screening tool can then assist in further investigation or highlight a need for diagnosis.

Step Three: Store the chart securely

After reviewing the Denver Developmental Screening Test and creating a viable and individualized assessment for the child, you need to secure the plan so that access is only granted to relevant parties. 

Ensure this through Carepatrons HIPAA-compliant free patient records software. All relevant medical records can be safely stored and collated for ease and security. 

Denver Developmental Screening Test example

Eager to utilize this essential screening tool? Acquire a free, downloadable, and printable Denver Developmental Screening Test template PDF that comes pre-filled with fictional data to help you confidently track your patient's needs or act as an educational tool. 

Secure your copy by either previewing the sample below or clicking the "Download Example PDF" button.

Download this free Denver Developmental Screening Test example:

Denver Developmental Screening Test example

When would you use this screening test template?

The Denver Developmental Screening Test is typically used as a routine assessment tool for children during their early developmental stages. It is utilized at specific intervals, often during well-child check-ups or pediatric appointments, to evaluate developmental progress.

Healthcare professionals may use the DDST in the below scenarios:

  • Routine check-ups: Pediatricians often administer the DDST during regular check-ups or milestone assessments to monitor a child's developmental progress.
  • Concerns or red flags: If parents, caregivers, teachers, or healthcare providers notice potential developmental delays or red flags in a child's behavior or milestones, the DDST might be used to assess and identify specific areas of concern.
  • High-risk groups: Children with a higher likelihood of developmental issues due to prematurity, genetic conditions, environmental factors, or genetic history might undergo regular screening using the DDST.
  • Early intervention programs: The DDST can be a part of early intervention programs aimed at identifying and addressing developmental delays at the earliest possible stage.
  • Educational settings: Educators might use the test to identify children who may need additional support or specialized services in educational settings.

Research and evidence

This screening tool was first developed in 1967, yet a revised version known as Denver II was released in 1992 to accommodate the changes in developmental psychology understanding and address some of the concerns professionals held around this tool (Frankenburg et al., 1992).

The lack of consideration for what was deemed normal development in the 1960s has a stark difference to societal considerations of normal in the 1990s, even more so now when looking at this tool in a modern and more accessible medical light (Borowitz & Glascoe, 1986). This screening test kit is known to lack consideration and validity for cultures and norms that weren't represented in Denver's founding group of developmental and behavioral pediatrics (Wijedasa, 2011).

The instigation of Denver II allowed for a more accessible approach, and it is now available in various languages. Within the behavioral psychology realm, the use of Denver II is not considered the gold standard, with the AAP (American Council of Pediatrics) on Children with Disabilities leaving this particular tool out of its recommended screening tests for clinicians to utilize within their practice in 2020 (Lipkin & Macias, 2020).

Screening tests are typically cost-effective and require minimal time for both administration and interpreting results. Various standardized instruments are available to gauge a child's overall level of expressive and receptive language abilities alongside other functional areas.

The Denver Developmental Screening Test II (Frankenburg et al., 1992) is specifically structured for children from birth to age 6, assessing personal-social skills, fine and gross motor abilities, and language proficiency, encompassing both expressive and receptive vocabulary.

For school-aged children, broader screening batteries focus on academic achievements, such as the Peabody Individual Achievement Test–Revised (Volker & Smerbeck, 2011), targeting areas like mathematics, reading, spelling, and general knowledge. However, these multifaceted tasks in larger screening batteries might not specifically assess individual language or cognitive processes, making the DDST a poor language screening test choice for some scenarios (Brown, 2016).

References

Borowitz, K. C., & Glascoe, F. P. (1986). Sensitivity of the Denver Developmental Screening Test in Speech and Language Screening. Pediatrics, 78(6), 1075–1078. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.78.6.1075

Brown, K. (2016). Encyclopedia of Language & Linguistics | ScienceDirect. Sciencedirect.com. https://www.sciencedirect.com/referencework/9780080448541/encyclopedia-of-language-and-linguistics

Frankenburg, W. K., Dodds, J., Archer, P., Shapiro, H., & Bresnick, B. (1992). The Denver II: A Major Revision and Restandardization of the Denver Developmental Screening Test. Pediatrics, 89(1), 91–97. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.89.1.91

Lipkin, P. H., & Macias, M. M. (2020). Promoting Optimal Development: Identifying Infants and Young Children With Developmental Disorders Through Developmental Surveillance and Screening. Pediatrics, 145(1), e20193449. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2019-3449

Volker, M. A., & Smerbeck, A. (2011). Peabody Individual Achievement Test, Revised. Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology, 1886–1889. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-79948-3_1580

Wijedasa, D. (2011). Developmental screening in context: adaptation and standardization of the Denver Developmental Screening Test-II (DDST-II) for Sri Lankan children. Child: Care, Health and Development, 38(6), 889–899. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2214.2011.01332.x

What age range is the DDST suitable for, and how often should it be administered?
What age range is the DDST suitable for, and how often should it be administered?

Commonly asked questions

What age range is the DDST suitable for, and how often should it be administered?

The DDST is typically used for children aged from birth to 6 years old. It's often administered during routine well-child check-ups at specific intervals, such as at 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, and so on, up to 6 years of age. However, it can also be utilized when there are concerns about a child's development at any point within this age range.

Can the DDST diagnose developmental issues in children?

The DDST is a screening tool designed to identify potential developmental delays or concerns. While it can indicate areas where a child might be experiencing challenges or delays compared to established milestones, it does not offer a diagnosis. Its primary purpose is to flag potential issues, prompting further evaluation by healthcare professionals to determine if there's a need for more comprehensive assessments or interventions.

What happens if a child doesn't perform well on the DDST?

If a child exhibits delays or discrepancies in specific developmental areas during the DDST, it doesn't necessarily confirm a developmental issue. It suggests that further evaluation may be needed to understand the child's developmental progress more comprehensively.

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