Daily News

AIC Professor Co-leads Statewide Developmental Screening Effort

SPRINGFIELD — Families with young children throughout Massachusetts are encouraged to participate in community events providing early screening for developmental delays and disabilities. Massachusetts will hold its second annual Developmental Monitoring and Screening Week at more than 40 sites across the Commonwealth, including several in Western Mass.

Students enrolled in the occupational therapy master’s program at American International College (AIC) will dedicate their expertise at one of these events on Wednesday, April 10 from 4 to 6:30 pm at the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) office in Mason Square, Springfield. During the event, the students will engage with families who are interested in learning more about their child’s development. Additionally, the students will provide complimentary books and fidget toys.

Additional locations hosting events in Western Mass. include the Central Berkshire Coordinated Family and Community Engagement in Dalton today, April 8; the Northampton Public School Early Childhood Center today and Tuesday, April 8-9; the West Springfield Community and Family Engagement, the ROCA Young Mothers Program in Springfield, and the Springfield North WIC on Wednesday, April 10; and the CFCE Gill Montague Regional School District in Turners Falls on Wednesday, April 17. All events are free of charge.

AIC Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy Kate Barlow co-leads Developmental Monitoring and Screening Week. Since 2019, Barlow has served as the state’s Act Early ambassador for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Massachusetts Act Early aims to educate parents and professionals about healthy childhood development, early indicators of autism and other developmental disorders, the importance of routine developmental monitoring and screening, and early intervention when concerns arise.

To identify children with delays, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends developmental screenings be held during pediatric wellness visits for infants and toddlers to identify children with delays. However, Barlow said, “more than half of the children who need early-intervention services are not receiving them, which is why developmental monitoring and screening in the community are so important. Early-intervention services are free to families in Massachusetts; however, children need to be identified first as having a delay to receive services.”

During the inaugural statewide Development Monitoring and Screening week held in April 2023, more than 500 children statewide either received a developmental screen or completed a developmental monitoring checklist. Those children who were identified as having a delay were referred for follow-up to their pediatrician and/or Family TIES of Massachusetts.