Background Developmental problems in young children are common and have lifelong implications for health and wellbeing. Early detection of developmental problems provides an opportunity for early intervention to shift a child’s developmental trajectory and optimise their potential.
Objective This article describes and recommends a broader concept of developmental surveillance that should replace the reliance on traditional methods of early detection such as milestone checklists, parent recall, developmental screening tests and clinical judgment.
Discussion General practitioners and other professionals in regular contact with children and their families are ideally placed to monitor a child’s development, detect problems early and to intervene to optimise the child’s development and thus promote long term health and wellbeing. Developmental surveillance involves eliciting parental concerns, performing skilled observations of the child, and providing guidance on health and development issues that are relevant to the child’s age and the parents’ needs. Standardised tools are available to assist GPs to elicit parental concerns and guide clinical decision making.
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