Screening Instruments

Screening involves brief assessments that are valid, reliable and evidence-based. They may screen broadly for developmental concerns in younger children or may screen for more specific areas (such as literacy). Screenings are conducted with all children or targeted groups of children to identify children who may be at risk of developmental delays or future academic challenges. These children are likely to need additional or alternative forms of instruction and/or support to supplement what is typically found in the natural environment or in the conventional general education setting.

Why It Is Important

Screening detects possible developmental delays in children — and celebrates milestones. Screening young children is an effective, efficient way for professionals to gauge developmental progress and determine meaningful next steps—at a time when action can have its greatest impact: during a child’s earliest years of life. In fact, intervention prior to kindergarten has huge academic, social, and economic benefits. Studies have shown that children who receive early intervention for developmental delays are more likely to graduate from high school, hold jobs, and live independently, becoming future-ready. Similarly, the earlier possible academic difficulties are discerned in school-age children, the more positive the outcomes, especially in relation to literacy.

Developmental Screening Tools

There are multiple developmental screening tools available for use in early childhood. Physicians’ offices, in-home workers (including Early Head Start and Early ACCESS providers), and preschools may use these instruments in order to gather broad information about children who might need further assessment or assistance.

Ages and Stages Questionnaire

Commonly used by educators and physicians is the “Ages and Stages Questionnaire” (Brookes Publishing Company). The ASQ is a developmental and social-emotional screening for children from one month to 5 ½ years. It is highly reliable and valid, looking at strengths and trouble spots, educating parents about developmental milestones, and incorporating parents’ expert knowledge about their children. The ASQ works to assess children to determine if further evaluation is required or to monitor the development of children who are at risk. The questionnaires are answered by parents and can be completed in several minutes. Professional involvement is required to score the questionnaire and provide routine feedback to families of children who are not requiring further assessment.


Created by a School Physiologist, this screening tool provides an in-depth skill sequence revealing what children know and can do. The results are designed to be family-friendly while offering detailed information for teachers and caregivers to plan for further instruction and monitoring progress. Brigance offers three strands of screening including, Early Childhood, Head Start, and Special Education.

Universal Screening for Early Literacy


The State of Iowa currently supports the use of screening instruments for literacy in early childhood.  The purpose of these instruments is to help identify children who are not yet meeting proficiency in reading by the end of third grade. Two screening tools are currently fully supported by the State of Iowa: Individual Growth and Development Indicators (IGDIs) for children who are 4 years old and the Formative Assessment System for Teachers (FAST) for school-age children.

myIGDIs was developed by Dr. Scott McConnell out of the University of Minnesota and Early Learning Labs, Inc. It includes five separate assessments in four domains related to literacy.  In Iowa, the assessment is given individually to each child with responses being entered directly into the Iowa TIER data system. Results are available immediately for an individual child and the entire class. Teachers are able to determine whether or not their children are meeting predetermined “benchmarks”, indicating that they demonstrate selected skills that are sufficient to suggest future success in the area of literacy. Training is required in order to administer the instrument and use the Iowa TIER system. Those interested in training and/or further information about the IGDIs are encouraged to contact their Central Rivers AEA Early Childhood Consultant.

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