Evaluation of public health preschool child developmental screening: the process and outcomes of a community program.
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We conducted a randomized controlled trial of a public health and education screening program aimed at all 4,797 four to five year old children registering for kindergarten in three school districts of southern Ontario, Canada. Children received either the Denver Developmental Screening Test (DDST) with a community health intervention program for positive screeness; the DDST with no intervention for positive screenees; or no screening test. The intervention program consisted of referral to the child's physician for assessment; a review conference between the child's teacher and the school health nurse; parent counseling; and monitoring of the child in school by the school health nurse. At the end of the third school year, no differences were found between positive screenees in the community health intervention group and the "no intervention" groups using individual academic achievement, cognitive, and developmental tests. Parents' reports revealed no differences between groups in children's mental, social, and behavioral well-being. However, parents of intervention program children had more worry about their child's school progress suggesting a potentially harmful labeling effect. In comparison to a random sample of children with normal DDST results, or a random sample of children who had randomly not been screened, the children with positive preschool DDSTs had substantially more school problems three years after screening.
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