Tracey Najera, center, of Costa Mesa and her 11-month-old daughter Audrey Izaguirre with Martha Arambula, left, breastfeeding coordinator at MOMS Orange County, and Pamela Pimentel, right, RN and CEO of MOMS Orange County in Santa Ana on Thursday, July 5, 2018. (Photo courtesy of Orange County Register)

Tracey Najera knows the importance of infant developmental screening. She and her 1-year-old toddler, Audrey, participated in MOMS’ home visitation program in which every baby is screened to make sure they are developing physically and in such areas as communication, problem-solving and personal-social skills. Audrey ‘graduated’ fully on track in meeting her developmental milestones, and continues to flourish, bringing her mom and dad lots of joy.

Unfortunately, fewer than one in three of California’s youngest residents receive timely developmental screenings (First 5 Association of California), with lower-income children even less likely to have access.

Early childhood is a critical period of brain development and offers a key window during which to identify and address potential developmental delays. With early intervention, the young child can benefit from treatment and therapies that often can remediate the problem and improve long-term outcomes. If addressed early, many children can still be on par with their peers when that first day of Kindergarten arrives.

MOMS Orange County’s monthly home visitation program includes developmental screening at the baby’s 4-month, 8-month and 12-month home visits. We use the ASQ, the most widely used developmental screener across the globe. The ASQ allows the home visitor to make objective judgments about children who should receive professional assessments to determine if suspected delays warrant intervention. Some “low scores” are quickly corrected with targeted exercises and focused strategies that the parent is taught by her home visitor, as well as by participation in our Mommy & Me groups. In 2017, more than 96% of babies in our program were on track developmentally upon graduation. This year, MOMS will be adding an ASQ screening module that provides an added focus on the baby’s social-emotional development, offering parents new tools to nurture their young children in this important area of development.