The Nipissing District Developmental Screen (NDDS) is a parent-completed screen that lists the skills and behaviours a child is expected to demonstrate by a particular age. The NDDS assesses a child’s skills in many developmental areas, for example, communication (speech and language), gross motor, fine motor, cognitive, social-emotional, etc. There are 13 age-specific forms that are used for children 1 month to 6 years of age. Each age band includes developmentally-appropriate items that are designed to elicit yes or no responses and can be completed by the parent/caregiver in approximately 5 minutes. ‘No’ responses indicate possible developmental delay. If two or more ‘No’ responses are marked by the parent/caregiver, it is recommended that a referral to a healthcare or childcare professional be made. The NDDS has been identified as a practical screening and education tool for identification and early intervention to improve child developmental health outcomes.
Following a review of the recent guidelines and research, the NDDS was revised and updated to its current version – the NDDS-2011. The Psychometric Assessment of the NDDS Study (PANS) was conducted to determine whether the NDDS-2011 is able to identify children with developmental issues accurately (concurrent validity) and whether parents interpret the questions correctly and provide consistent information at two points in time (test-retest reliability).
Between 2009 and 2011, 812 parents and children from across southern Ontario participated in the study. Parents were asked to attend a 2-hour appointment and complete the age-appropriate NDDS-2011 screen, other well-accepted and established surveys (e.g. Ages and Stages Questionnaire - ASQ), and have the development and abilities of their child examined by a trained research assistant using criterion measures (eg, Bayley Scale of Infant and Toddler Development). The answers parents gave on the NDDS-2011 were compared with their responses on the other accepted surveys, the results of the assessment by the trained research assistant, and for a small group of parents, their own NDDS responses provided again 2 weeks later (n=111).
The NDDS-2011 was very good at identifying children without delay and identified the majority of children with a developmental delay. In addition, parent responses changed more than expected when their responses on the NDDS (completed twice over a two-week period) were compared. While the NDDS-2011 demonstrated ability to identify children without delay, when used alone, it may miss children who would benefit from further assessment.
Based on these results, the NDDS-2011 should be used with other tests and clinical assessments when diagnosing developmental problems. It should also continue to be used to provide parents with knowledge on child development and developmental milestones, and encourage involvement in their child’s development. As an educational tool, the NDDS is very useful to facilitate communication between parents and caregivers.