One-in-four children under the age of five in Mississippi may have a developmental delay, but experts say more thorough screening could benefit children across the state.
The Ages and Stages Questionnaire determines whether children under the age of five are developing cognitive, behavioral and physical skills in a timely manner.
Last year, nearly 1,400 pre-k students across the state were screened using the assessment. More than half proved they were developing "on target," but 48-percent showed signs of having a developmental delay.
Therese Hanna is with the Center for Mississippi Health Policy -- a non-partisan organization that helped fund the screenings.
"Children at certain ages should be able to do certain things, and so this screening tool takes them through these kinds of developmental actions they need to do to see if they can do those." says Hanna.
In 2011-2012, only 18 percent of Mississippi's 41,000, four-year-olds received a developmental screener. That's well below the national average.
Linda Southward is with Mississippi Kids Count, a research group aimed at improving outcomes for children around the state. She says increasing the students who are screened could have a positive benefit on the state as a whole.
"If we began working with parents and children in understanding where the gaps are, than they are going to do better as they go through grade school as well as high school graduation," Southward says.
Both Southward and Hanna say increasing funding for programs that serve children up to three-years-old could help identify kids at risk of developing a delay.