Choosing an Instrument - Developmental and social-emotional screening of young children (0-5 years of age) in Minnesota

Developmental and social-emotional screening of young children (0-5 years of age) in Minnesota


Choosing an instrument: Points to consider

Screening programs need to consider many factors in choosing an appropriate screening instrument, in addition to the Task Force's review criteria and additional considerations.

[Expand All] [Collapse All]

Screening program requirements and purpose

  • What is required at the federal, state, or program level for the screening instrument(s) to be used?
  • What developmental domains does the instrument address? The screening instrument will only be used for its intended purposes and not more.

Instrument characteristics

  • Special consideration should be given to the specificity and sensitivity as it is important for the screening instrument to be able to accurately identify those who need additional assessment and those who do not.
  • Reliability and validity still remain important. Is the instrument reliable and valid for the populations for whom it will be administered?
  • The age of the instrument is important: If the instrument was developed more than 15 years ago, this can decrease its validity:
    • Minnesota’s demographics have changed considerably, and an older instrument may have been normed on a population that does not represent this diversity.
    • The instrument’s questions, images, or child development expectations may no longer be current or relevant.

Population to be screened

  • Age: For what age range was the instrument validated?
    • A screening instrument must only be used for the age range and purpose for which it was designed and validated.
  • Culture/ ethnicity: Screening instruments have not been validated for every cultural or language group in Minnesota. Screening results may be used as one piece of information to make decisions about whether more evaluation is needed - in the context of everything else that is known about the child, the family, and their community. Some questions to consider:
    • Is the instrument valid and reliable for the population being screened?
    • Are the illustrations, materials and questions relevant in a particular culture?
  • Language:
    • Has the instrument been translated into languages other than English?
    • Has the instrument been tested and validated in that language? Are cut-off scores different for different cultural or language groups?
  • Education level and/or literacy level of parents and caregivers: At what reading level is the instrument written? What additional supports might be needed if the parent/caregiver has a low literacy level?
    • Who is answering the questions on a parent-report instrument?
    • For instruments created for parents/caregivers, the screening instrument should only be completed by guardians unless the manual specifies that it can be completed by other care providers (for example, child care providers or teachers) who routinely spend a significant amount of time with the child.

Screening setting and staff

  • Qualifications of staff: Are the program’s current staff qualified to administer, score, communicate, and make referrals based on the results of the screening?
  • Do efforts need to be made to diversify program staff to better meet the cultural or language needs of the program’s screening population?
  • If an instrument is to be administered via interpreters has there been training of the interpreters to increase face validity of results and what additional prompts might need to be added?

[Expand All] [Collapse All]

Where to find information to make a decision

For answers to many of the questions listed above for any given instrument, refer to the following resources on this website:

  • All Instruments at a Glance offers a quick comparison of all of the recommended developmental and social-emotional screening instruments, including the age range and programs for which they are each recommended.
  • Instruments at a Glance for Minnesota Clinics and Providers gives a quick comparison of instruments that are more practical for use in the primary care setting.
  • More detailed information on each instrument is available on the recommended instruments webpage. This includes the instrument's purpose, developmental domains, age range, cultural and linguistic considerations, reading level, psychometric properties, time to administer and score, minimum qualifications to administer, training, cost, and publisher information.
    • Detailed comparison tables allow you to compare the instruments by type: developmental (observational or parent report) and social-emotional.
    • For each recommended instrument, there is a link to a detailed summary of that instrument's properties.