Despite recommendations that doctors routinely screen young children for developmental delays, less than half of pediatricians do so.

Just 47.7 percent of pediatricians say they conduct regular developmental screenings of their patients who are under age 3, according to findings from a national survey published online in the journal Pediatrics on Monday.

That’s nearly double the number who reported doing so in 2002. Nonetheless, researchers called the findings disappointing.

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“We’re still falling short,” says Nina Sand-Loud, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center who worked on the study. She said she would like to see over 90 percent of pediatricians screening.

Since 2001, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended that all children be routinely screened for developmental delays during regular checkups. Following through on this suggestion is important, Sand-Loud says, citing research showing that without regular screening roughly 70 percent of children with delays go unnoticed until their problems manifest in more significant ways down the line.

“We really want to make sure that we’re testing as many kids as we can as early as possible,” Sand-Loud said. “The research is really strong that the earlier the intervention, the better the outcomes.”

The current findings are based on a 2009 survey sent to a randomly selected group of 1,620 pediatricians belonging to the American Academy of Pediatrics. It’s an update of a similar survey conducted in 2002.

While the most recent survey did not ask for further explanation from pediatricians who said they did not routinely screen children, doctors who completed the 2002 survey cited limited time, low reimbursements and lack of knowledge about screening as barriers.

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