In an effort to improve long-term outcomes, a leading group of pediatricians says doctors should routinely evaluate babies and young children for motor skills delays.

The American Academy of Pediatrics said in a clinical report published this month that motor skills assessments should be incorporated into the developmental screenings recommended to take place at well-child visits at ages 9, 18 and 30 months. Previously, such evaluations primarily emphasized language and social development.

For the screenings, doctors should observe children engaging in age-appropriate activities like rolling over, crawling, walking and climbing stairs. They should also test a child’s fine motor skills through activities like grasping objects, placing blocks in a cup, scribbling or making a stick figure drawing, the group said.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

“We hope this approach will shorten the ‘diagnostic odyssey’ encountered by many children with motor delays, and more quickly get these children to appropriate specialists for treatment,” said Garey Nortiz, a pediatrician who co-authored the clinical report, which outlines how doctors should assess children for motor skills delays.

The pediatrics group said that doctors should work in concert with parents to assess whether any developmental problems are present and they should make sure to address any concerns raised by family members.

Children who are diagnosed with a developmental disorder should be referred for early intervention or special education services, the group said.