Screening for Motor Delay

Key points

  • Early diagnosis for a child with a motor delay allows for early access to medical care, intervention services, and more.
  • The AAP and CDC created a tool to help parents concerned with their child's motor delay.
A mom helps her child crawl

Importance of early diagnosis

Early screening and identification can reduce the "diagnostic odyssey" that families of children with motor delays face seeking a correct diagnosis. Without early identification, families can spend years visiting different doctors and undergoing many tests to reach a diagnosis.

Early screening enables a faster referral to a specialist. Early identification enables quicker access to medical care, early intervention programs, and special education resources.

Delays in diagnosis of muscular dystrophies prevent children and families from getting the timely support they need. According to researchers working on Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), there was average delay of:

  • 1 year from parents noticing motor delay to the first evaluation
  • 2.5 years from parents noticing motor delay to DMD diagnosis

This study was based on data from children without a family history of muscular dystrophy. An updated study showed that the time to diagnosis had not changed.1

Graphic shows average age at diagnosis and average time to diagnosis for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
Time to diagnosis for Duchenne muscular dystrophy is about 2.5 years.

Tool to help parents address concerns

CDC and AAP created Does My Child Have Physical Developmental Delays? to help parents concerned about their child's motor delay. This online quiz is designed to reduce the time to diagnosis and get children with motor delays in into services. Parents can identify “red flags” they see when their child stands, walks, climbs stairs, holds toys, and other activities. The quiz also helps parents prepare to talk to their child’s doctor.


  1. Thomas, S, Conway, KM, Fapo, O, et al. Time to diagnosis of Duchenne muscular dystrophy remains unchanged: Findings from the Muscular Dystrophy Surveillance, Tracking, and Research Network, 2000-2015. Muscle & Nerve. 2022; 66(2): 193-197. doi:10.1002/mus.27532