Researchers Launch Infant Screening Initiative

Program Evaluates a Child’s Abilities, Could Identify Developmental Delays

Sept. 22, 2009

Two UT Dallas researchers — Emily Touchstone and Suzanne Bonifert — have launched a pilot program to identify screening measures that could be conducted quickly and used together to provide a thorough picture of an infant’s development.

The result of their efforts, the Infant Development Program (IDP), which is part of the Center for Children and Families and the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, was created to research, identify and prevent developmental disorders during the earliest stages of life. 

Clinicians in the program conducted the first infant screening on Sept. 14 at the Callier Center for Communication Disorders.

“We are very pleased to offer developmental screenings to parents in North Texas,” said Touchstone, a clinical assistant professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences and head of the program. “Our screenings will provide information to parents who are curious about their babies’ development, or parents who suspect there might be a problem.”

The comprehensive screenings evaluate children’s abilities in the following areas:

  • Cognition — thinking, problem solving and categorizing.
  • Gross motor skills — sitting, crawling, standing and walking.
  • Fine motor skills — reaching, transferring, pointing and scribbling.
  • Receptive language — language that the child understands.
  • Expressive language — language that the child uses to communicate with others.
  • Social-emotional skills — behavior regulation and social connectedness.

“By using a combination of traditional screening measures, we are able to provide information to parents about all areas of their babies’ development and identify a problem if one exists,” said Bonifert, head of speech-language pathology at the Callier Center. “When necessary, parents will be referred to an appropriate service provider for further assistance.”

The IDP screenings are for infants and toddlers up to 30 months of age. Parents can register for the screenings by contacting the IDP.  All screenings take place at the Callier Center.

Unique to the program is the inclusion of current and future research collaborations at UT Dallas.  Dr. Melanie Spence, also a professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, is the program’s research coordinator.

“When families visit the Callier Center for screenings, they will also have the opportunity to participate in other research programs that are available at the time of their visit,” added Touchstone.

The Center for Children and Families is funded by a grant from the Meadows Foundation.  The center offers an array of clinical and community outreach activities, organized around three initiatives:  parenting healthy families, strengthening interpersonal relationships and enhancing thinking and learning.


Media Contact: Debra Brown, UT Dallas, (214) 905-3049, debra@utdallas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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Emily Touchstone

Emily Touchstone recently helped launch a program to screen for developmental disorders in infants.

Child in IDP

The IDP checks for cognitive and fine motor skill development, among other abilities.

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