St. Petersburg State University,
St. Petersburg, Russia
Background. While various screening systems are used worldwide for early detection of developmental delay (DD), Russia still does not have such a screening system in place, even though a good prognosis for the cognitive development of a child with DD depend strongly on the time of the diagnosis.
Objective. The objective of this study was to create a system to rapidly monitor the mental development of four- to five-year-old Russian children, a system that allows for the use of modern information technologies to obtain reliable results.
Design. This study was carried out with a sample of 1,232 children. For data collection, the multifactor study of mental development tool was used as a part of a so ware complex for longitudinal research. This tool included a much more extensive set of tasks than in traditional tests of abilities, allowing for a wider variation of the factor structure. For the 4-year-olds, 236 tasks were used and 349 for the 5-year-olds. Factor and discriminant analysis were carried out to construct scales for each age group (6–7 points in each), which most accurately predict the diagnosis (Norm/DD). Structural equation modeling (SEM) was used to verify the prediction model.
Results. Two scales were elaborated, which coincided with the type of variables combined in each of them regardless of age (for 4-years — simpler and for 5-years — more complex): logical reasoning, motor skills, and general awareness (listed in descending order of contribution to the prediction). SEM confirmed that the selected scales are indicators of the general ability factor, which is the main predictor of the diagnosis.
Conclusions. Two short scales for the rapid diagnosis of DD in preschool children were constructed, allowing the use of computer technology to timely identify the risk group among 4- and 5-year-olds with high sensitivity and specificity of the forecast (not lower than 95%).
Keywords: Screening, developmental delay, construction of scales, SEM