Children with developmental delays benefit from participation in early intervention programs. Yet many children are not screened for developmental delays, and many children with developmental delays are not referred to early intervention programs. Families depend on their primary health care providers for the detection of developmental delays and information about services available for their children with developmental delays. The primary care nurse practitioner is in an ideal position to screen for delays, provide necessary referrals for services, and assist the families in maximizing their self- care potentials. Orem's self-care deficit theory of nursing served as the theoretical framework for the research. This descriptive study explored developmental screening and referral practices of pediatric and family nurse practitioners for children with developmental delays. The researcher-designed Early Intervention Questionnaire was mailed to 258 pediatric and family nurse practitioners currently certified in Mississippi. A convenience sample of 120 returned questionnaires was used. Responses to the instrument were analyzed using descriptive statistics with content analysis according to recurrent themes of the open-ended questions. Less than half of pediatric and family nurse practitioners in Mississippi reported performing developmental screening on children under five years old, although 70.6% felt adequately prepared to do so. Less than two- thirds of pediatric and family nurse practitioners related being familiar with early 111 intervention programs, and only slightly more than one-third had ever referred to an early intervention program. Those nurse practitioners who reported familiarity with early intervention programs listed visits, mail, and workshops as the methods by which they found out about early intervention programs. Based on the findings of this study, implications for nursing included experienced nurse practitioners mentoring inexperienced nurse practitioners to impress upon them the importance of screening and referring children with developmental delays and nurse practitioners striving to lift the barriers o f potential resistance to children’s participation in early intervention programs. Recommendations included utilization of developmental screening tools to detect children with or at risk for developmental delays, education of nurse practitioners on the benefits of participation in early intervention programs by children with developmental delays, and facilitation of improved networking between nurse practitioners and early intervention program staff.


Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)


Graduate Nursing

Degree Date


Publication Number


First Advisor

Lorraine Hamm

Document Type


Included in

Nursing Commons