National Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) Database

Key Points

  1. The National ASQ Database is the first Canadian database of child development for children under the age of 6. 
  2. The National ASQ Database houses anonymous data from the Ages and Stages Questionnaires (ASQ). 
  3. The National ASQ Database is a unique opportunity to learn about early childhood development. 
  4. Over 2000 ASQs have been entered in the National ASQ Database so far.
  5. By creating a complete national database, policies and programs can be improved to better meet the needs of young children in society.

Mother and baby boy

Introduction

In partnership with Queen’s University and community-based agencies, IEMHP is developing the FIRST Canadian National Database of pre-school child development.

The information in the database helps us understand how kids are meeting important stages of development. The information in the database also shows which areas of development need more help, so supports and resources can be given in a timely and effective way.

Background and Significance

Canada does not have a system to collect data on the developmental status of young children prenatal to age six. The science of brain development has established that the first five years of life are very important for a child’s development. This is because the brain is most easily and rapidly shaped by the experiences and people in the early environment. Every second in a young child’s brain, 1 million connections are made to support that will form the foundation for their development across the lifespan.

This makes it important to identify and address developmental and mental health concerns as early as possible and to ensure that the supports and services are available when there may be a concern.

There are benefits to understanding early childhood development and infant/early mental health. Yet, there is no current comprehensive Canadian database of developmental screening scores. With Queen's University, Infant and Early Mental Health Promotion is building the first National Database of under-6 development and mental health.

The Database lets us see how kids are growing up in different situations. For example, we can see how kids are developing in child welfare settings, community-based organizations, and Indigenous communities. As more groups join, the Database grows along with our understanding of developmental need.

By building a national knowledge base on early development and mental health, we can understand, and respond to ensure every child has the optimal start in life from the very beginning ultimately, better meeting the needs of the young children in our society.

Research Design and Methods

In this project, partner organizations will use the Ages and Stages Questionnaires (ASQs). The ASQs are screening tools used to assess a child’s risk of developmental delay. Service providers will use the ASQs to ask the primary caregiver questions about their child. These questions ask about the child’s abilities (for example, walking, grasping toys, talking, social and emotional state). Each ASQ takes about 15 minutes to complete.

The service providers at the partner organizations may screen each child up to 4 times over the course of a year. This will allow us to follow a child’s developmental trajectory. It also allows us to check how supports, if any are provided, are influencing development. To learn more about what affects early development, service providers will also ask families to complete a demographic form.

All information obtained during this project is strictly confidential and de-identified. No identifying information is stored in the database.

Preliminary Results and Implications

As of August 2023, the National ASQ Database has over 2000 individual child records across 9 partner organizations.

The data in the Database has been used for several comparative analyses. For example, from these comparative analyses, the following results have been deduced:

  1. In a comparison of 314 children between child welfare and community samples, children in the child welfare group scored significantly lower in all developmental domains assessed by the ASQs.
  2. In a comparison of 80 children between Indigenous communities in Ontario and Saskatchewan, 29% of the children in the Saskatchewan sample had at least one area of developmental delay, compared to 25% of children in the Ontario sample.
  3. In a comparison of 384 children between Indigenous children in their community and Indigenous children involved with child welfare, 19% of Indigenous children in their community had at least one area of developmental delay, compared to 68.8% in the child welfare sample (Peterson-Katz, 2023).

Conclusion

By working together to create a strong national understanding of early growth and mental health, we can make a big difference. We can shape policies and programs that help the youngest citizens of Canada. We can build a brighter and more promising future for every child in our society.

Together, we can create positive change that will benefit generations to come.

Project Team

This project is led by a collaboration between IEMHP (The Hospital for Sick Children) and:

  • Dr. James Reynolds’ team at Queen’s University in Kingston, ON
  • Kids Brain Health Network
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research

If you are interested in learning more or joining the National ASQ Database, contact Dr. Karys Peterson-Katz at karys.peterson-katz@sickkids.ca.

Reference

Peterson-Katz, K. (2023). Putting Knowledge to Practice: Bridging the Gap Between Early Intervention, Child Development, and Organizational-Level Implementation Following Training and Coaching. Manuscript submitted for publication. Queen’s University.

Infant and Early Mental Health Promotion, the hospital for sick children

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