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Early Childhood Assessment-Birth to Three Years

Mother holding and kissing toddler daughterIt is important for parents and professionals to work closely together. When they become a team, everyone has a better understanding of how an infant, baby or child is responding to the world, how he or she learns, and what he or she can do.

To begin this process parents need to observe their child carefully and record their observations so they can discuss their child’s development with the professionals who work with babies and young children and their families. This type of assessment is a developmental assessment.

The following guidelines will assist parents of a child from birth to three years in preparing a written assessment or information about their child to share with the professionals on their team.

  • The assessment should examine everything about the baby’s or young child’s development. Many things (or factors) affect the child’s way of playing, moving, eating, talking, listening, etc. These include the child’s health, his/her daily family routines and life, experiences outside the home, and the family’s values, beliefs and traditions. The parents should record their observations in all these situations to share with the professional.
  • How the child organizes experiences is important. How long does the child attend or “focus” on you, the parent, or another person or even an interesting toy? How does the child get what it wants? How does the child get you, the parents, to help him?
  • To get an overall picture of the child’s activities, you should observe and write down what the child does in varied settings and situations. You can include information from many people — grandparents, other relatives, neighbors, friends and caregivers. Pictures and videos are also good resources to glean information.

The sequential steps in the assessment of a baby or young child’s development are:

  1. At the first meeting the child development professional, will ask about the child’s strengths and challenges and will explain what questions the assessment will answer.
  2. Parents should be prepared to tell the child’s story in their own words while the professional listens.
  3. The child is then observed at home playing with his/her parents or caregiver. If a home visit is not possible, the observation should be in a familiar setting where the child is comfortable.
  4. The parents should watch the interactions and monitor the relationship between the child and the person doing the assessment, so they can see if the child’s response is typical.
  5. The specific areas the parents are concerned about will be assessed, such as hearing, communication, etc.
  6. At this time the parents give all their written observations to the professional. When the parents hand in their packet of information, they should explain their concerns and ask all their questions in this discussion.
  7. The professional studies the material and creates a written report that will:
    • Address and answer all the original requests and questions
    • Identify the child’s strengths and abilities
    • Include the competencies that will help the child develop further
    • Include possibilities for treatment or intervention
    • End with recommendations to help the parents plan for the child’s future
  8. Ongoing monitoring should be planned since children grow, develop and change so rapidly. It is important and necessary that parents and professionals work together from the beginning to the end of the assessment process.