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Early childhood assessments are typically conducted on children between the ages of an infant up to three-years-old. The intent is to help identify the developmental progress of a child compared to well researched data supporting developmental milestones. Children are measured based on their physical, social and even emotional health to ensure they are meeting milestones or to identify areas that may need special attention or professional assistance for improvement.
The Process of Early Childhood Assessments
In contrast to traditional assessments for children who are of reading age, a toddler is generally not capable of performing a standardized test or even holding the attention span to engage in an interview of any length with an assessment professional. The process typically begins with a child development professional interviewing the parents or primary caregiver of a child and listening for cues of behavioral or emotional aptitudes. This interview opportunity is then generally followed by an observation period of the child and then finally a cumulative report out.
Typically a young child is observed in a setting they are comfortable in. The interaction the child has with their parent can be an indicator of their overall development. An experienced early childhood assessment professional will observe the interactions and then provide comments and feedback to the family.
The Value of Early Childhood Assessments
Supporters of early childhood assessments advocate for the ability to discover an early expression of a learning disability. Many teacher resources are limited at the point of school entry and it can be difficult to identify issues with study skills and comprehension. It is not uncommon for some children to struggle during their early school years because of an undiagnosed learning disability but early childhood assessments can play a role in minimizing the occurrence of these detrimental events.
There is additional value to an early childhood assessment for parents and their children. The outcome of an assessment can help a parent make important educational decisions for their child. It can also help to show social responses and whether the reaction is normal or should be monitored in the event it is depicting something that needs intervention or additional support.
The Challenge of Early Childhood Assessments
Assessing a child objectively can be difficult for a professional. When the parent interview does not reveal the same activities or reactions that are shown during the observation phase, the professional is left to determine the source of the issue or concern. Other media forms can help to resolve discrepancies, such as utilizing video observation or even photographs.
Parents may feel alarmed by areas an assessor notes as requiring additional development. The limitations of the milestone time table include the fact that it is highly subjective and applies to averages. Early childhood assessments can provide valuable indicators of issues affecting a child, providing support for development issues during a time in a child's life when they are constantly learning. A parent who is considering early childhood assessments should always evaluate the professional credentials of their assessor in addition to ensuring the child is being presented to the assessor in as close to a realistic manner as possible. These factors can help lead to the most accurate assessment possible.