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Early Childhood Assessments: Preparing for the Possibility of Developmental Evaluations

written by: Lisalyn • edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom • updated: 3/2/2012

Early childhood assessments are common in schools and medical offices for discovering a child's abilities. Don't be overwhelmed. Read on to learn more about the process and the possibility of developmental evaluations, what you can expect as parents, and what happens next.

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    What are They and When are They Necessary?

    Early childhood assessments are used by educators and medical professionals to gather important information about a child's educational and developmental abilities. Children are normally assessed at regular intervals during scheduled doctor visits, as well as upon entering preschool. These assessments provide information such as growth records, health and immunization records, and developmental milestones. By the time a child reaches preschool age, there should be a complete record of assessments to compliment the preschool educational assessment. PDD or, Pervasive Developmental Disorders are becoming increasingly common. Keeping track of these medical and educational assessments can help a parent, an educator or a medical professional pinpoint possible red flags.

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    What a Parent Can Expect

    Regular assessments are straightforward. During doctor visits over a child's infancy and early childhood, parents will usually be given a developmental milestone checklist to complete. The doctor will review this checklist and ask appropriate developmental questions. Emphasis is placed on a proper growth curve, social skills, and speech. As the child grows, these checklists will become more detailed and will include questions regarding emotional health and behavior.

    If your child spends time at a child care center or preschool, the teachers will constantly observe behavior and ability. Some centers may do formal educational assessments, while others rely on casual observation. Be sure to record any verbal comments that relate to your child's development.

    Sometimes, a medical professional may not see a behavior or developmental issue that a parent does. Do not discount your own personal opinions. It is often said that "Mother knows best". If you feel your child is not meeting developmental milestones or has an educational deficit, you can refer your own child to your state's birth to three program for an assessment. This program is a part of your local education association and assessments are provided at no cost. These early childhood assessments are very similar to the others, but are usually much more thorough.

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    Learning The Results: What Happens Next

    Once your child's early childhood assessments have been done, regardless of the source (educational or medical), the results will decide your next steps. If your child shows typical, age-appropriate development in all areas, allow your child to continue learning and living in the manner to which he or she is accustomed. If your child shows a deficit in development, don't panic. Your state's birth to three program, local public school, or medical professional will work with you to perform complete developmental evaluations.

    Developmental evaluations are much more complex than early childhood assessments. These evaluations may include a physical therapist, a speech/language pathologist, an occupational therapist, a psychologist, a developmental pediatrician, and/or a neurologist. These evaluations look like play and your child will probably enjoy the activities. You will be expected to fill out questionnaires about your child's development. Do not be afraid to mention your concerns or to ask questions. You will soon have a full report on your child's developmental abilities, and a plan for the future.

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    Looking Toward the Future

    Early childhood assessments and developmental evaluations are tools that allow you to discover your child's strengths and weaknesses. Now you can form a plan to move forward with your child's education, whether it be in a typical preschool classroom or in a supported situation with goals for a promising future.