A development assessment is a comprehensive evaluation of a child’s physical, intellectual, language, emotional and social development. It is usually conducted when a doctor or parent notices that a child is experiencing a developmental problem in one of these areas. A development assessment is conducted by a group of doctors and experts, including pediatricians, audiologists, language specialists, child psychologists or psychiatrists and occupational therapists. Sometimes, it may be conducted by a developmental assessment specialist, who is a person trained to perform much of the assessment alone.
The specialist or specialists performing the development assessment will adapt the questions and tests to a child’s age. The specific problem that prompted the development assessment will also be a factor in the assessment and may steer its course. The development assessment includes numerous questions and tests on a variety of topics, including physical and motor development, emotional health and social skills, among several others.
A group of tests will evaluate the child’s eyesight and hearing to rule out any physical conditions that may be causing a developmental problem. The purpose of the development assessment is first and foremost to get to the root of the developmental problem. Sometimes, speech issues may be traced to a hearing problem.
Although one would hope that a pediatrician would notice developmental problems in a well baby checkup, some problems are not particularly obvious or do not manifest themselves during a short visit at the doctor’s office. Parents must be vigilant and observant of their child’s development and bring up any concerns to the doctor. Often, doctors shrug off concerns that may seem minor, so parents should trust their instincts if they feel strongly that something may be wrong with their child.
A development assessment will evaluate a child in the following areas:
- Primary Problem: This set of questions identifies the problem of concern and when it was first noticed. How has it progressed?
- Family Medical History: Is there any related or pertinent information about the child's family history, such as learning and physical disabilities?
- Pregnancy and Delivery: Were there any complications during pregnancy, labor or delivery?
- Infancy: Were there any health problems with the child as a newborn?
- Child’s Health History: Have there been any pertinent illnesses, conditions or accidents?
- Daycare: Who is the child’s primary caregiver?
- Feeding and Eating Habits: What is the child’s diet like? Does he or she have any oral habits such as pacifier usage or biting?
- Sleep Issues: What is the child’s normal sleep pattern? Are there any sleep problems?
- Motor Development: Is the child using his or her hands to grasp and play with objects?
- Social Skills: How does the child interact with others? Can he or she follow directions? How does he or she deal with trips out of the home?
- Coping Skills: How does the child deal with stress and anxiety? How does the child express his or her feelings?
- Language/Communication Skills: How does the child communicate? How is his or her talking, reading and singing?
- Play: How does the child play with toys and other children?
- Fears: Is the child fearless? Is he or she overly sensitive? Is he or she overly frightened of the world?
- Aggressive Behavior: Does the child exhibit aggressive behavior on a regular basis?
- Relationships: How does the child interact with other family members, friends or strangers?
Parents should come prepared to answer many questions in a development assessment. In order for the assessment to be successful, parents must also be cooperative, even if the line of questioning seems unnecessary. Observations of the child should take place with several people in varied settings. The goal is not only to identify any possible developmental problems, but also to identify a child’s strengths and weaknesses. A successful, complete development assessment should come to some conclusions about a child’s development and be the first step in forming an intervention program should a problem exist.