Partnership is the key when your young child has an assessment

When young children are assessed for developmental delays, it is in the family’s best interest to form a partnership with the assessment team.

Because we live in a complex society, it is common for families today to develop partnerships with many different types of professionals who serve our children. We partner with teachers and caregivers, doctors and dentists, coaches, and church leaders – all of these professionals know and work with our children and our families from time-to-time. For the most part, the parent is the one who informs the professional with detailed answers to the assessment items. When our young children are assessed for developmental delays, it is in the family’s best interest to form a partnership with the assessment team.

It is best practice, and often-mandated, for an early childhood assessment team to include both professionals and the child’s parents. A family may begin working with several experts in a variety of different growth and development areas, such as physical growth and development physical therapists, occupational therapists, or a speech and language pathologist. At the time of an initial assessment, parents might also work with a child development specialist or family therapist.

If there are several professionals working on the team with a parent, it may feel overwhelming at first. It may seem like a small group of therapists and specialists come into the family home and ask a lot of personal questions. Assessment items can be about family routines, the people with whom the child interacts, where the child spends time and so on. They ask us to think about the details of our daily lives that we often just take for granted.

Most professionals realize this can be very hard for parents, but it is an essential part of the assessment. These questions, even if they sound invasive, help the team put the child into the context of his/her real life. They also help the professional team members get to know us. Knowing who we are and how we fit together as a family increases the likelihood that the assessment will provide the accurate and reliable information about our children; which we are seeking.

Here are a few strategies from Michigan State University Extension that can help parents create and maintain a successful partnership with early childhood professionals who conduct assessments:

  • Start with the belief that the professionals on the assessment team want the same thing you want: whatever is best for your child and your family.
  • Share only information that you feel comfortable sharing, but understand that the professional members of the assessment team are committed to respecting your privacy. They are required by law to maintain confidentiality practices.
  • Be ready to share your point-of-view with the professional team members. Your observations and opinions matter. In fact, they are critical to the success of the assessment.

While early childhood developmental assessments are not usually difficult or traumatic, they are not something we want to repeat often. So, we all want to get accurate and true picture of our child’s developmental status in an efficient and timely manner. Working with a team of early childhood assessment professionals rather than against them, is the best choice for all, including our children.

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