Understanding the process of early childhood developmental evaluations: Part 2

Become familiar with early childhood developmental evaluation, ways to request an evaluation for your child, how the process works and how to prepare for the first meeting.

A man kissing a baby's foot.
Photo credit: Pixabay.

Have you ever wondered about your child’s overall development? Many parents and caregivers do a great job following along with, and even tracking, how their children are doing with their speech and language, motor skills and social skills. However, there are early childhood professionals who can track your child’s developmental milestones while looking for any delays that may be happening. This article series will focus on developmental evaluations and how you can request, prepare for, and ultimately participate in an online or in-person early childhood developmental evaluation.

In the first article in this Michigan State University Extension series, we focused on examples of early childhood-based developmental evaluations and where they may be found in your community. In this article, we will focus on how to decide if an evaluation would be right for your family. As children grow, no two will develop at exactly the same rate. There are timeline expectations for each developmental milestone and an evaluation can be used to check where a child lands on that continuum. A quick look at MI Kids Matter will give you an idea of milestones and expectations for your child’s first five years.

Deciding on whether to have an evaluation ultimately falls to how you as a parent feel your child is doing within their day-to-day activities. Questions to ask yourself may include: how is my child doing with their language usage and vocabulary growth? How are their gross and fine motor skills progressing? Are they beginning to notice others and enjoy being around children their own age? Do they express their feelings in appropriate ways? Are they responding to verbal requests and following simple directions? These are not the only questions you could be asking yourself, but are some of the most common examples. A good place to start is with developmental monitoring in the home and following along with your child’s daily developmental growth.

As parents and caregivers, we may often hear others commenting on how our children are growing developmentally. Sometimes they may ask why a child is not using very many words, walking well, or never wanting to separate and leave their parents side. Family and friends tend to be the most vocal about a child’s development and may be noticing a developmental delay that may not be obvious to the primary caregiver. Sometimes, when we consistently spend time with a child, we may not recognize when their development has plateaued or reached a point where change has not happened as quickly as one would expect. When hearing concerns and comments of others, it may be time to seek out and request an evaluation to gain peace of mind that things are going well for your child. However, it is important to remember that family and friends are typically not developmental specialists and are only gauging a child’s growth by their own experiences.

Above all, if you are just not sure, contact your local early intervention services or school district to see about having an evaluation completed. If your child is found to be progressing with expectations, you will gain peace of mind and more than likely, learn some new ideas and activities to help them to the next level. If there is any sort of delay found, you will be able to get ahead of issues and begin to learn ways in which you can help your child increase their skill levels. In most cases, you will be able to find the assistance needed for your child and family. This is why the Early On Michigan slogan is “Don’t worry, but don’t wait.”

You can learn more about child development, parent and caregiver webinars and family activities by visiting the MSU Extension Child and Family Development webpage and the MI Stronger Family Facebook page.

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