Understanding the process of early childhood developmental evaluations: Part 4

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 in a blue shirt holding an infant in his arms.
Photo credit: Pixabay.com

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 previous article in this Michigan State University Extension series, we discussed making the call and requesting a developmental evaluation for your child. In this fourth article, we will focus on important tips to prepare for the actual evaluation. We will also focus on preparing to welcome or meet an early childhood professional. This will be a new person whom your child will be meeting for possibly the first time.

One of the first things you can do is prepare your child for the coming evaluation. Let them know someone new will be coming to visit and you will be spending time together playing games, talking and having fun. Early in the day, let them know the evaluator will be visiting. If you know the evaluator’s name, share this with your child. You’ve probably scheduled a specific time, so about an hour before the new person arrives, remind your child what is going to happen. Then, shortly before they arrive, remind your child once more. Typically, it is best to give your child three reminders before the visit takes place. This is a good practice to use with a child who is over 18 months old and will allow them to know what they should expect.

With your child firmly prepared for the arrival, the next thing to focus on is your surroundings and environment. It is important to have space ready for the evaluation to take place. Think about having the evaluation in a place/location that is comfortable for you and your child. In most homes, the evaluation may take place in a space conducive to play that is comfortable and readily available to the child. Make sure to clear the room of distractions that may take the child’s attention away from the task at hand. You may have to turn off the TV or radio, pick up crafting supplies, close all technology and put away some favorite toys. However, do not put everything away as the environment should remain familiar to the child.

Most evaluators and early childhood professionals are very comfortable conducting evaluations and meetings while sitting on the floor so they can remain at a comfortable eye level for the child. For children under the age of one, the evaluation may take place while you are holding or cuddling your child. For children under the age of 18 months, the evaluation may take place in the kitchen while your child is sitting in their high chair. Ultimately, you and the evaluator will decide what location may be best based on your child’s age and how they are feeling on the day of the evaluation.

Make sure to have all technology and devices, including cell phones, turned off or at least set to vibrate. Mobile technology has become such a regular part of our lives that we often forget it can be an unwanted annoyance or intrusion when we are having conversations, spending time with family, or just having fun with our children. You don’t want your cell phone to take your child’s attention away from the evaluation while it is being completed.

Finally, be prepared to answer many questions about your child’s growth and development. You will be asked about speech and language, motor skills, social/emotional development and everything that is a part of your child’s overall development. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If it is not clear why the evaluator is playing a game or completing any number of activities with your child, you have the right and the responsibility to ask for clarification. You scheduled the evaluation to learn more about your child’s development, so now is the time to learn as much as you can about their skill levels, what’s next to learn, and what your overall expectations should be for their age range. A good place to familiarize yourself with age ranges is at healthychildren.org.

Finally, just to be considerate of the visiting evaluator, let them know where they can park, where to enter and if anyone else will be there during the evaluation. The evaluator will greatly appreciate any information that can help them feel ready, safe and familiar with the location they will be visiting. Often you can give this extra information the day before as you will most likely receive a call to confirm the evaluation time, child’s name, age and the address where you will be meeting for the evaluation.

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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