Assessment tools used in early learning programs are usually informal and observation-based. Teachers who are knowledgeable about developmental milestones can often recognize when a child is not meeting expected milestones.
Many states have implemented the use of developmental screening tools. These tools measure a brief sampling of several areas of development to determine if the child is developing at a typical rate compared to children of the same age range. They help determine if a child is meeting developmental milestones or if they are at risk of possible delays in development.
Developmental screenings are completed less often than other informal assessment tools, usually within a few months of enrollment and then 1-2 times a year after that. States that require the completion of developmental screenings have determined requirements for when or how often screenings should be conducted. Check your state′s child care regulations for information specific to your state.
Whether screenings are require in your state or not, it is possible to identify potential delays in development when ongoing, developmentally appropriate methods of assessment are used. Whenever there is a concern about a child’s development, it is essential that this be communicated with families. Early childhood educators should refrain from using any diagnostic language when communicating with families. Only medical professionals can make these determinations.
Instead, teachers should focus on describing the skills they observe and sharing information with families about expected developmental milestones that children reach at different ages. Teachers should encourage families to talk with their pediatrician about their child’s development. Teachers can also share information about local early intervention services as another option for learning more about how their child is developing. The earlier a child receives intervention services, the better.
In addition to making referrals, educators can plan activities to help children practice and strengthen skills across all areas of development. Track the child’s progress as these focused activities are implemented and be sure to share your observations with families. If early intervention specialists begin working with the child, be sure to work in collaboration with them to ensure the best possible outcome for the child.
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