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Your child’s development is a complex interplay of physical, cognitive, emotional, and social factors. To gain a comprehensive understanding of your child’s progress, developmental assessments play a crucial role. The CDC emphasizes monitoring developmental milestones across domains like language and communication, learning, thinking, problem-solving abilities, social-emotional abilities, and physical development through DAs. This blog addresses frequently asked questions you as a parent may have about the assessment process, prerequisites, advantages, uses, and more. Let’s get into it.

What is a developmental assessment?

A developmental assessment is a screening process for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers up to 5 years old. These tests comprehensively evaluate your child’s cognitive, emotional, social, and physical development. DAs highlight or indicate key behaviours or skills your child should perform appropriately at their age. The aim is to identify the child’s strengths and provide support where they need it to promote age-appropriate and adequate growth.

At what age group should a child undergo a developmental assessment?

Children between the ages of 3 months to 5 years can get a developmental assessment. These age groups are selected as a child undergoes exponential brain developmental and physical growth during this phase.

How is it different from a paediatrician’s general assessment?

While a paediatrician specializes in diagnosing, treating, and managing clinical illnesses and injuries, a developmental assessment performed by a trained psychologist focuses on analysing and monitoring developmental milestones and identifying delays using standardised tools. In simple terms, a developmental assessment provides a more in-depth evaluation than general health and developmental surveillance performed during routine pediatric visits.

What does a developmental assessment contain?

The assessment consists of evaluations across four development categories – cognitive or problem-solving skills, physical or gross and fine motor skills, verbal and non-verbal communication and language skills, and social or emotional development involving emotional regulations and understanding. A paediatric psychologist assesses the child using developmental assessments, which are a combination of reports, medical history, parental observations, and structured tasks or questionnaires.

How many sessions are required for a developmental assessment?

There is no standard number for sessions. It depends on the complexity of the child’s needs and the depth of assessment. Some assessments might need only one session, 1-2 hours long, and some comprehensive evaluations may take multiple sessions.

Are any medical tests needed to conduct these assessments?

No medical tests are needed, at least in the initial steps of the developmental assessment. If, during the assessment, the psychologist notices concerns regarding the child’s development or if the test suggests potential underlying medical issues, the specialist may advise some specific medical tests. These could include hearing tests, vision tests, genetic testing, or neuroimaging studies. These diagnostic measures aim to explore conditions such as hearing impairments, visual problems, genetic disorders, or neurological conditions that may impact the child’s overall development.

Is a developmental assessment invasive?

No, a developmental assessment is not invasive. It involves interactions between the parent and child, the psychologist and child, questionnaires filled by parents or guardians, and past medical history and records. The evaluator also uses standardized tools and checklists to observe children during tasks and activities. The entire assessment process is designed to make the child feel comfortable while minimizing their stress and anxiety levels.

How often should a child get the assessment?

The frequency of the assessment depends on the child’s age if a delay or risk is identified in previous evaluations, and if there are any existing concerns. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children get assessed at 9, 18, and 30 months, with autism-specific screening at 18-24 months. If the development and growth of the child are a big concern, a development assessment can be done more frequently. Additionally, if a child is showing delays, has a family history of developmental delays, or has a medical condition that slows down growth, they should get the assessment done frequently, at regular intervals.

Can a child do the assessment alone?

No, the child must come with parents or guardians to provide comfort, support, and information about the child’s habits, behaviour, medical history, and development. This information is of value as it gives the assessor context and insights about the child’s development, which might not be possible just by observation in one session.

What can a parent do with the final assessment reports?

If the child’s reports after the developmental assessment are positive, it indicates that the child is meeting his/her developmental milestones. The parents can continue to support their child by providing an enriched environment, engaging the child in age-appropriate activities, and getting his/her regular check-up.

If the reports are negative, it means that the child has some kind of developmental delay, risk, or concern. The following steps will include referring the child to specialists for further evaluations, diagnosis, and intervention. Intervention programs usually include speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, and special education services. The parents need to support their child and engage in all these interventions to understand their little one’s developmental needs better.

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