The developmental assessment of young children

The Developmental Assessment of Young Children

A Practical and Theoretical view.

Louise McCauley

1) Introduction
2) Characteristics of young children important to an assessment situation
3) Important Factors when interpreting Test Performance
4) Predictive Validity
5) Ethical issues
6) Theoretical requirements of an appropriate test
7) Infant and Pre-school tests
8) Conclusion
9) References

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Young children are difficult subjects to assess accurately because of their activity level and distractibility, shorter attention span, wariness of strangers, and inconsistent performance in unfamiliar environments. Other factors that may affect a child’s performance include cultural differences and language barriers, parents not having books to read to their child and a child’s lack of interaction with other children. Consequently, assessment of infants, toddlers, and young children requires sensitivity to the child’s background, and knowledge of testing limitations and procedures with young children.

Informal relaxed settings where the child can be as much at ease as possible are recommended when doing assessment. Assessing a child within the context of his or her community and the interacting social systems, and taking into account the family’s needs, resources, and concerns affect both the evaluation and possible interventions.

When testing young children the examiner needs to take certain aspects into account. The young child’s immature developmental status influences the responses to testing more than older children or adults. Other considerations, which are important, are the socio-physical environment and sensory integrity of the young child.

Characteristics of young children important to an assessment situation

A young child is very active and has a short attention span. This can be difficult to deal with in a testing situation. The child I tested was 2 years of age, and I could not get her to sit still and listen to me for more than a few seconds. The world around young children is so interesting that they are so busy concentrating on other stimuli. The task at hand needs to be very interesting to keep the child busy and to be an adequate source of stimulation. I found that by changing the task that needed to be completed, the child would once again pay attention, but was quickly distracted, meaning that I had to keep the pace quick and try and make the tasks interesting for the child. Because children have a tendency to favour certain tasks over others, the test results can be influenced. The child is probably capable of completing a substantial amount of the test, but, because of the frequent movement and limited concentration, the test results can not always be accurate. I found that the child I was testing wanted to do what she desired, and was more interested in playing with the telephone, the television and any other gadgets that she found interesting. She seldom completed the tasks that were required of her, and looked at me with a big smile on her face, but did not answer any questions directed at her.

The developmental stage at which a child is functioning will also influence their behaviour in a test situation. The child I tested was very amused by her own behaviour, laughing often and looking at me blankly. Other children could be shy with strangers, stubborn and negative, and this all influences the test situation. The stage of cognitive development has an influence on what the child understands.

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The developmental assessment of young children