3 Types of Evaluations and What They Tell Us about Your Child’s Development

When you have concerns about your child’s development, you want answers.  You might choose to have a screening completed to briefly assess your child’s development. If concerns are noted following the screening, a formal evaluation will help answer your questions.

During the evaluation, the pediatric professional will ask questions about your child’s birth history, health history, daily activities, current skills and challenges. There are several types of evaluation protocols available, but most often therapists combine evaluation tools to gather more information and to look at your child as a whole.

The 3 most common types of evaluation tools used by therapists include:

1. Clinical Observations – Therapists will observe your child as he or she plays with toys and interacts with others.  These observations tell therapists about your child’s play skills and social interactions.

2. Questionnaires and Checklists – These tools are used to gather more detailed information.  Parents may be the ones to complete these forms or therapists may go through the questions with the parents during the evaluation.

3. Standardized Testing – Most therapists will also use a standardized test to assess your child’s development.  These standardized tests are administered and scored in a consistent manner by all therapists.  The results of the standardized tests show a relative degree of validity and reliability – which means that if others administer the same test to your child, they would get about the same score.  The scores gathered from these tests are based on score samples of typically developing peers.

So, what exactly are therapists looking for when they assess your child?  This all depends on their specialty area and your concerns.

Physical Therapy:  The PT (physical therapist) will look at your child’s ability to use their large muscle groups, aka “gross motor skills.”  They assess your child’s ability to move and explore their environment.  They also look at their balance and coordination, body awareness, range of motion, strength, endurance, etc.

Occupational Therapy:  The OT (occupational therapist) will assess your child’s small muscle groups, aka “fine motor skills.”  They will also look at your child’s sensory processing skills, motor coordination, visual and perceptual skills, self-help, feeding skills and handwriting.

Speech Therapy:  The SLP (speech-language pathologist) will assess your child’s ability to communicate.  They will look at your child’s understanding of language (receptive language skills), their ability to express themselves (expressive language skills) and how they produce specific sounds (articulation).  They SLP will also look at the way your child moves and coordinates the muscles in and around their mouth in order to produce sounds and chew and swallow food.

Developmental Therapy:  The DT (developmental specialist) will assess your child’s overall development. They also look at their social interactions, play skills, classroom interactions and cognitive skills.

After the evaluation is complete, the results will tell us which skills are missing and what, if any, further recommendations and referrals are needed.

If you have questions about the evaluation process or the results of the evaluation, please talk to your child’s therapist.  It’s important for you to understand exactly what is being assessed and what the results mean.

Now It’s Your Turn:  Has your child had a formal evaluation?  If so, what did your think about the evaluation process?                                                                                                                                                                          

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