Developmental assessments in children are recommended when there are concerns about a child’s ability to meet expected developmental milestones and perform everyday tasks. The primary aim of the assessment process is to identify a child’s strengths and challenges in a range of developmental domains including cognitive, social, emotional, language, physical development and adaptive behaviours such as self-care and self-direction. The results can assist parents and teachers to provide appropriate and tailored management plans and life-skill programs to maximise a child’s developmental potential.
Purposes of Developmental Assessments:
- Identifying and diagnosing a global intellectual delay: this may include determining the severity of an intellectual impairment and evaluating the impact this is having on meeting developmental milestones. Re-administering assessments can also provide a standardised method to monitor an individual’s progress over time.
- Developing individualised management programs: by identifying a child’s strengths and weaknesses, the psychologist can work with parents and teachers to develop interventions to best accommodate a child’s learning and developmental needs.
- Accessing additional funding: the diagnosis of a developmental disability can assist with accessing government funding and school based funding to provide the necessary supports in the home and school environment to best accommodate the child’s needs.
- In combination with cognitive assessments: developmental assessments can also be administered in conjunction with cognitive assessments to determine whether difficulties in particular areas can be explained by an intellectual disability or learning disorder.
To accurately identify and diagnose a developmental delay or disorder, a standardised psychometric assessment is used to assess various areas of development such as:
- Communication: speaking and listening skills used to convey messages to others
- Social: skills required to interact and get along with others, including being emotionally attuned
- Self-care: skills needed for personal care including eating, dressing and bathing
- Self-direction: skills needed for independence and self-control
- Motor: includes both gross motor skills such as crawling and sitting and fine motor skills such as gripping and pointing
Along with psychometric tools, a comprehensive assessment also requires a consultation process that typically a developmental history interview with parents and teacher consultations. The results of the assessment are provided in a written report and the Psychologist will discuss any identified needs and recommended interventions.
There are various developmental assessment tools that are used for various purposes and age groups. We commonly use the following developmental assessment tools:
- Adaptive Behaviour Assessment System: – Third Edition (ABAS-III) to assess adaptive functioning for individuals aged 0 to 89 years.
- The Bayley Scales of Infant Development: – Third Edition (Bayley-III) to assess children from one month old to 3.5 years.
- The Griffith Mental Development Scales (GMDS): to assess the rate of development of infants and young children from birth to 8 years.