Developmental Observation, Screening, and Assessment

Developmental Observation, Screening, and Assessment

In practice, early childhood mental health consultants will complete observations of both individual children and classroom environments. They may also complete screening and assessments for individual children, but in the consultant role, are more likely to guide the selection of instruments, the implementation and interpretation of the results, and the implications for any planned intervention with ECE staff.

Careful observation is important for gathering information and is often completed in the early care and education setting or the family home during a home visit. Consultants commonly use running record observations to record behavior without bias. Reviewing, understanding, and interpreting these observations must consider aspects of the child’s culture and the cultural context that might influence the child’s behavior.

Developmental screening and assessments are complex processes magnified by different expectations of families and those completing the assessments (Barrera, 1996). The assessment of a child involves a judgment about adaptive functioning in the context of caregiving relationships – family and early care and education – and requires an understanding of what is valued and expected by the family’s culture (Emde, 2006). Developmental observation, screening, and assessment will only be culturally responsive when those guiding, selecting, completing, and interpreting these processes demonstrate personal cultural competence. In addition, the procedures and instruments used must be culturally and linguistically appropriate if the assessment is to be valid.

Culturally competent and effective consultants demonstrate the ability to:

  • Recognize that screening may be a new concept for families.
  • Be prepared to explain the purpose, steps in the process and possible information that can be obtained through screening, as well as possible next steps.
  • Recognize the influence of their own culture on their approach to observation, screening and assessment.
  • Consider the validity of any instruments and procedures with diverse populations.
  • Recommend and select any formal and informal screening and assessment strategies and tools based on the family’s culture and language.
  • Conduct assessments in the family’s preferred language and literacy level, and when necessary, arrange for translation or use of interpreters for accurate involvement of families in the screening and assessment process.
  • Conduct assessments where the family and child can be most comfortable and at a time that allows the people important to the family to be present.
  • Complete child and classroom observations, noting only what they see and hear, to obtain pertinent, unbiased information.
  • Guide staff in using observation, screening, and assessments to assure valid and unbiased results.
  • Consider culture, language, and context in interpreting any observation, screening, and assessment information.
  • Link results with desirable outcomes and intervention planning based on child and family needs and perspectives.

(Yates, T. et al, 2008)

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This product was developed [in part] under grant number 1H79SM082070-01 from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The views, policies and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAMHSA or HHS.