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What is a Development Assessment?

By O. Wallace
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A development assessment is a comprehensive evaluation of a child’s physical, intellectual, language, emotional and social development. It is usually conducted when a doctor or parent notices that a child is experiencing a developmental problem in one of these areas. A development assessment is conducted by a group of doctors and experts, including pediatricians, audiologists, language specialists, child psychologists or psychiatrists and occupational therapists. Sometimes, it may be conducted by a developmental assessment specialist, who is a person trained to perform much of the assessment alone.

The specialist or specialists performing the development assessment will adapt the questions and tests to a child’s age. The specific problem that prompted the development assessment will also be a factor in the assessment and may steer its course. The development assessment includes numerous questions and tests on a variety of topics, including physical and motor development, emotional health and social skills, among several others.

A group of tests will evaluate the child’s eyesight and hearing to rule out any physical conditions that may be causing a developmental problem. The purpose of the development assessment is first and foremost to get to the root of the developmental problem. Sometimes, speech issues may be traced to a hearing problem.

Although one would hope that a pediatrician would notice developmental problems in a well baby checkup, some problems are not particularly obvious or do not manifest themselves during a short visit at the doctor’s office. Parents must be vigilant and observant of their child’s development and bring up any concerns to the doctor. Often, doctors shrug off concerns that may seem minor, so parents should trust their instincts if they feel strongly that something may be wrong with their child.

A development assessment will evaluate a child in the following areas:

  • Primary Problem: This set of questions identifies the problem of concern and when it was first noticed. How has it progressed?
  • Family Medical History: Is there any related or pertinent information about the child's family history, such as learning and physical disabilities?
  • Pregnancy and Delivery: Were there any complications during pregnancy, labor or delivery?
  • Infancy: Were there any health problems with the child as a newborn?
  • Child’s Health History: Have there been any pertinent illnesses, conditions or accidents?
  • Daycare: Who is the child’s primary caregiver?
  • Feeding and Eating Habits: What is the child’s diet like? Does he or she have any oral habits such as pacifier usage or biting?
  • Sleep Issues: What is the child’s normal sleep pattern? Are there any sleep problems?
  • Motor Development: Is the child using his or her hands to grasp and play with objects?
  • Social Skills: How does the child interact with others? Can he or she follow directions? How does he or she deal with trips out of the home?
  • Coping Skills: How does the child deal with stress and anxiety? How does the child express his or her feelings?
  • Language/Communication Skills: How does the child communicate? How is his or her talking, reading and singing?
  • Play: How does the child play with toys and other children?
  • Fears: Is the child fearless? Is he or she overly sensitive? Is he or she overly frightened of the world?
  • Aggressive Behavior: Does the child exhibit aggressive behavior on a regular basis?
  • Relationships: How does the child interact with other family members, friends or strangers?

Parents should come prepared to answer many questions in a development assessment. In order for the assessment to be successful, parents must also be cooperative, even if the line of questioning seems unnecessary. Observations of the child should take place with several people in varied settings. The goal is not only to identify any possible developmental problems, but also to identify a child’s strengths and weaknesses. A successful, complete development assessment should come to some conclusions about a child’s development and be the first step in forming an intervention program should a problem exist.

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Discussion Comments
By sneakers41 — On Dec 11, 2010

Comfyshoes-I know that in wellness visits a doctor would typically ask the parents about the child’s language abilities as well as their gross motor skills.

The reason for this is that most children are expected to have achieved certain milestones within a certain age range.

For example, a child that has not spoken any words by age 2 might be diagnosed with Autism. Early intervention is critical because it provides the most hope in helping a child with any developmental disorders.

By comfyshoes — On Dec 08, 2010

Subway- Sometimes as in the case of ADHD, you are better off going to a children’s hospital that offers a comprehensive approach to the condition.

A children’s hospital will have a neurologist that specializes in pediatric conditions as well as an on site psychologist.

A team will actually diagnose the child and will offer you more valuable feedback then if you just went to a psychologist.

Many symptoms of ADHD mirror other conditions, but a cat scan of the child’s brain can dictate if the child has ADHD because these children’s brain are wired differently and a cat scan will demonstrate this.

You also receive much more support and the hospital might even put you in touch with parent groups or support groups to help you and your child cope.

A teacher’s assessment is not good enough because many teachers label kids as having ADHD that just might be restless because they are actually gifted and bored.

This is why testing is important so that you can start the healing process.

Child development is the most critical in the first five years of life so it is essential to seek professional help with a learning assessment as soon as you notice a difference. This can help all children development in the long haul.

By subway11 — On Dec 06, 2010

Anon130863-A development learning assessment may be offered if the child is falling behind in school or is just not focusing enough on the material.

Poor time management and in ability to complete the class work in the allotted time is also another red flag that needs additional attention.

A toddler development assessment focuses on the cognitive abilities of the child and focuses on the potential of a possible learning disability.

The psychologist will ask the child to perform a series of tasks and measure the actual results to the results of children of the same chronological age. If there are deficiencies the parents are alerted that a potential learning disability exists.

By anon130863 — On Nov 30, 2010

Thank you very much for this article, it is concise and precise. I am currently researching my son's behavioural differences to my other children as it is highly stressful and i am basically struggling. This article has reassured my understanding of why i have to get him assessed for all of our sake. Thank you.

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