Screening: What, Why, How? [Assessment e-Book]

Do you ever worry about a child who may have delayed development in one or more areas of skills?

Maybe you’re concerned about a preschooler with very few clearly pronounced words, who is often left out of play by peers. Or a baby who is not yet walking at 16 months. Maybe you have a child who is frequently inconsolable, with angry outbursts.

Something just doesn’t seem right, but you are not sure what to do. Here are a few tools, supports, suggestions and resources that can help:

Quick Reference Guide to the Developmental Continuum of Skills

First, try using this guide to assess your child and establish learning benchmarks. The guide is a comprehensive 23-page Preschool Skills Assessment E-Book developed by the Mother Goose Time Curriculum Team to help ease the confusion of assessment. It is based on biobehavioral shifts and offers measurable benchmarks that can be observed during a child’s natural play or typical ContinuumBooklet.jpgschool routine. The skills and learning goals in this book are grouped into eight domains:

  1. Social and Emotional Development
  2. Physical Development
  3. Language and Literacy
  4. Mathematics and Reasoning
  5. Social Studies
  6. Science
  7. Creative Development
  8. Second Language Acquisition

What’s the Scoop on Screening?


Another helpful resource to track development is a screening. This is simply a way to see if a child is “on track” towards a bright future.  It is shorter than an assessment or an evaluation, and it does not provide a diagnosis or a special education label.  It is a tool to raise a question and to see if further evaluation is necessary.  The areas of concern can include any and all areas of development.

How Can a Parent Set Up a Screening?

DSC_0058_edited-1.jpgA good starting place is at the pediatrician. Pediatricians provide a clinical screening at well-child visits.  It is often helpful for a parent to take a Developmental Milestones Checklist with them with notes to share and questions to ask.

You can request a referral from your pediatrician to the local “Early On” program for birth to 3-year-olds, or to the school system’s Preschool Screening Program. These are also easily accessed without a pediatrician referral.

A screening goes like this: The parent will receive, for example, 10 Top Play Ideas to Support Growth. Follow-up at a later time ensures that parents feel at ease and the progress is smooth sailing.

Types of Additional Support 

If the child is under age 3, these services may be provided in the home or daycare setting:

  • a speech therapist to the classroom
  • sharing strategies with the teacher
  • ideas for play-based activities to improve developmental skills
  • a physical therapist to provide play ideas to a classroom routine to improve balance.

Why are Supports and Assessments Important?


Why worry about this before kindergarten?  Isn’t there plenty of time to get supports in place?  This is where the physiology of brain development comes into play.  Simply stated, earlier is better.  The experts on Brain Architecture at Harvard Center on the Developing Child describe the unique period of sensitivity to environment and experiences in the birth to age five period of development, when neural connections are being formed at a high rate: “When supports are provided as early as possible, they help build a sturdier foundation for the later achievement of higher-level skills.”

“The Timing and Quality of Early Experiences Combine to Shape Brain Architecture.”  Working Paper #5, National Scientific Council on the Developing Child.

Many children who receive services as an infant, toddler or preschooler do not need long-term support. Services are only provided as long as testing indicates the need.

What About “Child Find”?


Child Find is a law that requires states to create a system to “find” children from birth to 6 years of age (and up to 18) who may be eligible for services.  Each state has the coordination of different agencies to make this happen.

Screening appointments can be made by calling or e-mailing the local school system and asking for their Child Find coordinators for the age of the child in question.  Why not call your school system and find out the contact information so that you will have it when you need it?

Parents are respected as the ones who know their child best. The process is supportive and parents are encouraged to guide the process. Visits are often offered at home where a child is most comfortable. Parents can gather information and then decide what makes the best sense for their family. This is a free service with language interpreters if needed.

Remember, as a teacher or childcare provider, you never have to provide an opinion on what you think the problem is, just raise the question. Leave that to the specialists with the tools and knowledge base to guide the process. This way you can focus on supporting the child and family in a way that only you can do.  Hanging a poster with a local contact number can be an easy way for parents to know that you are a resource for concerns and that you will handle their concerns gently and professionally.

Did you find this helpful? Let us know! Contact the Mother Goose Time Preschool Curriculum Team at (800) 523-6933 or with any questions at any time.


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