|Food and Nutrition Bulletin Volume 20, Number 1, 1999 (UNU, 1999, 181 pages)|
|Assessing intellectual and affective development before age three: a perspective on changing practices|
Assessments of very young children serve a variety of purposes. They can:
» determine eligibility for publicly supported services such as special education services;
» inform families about the range of their children's development, assisting them in determining where a child falls within that range, and helping them understand the uneven progress that children may make;
» help craft individualized family service plans that take into account both family and child factors as well as the greater ecology in which this family resides;
» evaluate the effectiveness of interventions;
» be used as documentation during assessment and intervention to help a family to appreciate their child's progress and plan future interventions.
In the past, assessments were used primarily to sort and categorize children for the purposes of determining eligibility and appropriate services. Given our knowledge about the impact of multiple factors on early development and the lack of predictive validity of early measures, a simplistic sort and sift approach is not greatly compelling. Other purposes for assessment are possible. Multisource, multidimensional assessment contributes to our ability to determine risk and identify possible interventions and potential sources of resiliency. It identifies children who are currently delayed in meeting developmental expectations and those who may benefit from additional intervention.
Fundamentally, assessment is justified by its ability to guide intervention. In order for assessments to provide a firm basis for interventions with young children, it is essential that information about children's strengths, and family beliefs and goals, be included in the information gathering that constitutes the assessment process. As progress is documented in the course of intervention, family members will be able to recognize their children's growth and will be able to appreciate the changes in their relationship with their children. In short, the conditions for more adequate assessment are central to helping us achieve our goal of helping all children achieve their potential.