What’s the purpose of an early intervention evaluation? First, it can tell you if your child is eligible for early intervention services. If he is, the evaluation will provide information to make those services as helpful as possible.
Each state handles things slightly differently. But in all states, this evaluation is called an “initial assessment” or “eligibility assessment.” Here’s an overview of the main things to expect before, during and after an early intervention evaluation.
Who Evaluates Your Child?
Two or more professionals evaluate your child. This is called a multidisciplinary evaluation. One person looks at your child’s overall development. The other evaluators take a close look at the area or areas where your child needs extra help. For example, if your toddler isn’t talking, a speech and language therapist may be involved.
The people who evaluate your child:
- Have different areas of training and experience
- Know about children’s important areas of development, such as language, social skills, hearing or vision
- Have experience working with very young children
- Can tell whether a child is developing at a typical rate
- May work together or separately to evaluate your child
Once connected with an early intervention program, you’re assigned a service coordinator. Ideally, the service coordinator is part of your child’s initial assessment team. In some cases, the coordinator is also a service provider who can address your child’s greatest need.
The service coordinator can help you select and schedule other service providers based on your concerns. For example, if your child was late learning to walk, a physical therapist may be an appropriate evaluator.
Before the Evaluation
You must provide your written consent before the free evaluation takes place. As you prepare for the evaluation, ask yourself questions like these:
- Should the evaluation be at home or somewhere else?
- What time of day would work best for my child?
- Is there anyone else who knows my child well? Should a relative or caregiver, for example, be present for the evaluation?
- Which daily routines concern me most? For example, does my child have trouble with feeding or dressing? Should the evaluator be present for activities like these?
What to Expect During an Evaluation
The team members who evaluate your child will:
- Talk to you, asking you about your concerns and what your child is and isn’t able to do
- Observe your child playing or interacting with family members
- Play and talk to your child and ask him to do certain things
- Use standardized tests or other methods to learn about your child’s skills
Parents can play an active role during an evaluation. For example, you might:
- Observe and tell the team whether your child’s behavior is typical
- Hold or sit near your child, comforting him as needed
- Help with activities that can show your child’s abilities
- Ask questions
Evaluation Results and Next Steps
You will meet with a team of professionals to review the results of the evaluation. The results help determine your child’s eligibility for early intervention services. Be sure to ask questions, and be honest if you disagree with any of the findings.
Don’t forget to keep your child’s pediatrician in the loop. Have the service coordinator send a copy of the results to this doctor. Discuss early intervention services that might work best for your child.
An initial screening can determine if your child is eligible for early intervention. Depending on which state you live in, you and your family might undergo further assessments to find out which early intervention services may help the most. Not all family members are required to participate. And you must give your approval for any and all evaluations.
You’re a critical part of the team working toward what’s best for your child. The evaluation is the first step in finding out if your child needs early intervention and, if so, which services may serve him best.