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Children's Medical Services - Special services for children with special needs
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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 3, Lesson 3

Roles of Family Members in the Assessment

The family member may assume the role of interpreter of the child's behavior to professionals. This is a unique and important role that family members and caregivers can provide as a member of a collaborative team during the assessment process (McLean and Crais 2004). For example:

  • The family member(s) may translate the communicative attempt of a child who the professionals can not understand.
  • The family may be a participant in the process particularly in the more informal process.
  • The family or caregiver may be able to elicit a response or interact with the child.
  • The family member may be asked to elicit a social routine such as peek-a-boo.

Members of families might also serve as validators of the assessment activities (McLean & Crais). They can serve as coaches to professionals to elicit a response. They can validate the accuracy of the assessment plans, the implementation and the results.

Baby in tubFamilies may choose just to be on-lookers in the planning and implementation of the evaluation and assessment activities. They may not have a complete understanding of the process and not feel comfortable in saying or doing anything.

Families need to be offered a variety of roles in the assessment process in terms of those in which they feel comfortable. Not all family members will want to be involved as a participant in the assessment process.

Early Intervention professionals often see the child as the primary target of their services. However the family support component should not be viewed as secondary and family needs determined after the child's needs are focused on. Family assessment activities should be on-going from the First Contact through the child assessment process. It is in the context of the evaluation and assessment activities that the most important family assessment information is acquired (Bailey, 2004)

According to Bailey there are many areas in which families and professionals might disagree. Families are less interested in the causes of the disability than the meaning for the child and their family. Families and professionals may disagree on the value and usefulness of a certain therapy or service. Another area of disagreement is on the actual needs of the family and/or child. Professionals must, for the most part, accept the family's view as the legitimate assessment at a particular point in time.

Family Participation in Arena Assessment

The arena approach to assessment, also advocated by Early Steps, utilizes the transdisciplinary model in that all members of the team are involved with the child in evaluation and assessment activities simultaneously. The members of the transdisciplinary team watch and record their observations while a designated facilitator interacts in multiple situations. Play evaluations, communication tasks, informal play opportunities, cognitive skills and motor tasks can all be presented utilizing this format. Arena assessment should occur in natural environments whenever possible. Of course some homes may not be able to accommodate all of the members of the team and other circumstances may exist where an assessment at home is not feasible. Some programs may use a playroom in a child care center or clinic as an alternative to the home.

The team model reduces the time in which the child and family are involved in the assessment process and should result in a more unified outcome especially for the family. Family members provide the information once rather than having to answer the same questions multiple times. Professionals can access the information immediately and everyone is aware of the context of the child's behavior. Family members are in a position as participants to explain a child's performance and provide insight if the performance is typical of what they see everyday. There exists a common sampling of behavior available to all members of the team. One member of the team serves as the primary facilitator. Sometimes another member of the team may serve as a coach for the facilitator to remind the facilitator of the assessment plan or items that may be overlooked by the facilitator during the process.

The arena assessment process should include a preassessment planning meeting at which time the intake (First Contacts) information is discussed. The team members can determine the testing tools which might be utilized and the types of skills which should be assessed. For example the speech/language pathologist may want to obtain a natural language sample and suggest that the team might want the child to tell about a favorite picture book. The team would also be reminded of the family's priorities and concerns.

In the sharing of assessment results family members may be asked to participate by preparing in advance for the sharing session. The family member may be asked to consider, "What were your overall impressions during the assessment today? What did you think that your child did well? What skills did you notice that your child needed help with? What seemed difficult? Did you notice anything that did not seem to be typical of your child?"

 

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