A developmental evaluation is a type of psychological assessment conducted with toddlers and young children, usually aged 2 to 7.

They assess broad domains of functioning, providing information about a child’s cognitive, language, social, emotional, behavioral, motor, adaptive, and emerging academic abilities.

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What are developmental assessments used for?

Developmental evaluations are used to document developmental delays and diagnoses in order to provide treatment or academic recommendations. Developmental screening and developmental evaluations are crucial for implementing early childhood interventions for optimal child development.

Parents/guardians usually seek developmental screening and evaluations when their child:

  • is developing more slowly than his or her age-typical peers
  • has a suspected autism spectrum disorder diagnosis
  • struggles with language and communication
  • exhibits socialization issues
  • exhibits behavioral problems
  • shows signs of emerging cognitive, executive functioning, or learning difficulties

Results from developmental evaluations provide information regarding a child’s progress in attaining developmental milestones. They show the psychological processes that underly a child’s strengths and challenges, allowing targeted recommendations for early intervention, as needed.

Developmental assessments may yield diagnoses, for instance autism spectrum disorder or global developmental delay, and they can flag areas of concern. These evaluations serve as an important baseline for ongoing monitoring of a child’s psychological functioning.

What is the process like for developmental assessments?

Developmental evaluations begin with a thorough intake interview with the child’s parents, during which I take a complete pregnancy, birth, medical, social, academic, and psychological history. I then obtain collateral information from doctors, teachers, therapists, and/or other caretakers. This often takes the form of interviews and/or questionnaires.

The developmental testing itself consists of multiple sessions of approximately 1–2 hours each, as the child can manage.

I conduct these evaluations in person in my office on South Washington Street in Old Town, Alexandria, VA. (Virtual testing is not an option for developmental evaluations).

For the cognitive portion of the assessment, batteries include the WPPSI-IV, NEPSY-II, which consist of puzzle and game-like activities that measure verbal skills, perceptual skills, reasoning and problem solving, memory, visual-motor integration, and speed of information processing. If indicated, I further assess language development with the CELF-5.

Early academic achievement is measured, if applicable and appropriate, with the WIAT-4 and CTOPP-4. If auditory processing issues are suspected, that is examined with the SCAN-3. To evaluate social and emotional functioning, I use gold-standard observational and interactive evaluation methods, which are engaging and even fun for children. These may include the ADOS-II and the MIGDAS.

What is included in the report?

A child’s performance is scored and compared to a large sample of other children at the same age. These scores provide a snapshot of where the child stands compared to his or her peers in terms of developing abilities.

I summarize these comparisons, incorporating the input from parents and other informants, as well as my own behavioral observations. I present these results in a written developmental assessment report, which I present in a feedback session with parents.

The report describes strengths and weaknesses, any diagnoses that may be present, and areas for intervention and/or follow-up. I provide recommendations for homelife, childcare, school, socializing, and any additional early intervention services (e.g. occupational therapy). If warranted, I may follow up with teachers or therapists to update them and make sure everyone is on the same page.

Do I need a referral?

No referrals are required for developmental evaluations. Most often, parents seek out developmental testing following a recommendation from their doctors or teacher, but individuals can also self-refer if they are concerned about their child’s development.

Is developmental testing covered by insurance?

Insurance companies often reimburse for part or most of developmental evaluations. However, clients should always check their benefits ahead of time. If preauthorization is requested, I can provide this.