Involving Family & Other Professionals in Child Assessments

Instructor: Della McGuire

Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.

In this lesson, we will look at the kinds of professionals who might be involved in child assessments and how to encourage the family to participate in the ongoing assessment of their children.

Child Assessments

Children are constantly being assessed. Adults from a variety of professions measure their height and weight, temperature and heart rate, reading and math scores, fitness level and cognitive development, and we even try to measure their temperament and personality. Even children's families make assessments on their growth and progress. The data we gather from the multitude of assessments can provide information about child development, and we can make generalizations about where most children are developmentally at any given age. It helps to avoid thinking about children as a generalizable sample size from which we can draw reasonable assumptions about childhood to develop and maintain a large data set. Children are not just research subjects of course, but involving families along with this (often intimidating) panel of experts assessing their children can reassure them that their child is not just a tool for assessment.

Involving Family

Family involvement is a critical best practice in childhood education, and so it stands to reason that involving them in the assessment process is necessary. Consider these strategies for including the family by highlighting the importance of their role. Explaining this role to the family can encourage their participation, and it helps to make them feel invited into the assessment process.

The family should be considered a consumer of services with access to the content of the assessment and the results. They are the primary informant about the child, providing necessary information about the child to the assessment professionals. The family is a key team member within these assessment partnerships and should be regarded as such. They are the child's chief advocate, working to ensure their needs are met.

Involving Other Professionals

The most common assessments are administered by the children's teachers in classroom test and standardized tests that measure their learning. These teachers represent the front line of opportunity to notice if something is not quite right with a child. Teachers have access to ongoing opportunities for observation and the ability to notice issues that may warrant a referral to other professionals in varying areas of expertise for further assessment. Let's take a look at some of the professionals that may be involved in a child assessment process beyond the teacher.

Mental Health

Mental health professionals may include the guidance counselor at the school, a community agency offering mental health services, a hospital or a private counselor who can provide mental health assessments for children. The school may have a list of local mental health care providers for making referrals.

Teachers may notice indications that a student should be referred to a mental health professional if they observe a notable change in behavior or personality, engagement in risky behavior, if the student seems despondent or uncharacteristically lacks participation, changes in eating habits and social interactions. These indicators may be unrelated to a mental health issue, but that is a decision best left to those professionals. Teachers could begin with a referral to the school's guidance counselor, and they can refer the child to professionals outside the school as needed.

Medical Professionals

Medical professionals may include the school nurse, the child's pediatrician, local clinics, the health department, a specialist, or a hospital. Of course, students have access to the school nurse for conducting some assessments, but each child will be most likely be assessed by other medical professionals according to their health insurance.

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