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Assessing Preschoolers

A preschool child may be assessed for many specific reasons, including eligibility for special programs for developmentally disabled children, kindergarten screening, placement in educationally competitive environments, and evaluation of a community program.

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A preschool child may be assessed for many specific reasons, including eligibility for special programs for developmentally disabled children, kindergarten screening, placement in educationally competitive environments, and evaluation of a community program. The purposes of preschool assessment may be grouped into several general areas that include screening, diagnosis, and evaluation of the child's progress. These major goals or purposes should be viewed as a continuous process culminating with individualized programming or intervention and ongoing monitoring of the child's progress in the intervention program. The issues of developmental change, emerging skills, behavioral fluctuation, situational variables, and experiential background all strongly influence the psychometric integrity of procedures used at the preschool level. Because of these influences, lower estimates of stability across settings and test intervals are more likely to be obtained among preschool populations. These stability data should be viewed as reflections of the rapid developmental change that is characteristic of this population and underscore the necessity of expanding the scope and time frame of assessments to measure these changes. Multimethod-multisource assessments should, therefore, be designed and conducted periodically.

Screening assessments involve the evaluation of large groups of children with brief, low-cost procedures to identify those children who may need further diagnostic assessment to qualify for special programs or early intervention services from those who do not require follow-up. Because screening activities are designed not to provide an extensive or in-depth evaluation, a primary concern involves the accuracy of decisions based on screening test information. Specifically, these include identifying a child "at risk" when no significant problem exists (false positive) or failing to identify a child with a problem (false negative). The validity of screening devices is usually described in terms of the ratios of sensitivity and specificity. Diagnostic assessment usually involves the follow-up evaluation of children ...

Solution Summary

Screening assessments for preschoolers involve the evaluation of large groups of children with brief, low-cost procedures to identify those children who may need further diagnostic assessment to qualify for special programs or early intervention services from those who do not require follow-up.

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