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Functional AND (not or) Traditional Assessment

As the idea of conducting functional assessment takes root here in Virginia, there have been some worries about what it means. Does it mean that we won’t do our more traditional assessment anymore? How will we determine a child’s age-equivalency? How will we get all of the information we need? Who will do the functional assessment? When will we do it? How will we find the time to do both???

Some level of anxiety is very normal as a new process is introduced and we strive to figure out how it fits into what we already do. An important thing to remember is that functional assessment actually fits beautifully with the principles and best practices of early intervention. Think about it this way…we’ve always known that viewing a child’s development from a functional point of view is best practice. We’ve always known that traditional assessment provides us with just a snapshot of what a child can and cannot do. We’ve also always known that the results of a traditional assessment, while they may help us confirm eligibility, don’t otherwise mean much unless they are translated into what they mean for a child’s interactions and participation in activities that are relevant to everyday life. These are things we can agree on. The difference now is, our state (and many others) is looking to ensure that we always have a functional perspective and use it with each child to ensure that early intervention truly is individualized and appropriate.

Just this morning, I read a great article entitled “Authentic Assessment – What’s It All About?” Sometimes the terms “authentic” is used to describe the type of assessment we are working towards – authentic meaning that we consider development in the context of the child’s experiences in naturally occurring activities and routines. The authors of this article made a powerful point – that we don’t have to use one type of assessment over another, that we don’t have to worry that this is an either/or discussion. Instead, they suggest that this can be a both/and decision. There is a place for traditional assessment, especially in the early intervention context. Learning about a child’s development, as it compares to other children, is useful in helping us confirm eligibility (like when it can’t be determined from medical records). It helps us figure out why an infant or toddler is struggling when we find gaps in skills or atypical developmental patterns. We can then use that information to focus on how these differences impact the child’s everyday experiences and interactions – the functional assessment piece. Knowing about the child’s developmental status in combination with an understanding of how the child participates in daily routines like bath time, meals, playtime with others, and going out in the community will lead to better IFSP outcomes, more individualized EI services, and hopefully intervention that improves child and family quality of life. That’s what EI is really all about. Yes, we still have to figure out the answers to some of the above questions, and I’ll be exploring them in future blog posts, but the good news is that we are going to do that together.

How do you feel about combining traditional and functional assessment? What do you think it’ll look like in your system?

What questions do you have about implementing functional assessment? 

If you are already using it (and many of you are), share what it looks like and how you’ve woven it in to your assessment and intervention processes.

Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below!

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Check out a few other great resources from the ECTA Center and DEC to learn more:

Authentic Child Assessment (practice guidelines)

Authentic Child Assessment Practices Checklist

 

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2 Comments to “Functional AND (not or) Traditional Assessment”

  1. Well said, Dana. I like the “both/and” comment. And…the linked article is worth a quick read.

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