Early Intervention Strategies for Success

Sharing What Works in Supporting Infants & Toddlers and the Families in Early Intervention

Early Intervention Strategies for Success, Tips, Insight and Support for EI Practitioners


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  • You’re at an Assessment and the Child is Hiding…What Do You Do?(current)

You’re sitting on the living room floor ready to start the assessment and the child is no where to be seen. His mother says that he always hides from strangers and is probably behind the couch. One peak back there and yup, there he is. As soon as he sees you he turns away. How are you going to assess his development from behind the couch?? What do you do?

A few ideas:Toddler Peeking Around Corner

Take time to warm-up – Try to warm him up before jumping into the assessment. You will probably learn things about his development before you even get out the shape puzzle or the blocks!

Play where he is – Let him stay where he is and try to engage him there. Play peek-a-boo, roll him a ball or car, or play with one of his favorite toys.  Be silly and fun to show him that it might be okay to play with you.

Give him space – Give him his space for a while and just talk with his mom. He is probably feeling stress over the situation so take the attention and pressure off of him and maybe he’ll come out from hiding on his own.

Play with his sibling – Play with his brother or sister if he has one and make it fun. He might want to join in!

Only one person at a time – Only have one person try to engage the child if you have several professional team members with you. Other team members can pass you testing items if the time comes when he is ready to engage with you. They may need to move where they can see what he’s doing but they should keep their distance.

Coach his mother in the assessment activities – If he and his mother are willing, have her present the test items to him. Coach her in what to do. With time he still might warm up to the rest of the team, but do what you can to help him feel safe and secure.

Consider alternatives – If he keeps hiding, ask yourself and your team, including the child’s mother: Are there too many people in the room? Is there somewhere else he might be more comfortable like outside or in his bedroom (because you could move the assessment there)? Is there a better time of day for him? Should you reschedule for another day?

What other ideas do you have for this situation? Share your ideas by leaving a comment below!

6 comments on “You’re at an Assessment and the Child is Hiding…What Do You Do?

  • Lauren Simmons says:

    I have done an entire visit (not an assessment) with a child (actually multiple visits, same child) with a child who hid. Same child also used to like me to sit in a different part of the house. I learned to just go with it and talk about what this child was doing and also talk about what I was doing. Eventually, said child would come around. It took a LONG time but patience was the key. I had to remind myself we were doing something….and we were–it just wasn’t how I “thought” it should go.

    • I agree, Lauren, that patience is the key. I would add flexibility too – like you said, you were doing something but maybe it was not what a “typical” visit looks like. Moving at the child’s pace and being creative are must-have skills for an early interventionist, especially when working in a situation like this. Sounds like you have them both!

  • Kathleen Davis says:

    My team member and I had just this circumstance at a recent eval, only the child hid under the couch cushions! All of the above strategies were used, with some success with each!
    Nice to know that we’re on the right track when such situations occur.
    Thanks for the topic!

  • Mary Ellen Plitt says:

    Great ideas! Taking this onto another perspective, I have to think about what it must be like for that child. If, for instance, what if my husband comes in with 2-4 strangers – only one who he may be familiar with (I can tell!). They lead me to the yard to do some yard work, and bring along a shovel and a hedge clipper, in case mine isn’t up to par. Now, I like yard work, but not keen on people I don’t know watching me and talking about me (“Does she always put her foot on the shovel like that, or can she get her back into it?”). I, myself, need to think about how it might feel before I start fishing that little one out of the play house.

    • This is SUCH a great point, Mary Ellen! As friendly and kind as early interventionists try to be, we are still strangers. There is a best practice idea that a child should never be evaluated by a stranger but it’s almost impossible to do that on the initial evaluation. One time I was doing an eval with a team and the father came home unexpectedly. He opened the front door, looked in at the 3 strangers sitting on his living room floor, looked at his wife with big eyes and a puzzled expression, then closed the door and drove away. I think we freaked him out! Hopefully we didn’t make too many children feel that way! 🙂


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