Rosemary, speech therapist, has been seeing Caleb for five months and it is time for his annual IFSP next month. She is worried she does not have enough information to provide developmental age ranges for the annual IFSP. According to the practice manual (Chapter 6, page 2), ongoing assessment is defined as:
“Assessment that occurs as a routine part of service delivery based on observation of the child’s functioning and skills across all developmental domains and indicator areas. The purpose of ongoing assessment is to give the provider and the IFSP team, including the family, information on the child’s progress on the IFSP outcomes and short-term goals being addressed by the current activities and to assist in identify any emerging concerns in other areas of development. No assessment tool is required; but, when needed, the service provider may use an assessment tool as a reference point, especially for areas of development outside his/her area of expertise.”
Rosemary reflects back on past visits and reads her progress notes. She pulls out the initial protocol (or assessment form) used for Caleb and updates it accordingly. Rosemary begins to feel more confident as she realizes she has seen Caleb performing during a variety of activities and routines including the park, car, grocery store, meals, and playtime with his brother and family. Rosemary realizes she has more than enough information to update Caleb’s progress in the three child outcome areas. She also uses the protocol as an anchor tool to provide developmental ranges as part of ongoing assessment.
A Deeper Look at the Definition of Ongoing Assessment
When you read the state’s definition, what key words related to the process of ongoing assessment do you notice?
Observation, functioning, progress, and emerging concerns are key words to ongoing assessment. Ongoing assessment is the continuous observation process you use to monitor a child’s progress, notice any emerging concerns, and discuss them with your team as needed. When we look at the whole child’s development across time, we are ensuring we are monitoring progress and routinely individualizing services throughout the process.
Three Strategies to Improve Ongoing Assessment Practices
Ongoing assessment is something you are probably already doing during each visit with the family. Here are some simple tips to feel confident before your next annual IFSP review.
- Document ongoing assessment in your contact notes. Contact notes should clearly reflect a child’s progress since ongoing assessment is a part of the contact note requirements (page 9) (PDF, New Window). Sometimes, there will not be as much progress week to week, but it is still important to document what the family and child did (current progress), so that progress will be clearer when something happens in the future. Ongoing assessment helps you identify progress towards IFSP outcomes/short-term goals and also any new functional skills in the three child outcome areas. Updates about progress in the three outcome areas are fundamental information that should be documented in your contact note.
- Read your records before your next visit. We can easily get in the routine of just going from visit to visit. A simple glance over your last contact note may help guide you during your discussions with families. Check in with the family and compare what you learn to your protocols. Some service providers regularly update their protocols throughout the time they see a child. This helps providers think about the whole child versus just their specialized area. You might also want to review the IFSP narrative and note differences in the child’s skills since the IFSP was developed. What has changed? What other activities or routines do you want to observe?
- Visit the family within different routines and activities including going out in the community. This will help you observe skills in a variety of settings. Observing the child in a variety of settings will help you ensure the information you gather during ongoing assessment is not only accurate, but also identifies learning opportunities throughout the child’s early intervention experience.
In the scenario above, Rosemary was able to see other ways Caleb was functioning. She walked with the family to the car to see what strategies Caleb’s mom was already using to help Caleb communicate. She observed them talking about the weather when they walked outside and using words like “up” when he was climbing into the car. However, there was so much more going on than just using words. Caleb walked down the steps holding his mom’s hand and transitioned from the grass to the sidewalk when she told him to “stop” and “come here” as he tried to run to the tree in the middle of the yard. There was a neighbor outside and Caleb waved after seeing his mom wave at the neighbor. Once he was in his seat, he wanted to try to buckle himself which was a puzzle all on its own. Caleb was determined and able to use his fingers to push the buckle down. He was focused and proud of himself once he did this on his own.
Rosemary realizes ongoing assessment occurs naturally. She has integrated this as a standard practice by documenting ongoing assessment in her contact notes, reviewing records before her visit, and seeing families within different routines and activities. She has all of the information she needs about Caleb’s communication and other areas of development and is ready to update the IFSP.
What practices do you find helpful during ongoing assessment?
Please share any tips you may have in your local program.
For more information, please check out: