Here’s the question: Whoever, in a million years, thought we’d be doing developmental assessments using video conferencing??

Really, when you think about that, it’s equally unnerving and amazing. Unnerving because it can seem like a completely new way of gathering information about a child’s development without even being physically present with the child. Amazing because you are doing it, and from what I hear, doing it well.

Worries and Successes

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been hearing more and more about tele-assessment, with practitioners sharing common worries like: How will I collect the information I need to score my tool? How will we get the toddler to stay where we can see him? What if the technology doesn’t work? These are very real worries, but the great news is that there are programs out there who are figuring this out. After the initial stress response that came with the shift to tele-intervention due to the pandemic, EI practitioners are settling in and finding answers to these questions. I’ve also begun to hear some amazing successes, such as families who are realizing that they can do this, they know their children so well, and they are valued, essential team members who can facilitate activities while the other team members (aka you) observe and share support.

New Resource Alert! – EI Tele-Assessment Video Chats

To get those successful strategies for tele-assessment out there, I recently hosted two video chats with practitioners and leaders from around Virginia. Each chat is between 35-40 min long and includes five different practitioners discussing how to prepare families and other team members, what tele-assessment looks like, and advice for others who are on tele-assessment teams. Block some time in your schedule to sit back and listen. I’m pretty sure you’ll learn something and hopefully feel like you are not alone in your tele-assessment learning process.

A special thank you to the EI practitioners who participated in this chat: Lauren Bernhard, Speech-Language Pathologist and Jen Saddington, Physical Therapist (Infant & Toddler Connection of Fairfax-Falls Church), Sandi Harrington, Local System Manager and Educator (ITC of of Norfolk), Ginny Heuple, Local System Manager and Physical Therapist (ITC of Greater Prince William), and Maria Grady, Physical Therapist and Service Coordinator (ITC of Loudon).

Another huge thank you to the following EI practitioners who participated in this chat: Brandie Kendrick, Service Coordinator, Human Development Professional, and Intake Coordinator (Infant & Toddler Connection of Danville-Pittsylvania), Kathy Phillips, Local System Manager and Developmental Service Provider and Erica Price, Speech-Language Pathologist (ITC of Middle Peninsula-Northern Neck), Stacie Jackson, Local System Manager and Service Coordinator and Kim Sprangel, Service Coordinator and Developmental Service Provider (ITC of Staunton-Waynesboro).


Strategies for Tele-Assessment

Just to get you started, here are a few strategies mentioned in the video chats:

Be sure to do a quick tech check and planning session before the actual tele-assessment – Meet with the family for 10-15 minutes a few days before the tele-assessment to test your technology, help the family connect, and plan together about where to position the device for the best view. Explain what to expect and talk with the family about any routines they might like the assessment team members to observe.

Let go of your stress about the test and toys – This is such an important tip. Acknowledge the fact that you will not have your assessment kit with you and you will not be able to observe every item on the test – and that is okay. Right now, you will use your coaching skills to help the parent facilitate activities that help you see what you need to see. Yes, you do still need to gather information to summarize the child’s developmental strengths and needs, but look at this situation as an opportunity to grow your assessment skills. Sure, you might provide the family with some ideas of items to have handy if possible (please don’t ask for 1-inch blocks!), but be ready to be flexible and…(see next tip)

Use your knowledge of development and informed clinical opinion to help you observe the child’s abilities during natural activities – Think creatively and consider how you can observe the same concepts and abilities in natural activities. Don’t have the tiny pegs and the bottle? That’s okay – ask to see the child pick up cheerios and drop them in a small cup or toilet paper tube. Be sure to watch the video chats for some great discussion about this!

Look through a functional lens – This is a perfect opportunity to practice translating assessment items into their functional equivalents. Pay attention and observe the child, even in the background while you chat with the parent. Ask about what goes well and what’s challenging. How children interact with others in their environment is as important as any item on the ELAP. Now’s the time when you will really be able to appreciate that so be open and get your functional lens ready.

Do the best you can – In most cases, you will be able to learn enough about the child and family to plan for the IFSP. Do your best, follow-up if you need additional information, and lean on your colleagues for ideas and support. You’ve got this!

Ready to keep learning? Watch the video chats for more strategies from your colleagues!

What’s one of your best tips for conducting tele-assessment?

Have an example of a tele-assessment that went well? Share it in the comments below!


For information, videos, webinars, and online training related to tele-intervention, visit these sites:

COVID-19 and EI Tele-Intervention Updates – VA EI Professional Development Center

Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) – ECTA Center

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