Issues and Challenges in Early Childhood Assessment
At the outset of this discussion, it must be acknowledged that the current state of early childhood assessment, screening, and intervention for learning disabilities is highly advanced, particularly in comparison to the relative lack of understanding that existed only a few decades ago. As such, the critical interrogation of current assessment practices that will be conducted throughout the discussion should not be construed as a fundamental challenge to the entire concept of early childhood assessment. Instead, this critical discussion should be viewed as a constructive process that seeks to identify possible shortcomings and deficiencies in the current model as a means of refining future approaches to learning disability diagnostics among infants, toddlers, and young children.
As alluded to previously, the current understanding of the various forms of early childhood learning disability is already extensive. As such, the most crucial aspect of recent learning disability research has been the development of accurate and reliable screening and assessment tools that can be used to indicate those infants, toddlers, and young children who are at greatest risk of developing LD-related problems or who demonstrate signs of a possible learning disability. Decades of quantitative studies have demonstrated that the earlier in childhood such a diagnosis is made, the better the prognosis for high functionality in later life.
However, there are many inherent challenges that prevent accurate assessment of early childhood learning disabilities from taking place. First and foremost, the extremely limited cognitive and motor skill sets of most infants and toddlers render traditional assessment approaches largely useless. As a result, prevalent testing methods employ a wide array of alternative techniques in order to assess various aspects of learning disability. Despite the ingenuity that these alternative methods demonstrate, the reliability and validity of administering such instruments among very young populations are constantly being challenged.