"I'm Concerned About a Child's Development"

What Should I do?

Concerns about children will come up naturally, so it's important to have a plan in place for how to proceed.

1. Start by documenting the behaviors you’re finding concerning using really objective observations. Objective means you would write something like:

Teacher A said ,"It’s time to clean up!" Child walked away from the play area, abruptly laid down on the ground, rolled around several times while yelling, "No!" When I approached he began crying and yelled “I don’t want to clean up!"

This would be instead of saying something like, "At cleanup time, child is always having meltdowns," which is really non-descriptive and lends itself to a lot of assumptions on the part of whomever is reading the notes.

It’s a good idea to note the date and time of each observation, as it may help you identify patterns. For example, if you notice challenges around a particular transition time, you could provide extra support to the child at those particular times and see if it helps.

2. After you've spent time documenting you can start to think about communicating with the parents. You want to start with documentation as it will help you organize your thoughts and share concrete examples of what you're seeing. Think about the goal of your conversation: is it information sharing? to build collaboration or support? or simply to get the conversation started? Your goal can help inform the path of the conversation so it’s good to think about prior to speaking with the parent.

When communicating with parents it is critical that you avoid giving a diagnosis. We are not trained diagnosticians and telling a parent their child “has” or “is” ABC or XYZ will unnecessarily freak them out. Your careful observations can be very helpful to a trained medical or behavioral specialist, but it’s not up to us to make the call on what may or may not be going on.

Here is a script you can follow when starting the conversation with parents:

"Hi! I'd love to find time to check in about how things are going! Your child is doing really well in (XYZ areas) and I've been noticing an area of challenge that I want to discuss.

Describe the behavior or issue you're seeing using your objective notes and describe how it differs from what you would expect to see.

Do you experience anything similar at home? Is there anything in particular you do at home to help support the issue, challenge, or behavior? Does anything work really well or not well? I'd love to find ways to create consistency between school and home."

Remember to try to be super positive, partnership-oriented, and supportive (and always good to think about how you would want a teacher to approach something similar with you, if it was something they saw happening with your child).

3. Before or after speaking with the parents you might choose to administer the Ages & Stages Questionnaire. The ASQ will provide a solid foundation either to begin or continue this conversation. Use your judgment about when it's right to use the tool.

In short:

  1. Documentation and objective observation
  2. Conversation
  3. ASQ (if desired)