Developmental History in Special Education Assessment

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A developmental and social history is an important part of an assessment for the diagnosis of learning disabilities. So, what is it, exactly? In a nutshell, it is the collection of background information on a student. Familiarize yourself with this form of data collection with this review.

How Is a Developmental and Social History Collected?

A developmental and social history is usually collected by interview or questionnaire. Typically, a school counselor, teacher, or psychologist will meet with a child's parent or guardian to gather the information.

Why Is History Important in Special Education Tests?

This information is an important part of evaluation because it provides critical details to assist in diagnosis. It provides information on any developmental delays, health and psychological issues, behavioral concerns, and family and cultural factors that may contribute to the child's learning problems. The history also provides information on the strengths your child may have.

The history information, along with other assessment data, can help confirm or rule out disabilities and suggest intervention strategies to help your child.

What Data Is Gathered for a Developmental History?

Not sure what to expect during a developmental and social history interview or on an intake form? You'll likely be asked when your child reached certain developmental milestones, about any physical problems and disabilities the child has, as well as health problems and medical treatments.

The specialist may also gather information about your family history. This can include anything from the quality of relationships the child has with friends and family members to whether the child has been subjected to a divorce, the death of a family member, or dislocation from home. You may also be asked about the languages the child hears and speaks at home. 

Social and developmental histories also include the child's early learning experiences. When did your child learn to read, count, or spell, for example? What was the process like? Related to this is the child's academic history, which will be considered along with the child's special interests or other information unique to your child.

How Developmental History Is Used to Make an Assessment

The information provided on the developmental and social history may be used in a number of ways. It may be included as part of your child's evaluation report or to identify any factors that can support or rule out the diagnosis of a disability. The data may also be used to identify any matters that should be addressed before the assessment to ensure the results are valid. Finally, a developmental and social history may be used to let examiners know about any special considerations or assessment accommodations required.

A Word From Verywell

The fact-gathering required for a developmental and social history may feel intimidating. Rest assured that this information will be used for your child's benefit. The data gathered can identify children's strengths, weaknesses, and the support they need to thrive.

1 Source
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  1. McDowell M. Specific learning disabilityJ Paediatr Child Health. 2018;54(10):1077-1083. doi:10.1111/jpc.14168

By Ann Logsdon
Ann Logsdon is a school psychologist specializing in helping parents and teachers support students with a range of educational and developmental disabilities.