Tips for working with families in your screening program
Valuing the parents' role creates an environment in which families feel comfortable sharing important information
You know how important screening is to identifying a child's strengths and needs, but to parents it may be a novel, even intimidating, prospect. Take the time to explain to parents what screening is all about and how it can help you (and them) support their child's development.
Here are some pointers from the developers of ASQ that you can follow to help parents (or other primary caregivers) feel valued themselves and understand the value of screening for their child.
(1.) Introduce screening to parents
Begin by explaining the purpose of screening and describing the ASQ system. This explanation may occur in person, over the phone, in a printed document, or in a letter mailed to the parent completing the questionnaires for the first time.
(2.) Allay potential fears about screening
Sample language when introducing ASQ:
"The ASQ is a screening tool that provides a quick check of your child's development."
"Your answers will show your child's strengths and any areas in which your child may need more help or practice."
"The information you provide will be helpful in determining whether your child needs further assessment."
ASQ is designed to illustrate a child's strengths as well as needs. Completing the questionnaires and learning how to use the results should be a positive experience that respects and reinforces the parents' vital role in their child's development. Some parents, however, may feel uncomfortable about participating in a screening program for various reasons, including the fear that their child may be labeled as below normal.
(3.) Underscore the importance of the parents' role
Acknowledge that the parents know their child best and that their unique knowledge of the child's interests, behaviors, and interactions in various settings is key to developing a comprehensive picture of the child's development.
Provide opportunities at every step for parents to ask questions and receive answers to their satisfaction.
(4.) Be aware of and responsive to cultural and linguistic differences
Learn more about Using the ASQ with Diverse Families in a FREE webinar on Wednesday, May 8, at 2 p.m. ET
Provide the questionnaires in the family's home language when possible or ensure an interpreter is available. Be cognizant of different communication styles. Sensitively seek clarification of family interests, traditions, and values, but respect the parents' preferences if they don't seem comfortable with providing information or with greater involvement.
(5.) Help parents feel prepared to successfully complete a screening
Go over "Important Points to Remember":
"Try each activity with your child before marking a response."
"Making completing this questionnaire a game that is fun for you and your child."
"Make sure your child is rested and fed."
To the extent your resources allow, schedule the screening at a location and time that is convenient and comfortable for the family. When possible, offer flexibility with regard to where and how they complete the questionnaires: in face-to-face interviews, online, over the phone, at home, or in the office or school. As necessary, provide individualized assistance and support, which may range from being available to answer questions, to reading the items, to assisting parents in eliciting and interpreting their children's responses.
(6.) Go over what they'll find in the questionnaires
Describe briefly the developmental areas of the questionnaires ("The questions in each area go from easier to more difficult."), the questionnaire items ("Your child may be able to do some, but not all, of the items."), and the Overall section ("The Overall section asks questions about your child's overall development and about any concerns you may have about your child's development.").
When sharing results:
(7.) Share results with families
Once you have scored the questionnaires, share screening results in a strengths-based and family-friendly format. Highlight the child's strengths in addition to areas for further support, and allow for any questions or discussion. Parents should be informed in person, over the telephone, or through mail or email that their child's development seems typical. Follow-up screening should be scheduled for a child whose score falls in the monitoring zone.
(8.) Consult with families when results indicate the need for further assessment
Sharing results that identify a child as needing further assessment can be an extremely sensitive conversation. Carefully prepare for these discussions and conduct them with compassion and empathy.
The setting for the conversation should be private, and it should take place at a time that is convenient for the family. Consider cultural practices (Should other family members be invited to the meeting?) and language issues (Is an interpreter needed?).
(9.) Suggest activities to encourage development
Provide parents with ideas for fun games and activities to support the child's needs and interests.
By involving parents as key screening partners, you are ensuring that your program will result in positive, strength-based decisions that support children's development and learningwhich is everyone's goal.