Special Needs: Quick Assessment


When a child with special needs first comes into a
classroom, quick assessment of a child’s needs is probably one of
the most difficult things to do, because it involves a limited
amount of time and a limited view of the child. Even though it’s
difficult, there are basic things teachers can assess to help a
child with special needs.

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1. Create a Special Needs Questionnaire. Have
parents complete it to give important behavioral, social, physical,
and “nice to know” things about the child.
Click here for a sample questionnaire

File the completed questionnaires in a locked drawer to ensure
the child’s privacy. Parents need to know that the information on
the questionnaire will only be shared with volunteers who minister
to their child. Train your volunteers in the principles of privacy
and ethics concerning personal information about the child.

2. Train volunteers to assess a special needs
This process detailed below is not for laypeople to
diagnose special needs; rather, it’s to assess how to best meet the
needs of a child who’s already been determined as having special
needs. The assessment should include the following.

  • Observe how the child reacts or responds in different
    situations, such as whole group, small group, or working alone.
    Your observations will give clues about how to best minister to the
  • Look for the child’s nonverbal cues. Notice things such as
    restlessness, body language, facial expressions, or unusual
    patterns of behavior, such as rocking back and forth.
  • Consider all interactions you have with the child. What’s the
    child saying? What isn’t being said that should be? How does the
    child respond when you say something?
  • What’s the child’s activity level? Is it appropriate for the
    activity? Is there high activity, but a very short attention span?
    Is the child listless?
  • Take all factors into consideration. Realize that you may be
    wrong in your quick assessment. The child may not be physically
    active simply because he or she is tired.
  • Ask the child questions about what he or she enjoys and doesn’t
    enjoy doing. What activities does the child prefer? Is the child
    interested in other adults and children, or does the child prefer
    being alone?

3. Learn about children’s special needs. The
Internet is a great source of information, but you can also check
with special education teachers and bookstores or libraries in your

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Love the child as one of God’s children. A special needs child
needs to know about God’s love and caring as much as any other

Sally Castle is associate professor of special education at
Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio. Please keep in mind that
phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to


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