Socioemotional Assessment for Atypical Infants and Preschoolers
Susanne A. Denham Susan Lydick Jennifer Mitchell-Copeland Katherine Sawyere George Mason University
Consider the following: A 3-month-old infant shows up at the pediatrician's office difficult to soothe, exhibiting feeding and/or sleeping problems, irritable, not engaging in eye contact, not cuddling, and/or not seeming to use caregiver for distress relief. An 18-month-old toddler enters day care for the first time and cries stormily day after day when her parents drop her off; she stares into space much of the rest of the day and avoids contact with caregivers even though she appears miserable. A 3-year-old child consistently bites, kicks, and clutches at peers whenever his desires are thwarted. What can we do to ameliorate the socioemotional development of these children? How do these children's pediatricians, day-care providers, preschool/early childhood special education teachers, and parents decide whether these socioemotional difficulties are within normal developmental limits or whether further assessment and intervention are required? These are indeed difficult and pressing problems. DeGangi, Poisson, Sickel, and Weiner ( 1994) cogently stated that "professionals too often overlook precursors of emotional difficulties in infants and toddlers because they lack sufficient screening tools. . . . Concerns . . . which parents often report, are too frequently dismissed by professionals until more serious, long-term difficulties become apparent. Putting off the problem has its price" (p. 5).