The Changing Landscape of Child Assessment

Dr Elizabeth Green is a retired developmental paediatrician with a medical doctorate and an honours psychology degree. Throughout her career, she worked with all types of childhood disability including acute brain injury rehabilitation and with a particular interest in motor problems and posture management in physical disability.

Dr Green served as President of the Association for Research in Infant and Child Development from 2008-2015, Chair of Research 2008-to date. Dr Green was a key member of the team bringing the Griffiths Scales of Child Development to fruition in 2016.

1.How did you first come to be involved in the Griffiths?

I was trained by Michael Huntley during placement for training at Great Ormond Street in 1975. I joined ARICD in the early 1980s and became a Griffiths tutor working with Phyllis Preston.

2. In that time, what are some of the major changes you’ve seen in the way child development is assessed?

Whilst at Great Ormond Street, my thesis looked at the changes seen in published academic articles during previous decades. In the 50’s and 60s there was much written about typical development but, with the increased access to different imaging techniques, the emphasis in academic journals changed to the description and measurement of abnormality. This trend has continued together with an increasing stress on statistical measurement. Sadly, that which can be described but not measured numerically tends to be ignored, or seen as less significant, so that the holistic assessments of disabled children which lead to a definitive diagnosis are much rarer these days.

3. What do you think some of the major issues or challenges are when it comes to assessment of children?

Time and co-operation are the major issues which come to mind. It takes time to assess holistically and a short attention span is such a common accompaniment to disability.

4. How has the Griffiths Scales of Child Development changed throughout the years you’ve been involved?

I trained in the original Griffiths Scales and was one of Michael Huntley’s team for the 1996 revision of the Birth to Two Scales. Considerable work was done to ensure clarity of the item administrative instructions but there were no major changes in the scales. GMDS-ER published in 2006 moved away from the earlier criterion-based statistics in year groups but did provide updated norms. The Griffiths III brings together the most recent research in five different developmental domains. Structured tasks are used to test specific constructs and underlying subconstructs to provide information on when developmentally these skills are expected to be observed in infants and young children. New areas include considerable changes in the new Foundations of Learning sub-scale, the inclusion of early emotional development and assessment of early postural control.

5. What do you hope the future of assessment brings?

I am looking forward to the swing of the pendulum once again to allow professionals time to complete a full developmental assessment. This will enable a full diagnostic evaluation of the child’s developmental strengths and weaknesses rather than the most obvious disability receiving attention without help for other underlying deficits.

6. Finally, what unique attributes do you think Griffiths III brings to the assessment landscape?

Griffiths III offers professionals the opportunity to combine quantitative and qualitative assessment together in a complementary manner. This combination provides a rich source of developmental data to inform possible strategies for therapy and educational placement.