Preschool Assessments: Testing of Infants and Toddlers

Many professionals, including child psychologists, refuse to test children before the age of 5 because the brain is still growing and developing too rapidly, making it difficult to obtain stable test results or make any concrete diagnoses for preschool and kindergarten aged children. However, it is never too early to start understanding your child’s developmental strengths and weaknesses.

A preschool assessment can be an incredibly powerful tool for parents and the information is especially beneficial for early education planning, intervention and support.

We are one of the few clinics in Toronto that offer preschool assessments of children as young as 1 month old, although we typically focus on children who are between 1 year and 5 years of age. Assessments are tailored to the individual needs of the child and concerns of the family, but are comprehensive and typically include an evaluation of each of the following five areas:

1. Cognitive

Assessment of sensorimotor development, exploration and manipulation, object relatedness, concept formation, memory and other aspects of cognitive processing.

2. Language

Includes assessment of receptive as well as expressive communication.

  • Receptive communication includes assessment of vocabulary development, preverbal behaviors, and child’s social referencing and verbal comprehension.
  • Expressive communication includes assessment of pre-verbal communication, such as babbling, gesturing, joint referencing, and turn taking, as well as ability to name objects, pictures and attributes (e.g., colour and size). Also includes morpho-syntactic development, such as using two-word utterances, plurals, and verb tense.

3. Motor 

Includes assessment of fine motor as well as gross motor abilities.

  • Fine motor skills are associated with prehension, perceptual-motor integration, motor planning, and motor speed.
  • Gross motor skills are associated with the movements of the limbs and torso and include assessment of static positioning (e.g., sitting, standing); dynamic movement, including locomotion and coordination; balance; and motor planning.

4. Adaptive Behavior

Assessment of the child’s daily functional skills and measurement of what the child actually does, in addition to what he or she may be able to do in the home living, social, and self-care areas.

5. SocialEmotional

Assessment of the acquisition of social and emotional milestones that should be achieved at certain ages; the child’s mastery of functional emotional skills, such as self-regulation and interest in world; communicating needs; engaging others and establishing relationships in an interactive, purposeful manner; and using emotional signals or gestures to solve problems.


Diagnosing Preschool Aged Children

It is important to reiterate that, in most cases, our preschool assessment of infants and toddlers will not provide any diagnosis or “label”, such as giftedness, ADHD, learning disability or developmental disability. As previously mentioned, even with the best assessment tools and clinical expertise, it is often too difficult to obtain stable and definitive results before the age of 5. Instead, the assessment will provide you with a comprehensive report outlining your child’s strengths and weaknesses – which may very well be signs of giftedness or ADHD or another developmental exceptionality – as well as recommendations for how to nurture and support those strengths and weaknesses.


Preschool Assessment for Brain Injury

There are exceptions to our diagnostic capabilities of course. For example, as paediatric neuropsychologist, Dr. Valentin has provided her professional expertise on legal cases involving children under the age of 3 who sustained brain injury as result of a motor vehicle accident (MVA). We have also been able to assess the developmental impact on a child whose primary caregiver has sustained cognitive or emotional injury as a result of a traumatic event or accident. Please contact Dr. Valentin directly at for more information.