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Individual differences and
assessment in the early
childhood setting
© McLachlan, Edwards, Margrain & McLean 2013
• What is the best time for early intervention?
• As soon as, and as quickly as possible
• However, misdiagnosis and unnecessary labelling
can have negative consequences
• Diversity demands differentiation
• Exceptional does not mean exclusive
• Scandinavian concept of ‘normalisation’ involves
the acceptance of people with disabilities. Citizens
are offered the same conditions as are offered to
other citizens (Bank Mikkelson 1969; Nirje 1970)
• Normalisation focuses on ‘dignity of risk’ rather
than ‘protection’
• Normalisation has been misinterpreted and applied
as making people ‘normal’, forcing them to
conform to social norms, with normalising
measures ‘offered’ or ‘imposed’ (Wolfensberger
• Both disabled and gifted individuals are
marginalised and negatively misunderstood
• Teachers and communities implicitly share
their values and beliefs about what is
significant within the curriculum
• Learning stories are an assessment approach
that is deliberately subjective and documents
values, beliefs and teacher practice as part of
pedagogical documentation
Family-professional partnership
• Full and respectful relationships between parents
and professionals
• Families recognised for their
• ‘constancy’ in a child’s life
• role as children’s ‘first teachers’
• particular expertise and assessment information
Model of
Role of
Role of families
Experts, decision
makers, knowledgeholders
Reliant and
dependent on
Responsible for
Able to implement
identification, access intervention
and implementation
Helping, supporting,
Equal partners; individualised, flexible and
responsive, strengthening and supportive;
mutually respectful; shared decision-making
Consumers who
choose options,
need assistance and
Cross-disciplinary collaborative
Early intervention support teams could potentially include
• Parents
• Extended family
• Early childhood teacher
• Early intervention teacher
• Teacher’s aide
• Physiotherapist
• Occupational therapist
• Speech-language therapist/pathologist
• Psychologist
• Social worker
• Other specialists, family or support people
Cultural competence
• Bevan-Brown (2003, p. 1) states that children’s
learning is maximised when educational
• incorporate cultural content
• reflect cultural values, attitudes and practices
• utilise culturally preferred ways of learning
• include culturally appropriate support
Multicultural and Bicultural
• Multicultural respect and cultural competence is
especially important as society becomes
increasingly culturally diverse
• Bicultural practice and commitment requires
particular commitment, and acknowledgement of
indigenous Australian Aboriginal, Torres Strait
Islander and New Zealand Māori
Summary of effective approaches to
inclusive assessment
Inclusive assessment is most effective when:
Culturally competent
Developmentally/chronologically age-appropriate
Key terms
Cross-disciplinary collaborative practices – an approach to teaching and learning that
involves all people with a role in supporting children’s learning
Developmentally/chronologically age-appropriate assessment – assessment that is
matched to the child’s current level of knowledge, skills and competencies, regardless of
chronological age
Exceptionality – deviating widely from a norm of physical or mental ability
Family-based practice – approaches to teaching and learning that include families in
decision-making about how to support children’s learning
Inclusive practice – approach to teaching and learning that involves both philosophical
commitment and specific inclusive action
Indigenous and multicultural assessment – approaches to assessment that affirm
cultural strengths, acknowledge Indigenous values and are relevant to Indigenous
children and their families
Normalisation – the acceptance of children with disabilities, with their disabilities,
offering them the same conditions as are offered to other children