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Developmental assessment in refugee/asylum seeker children can be complex, requiring an understanding of second (or later) language acquisition, language transitions in relation to development, the impact of forced migration, trauma, and settlement, and support services available. The aetiology of developmental issues may be complex in refugee/asylum seeker children, and routine neonatal, vision and hearing screening is unlikely to have been completed. There are specific challenges with formal language or cognitive assessments for children with English as an Additional Language (EAL). Development assessments take time and require close liaison with families and the help of a skilled interpreter.
Developmental assessment is a common reason for referral, although there are limited prevalence data on developmental issues in refugee/asylum seeker children. Also see Educational assessment (school-aged children).
Formal assessment (e.g. language testing, cognitive testing) is often only completed prior to school entry, and should be accompanied by a comprehensive paediatric assessment. These tests may be required in order to access supports in school, and they can provide useful information when considered in the context of the comprehensive assessment.
Cognitive and formal language testing is generally not validated for use in non-English speaking children, or for use with an interpreter. Any test result needs to be interpreted with extreme caution, families need appropriate pre-test and post test counselling. If cognitive assessment has already occurred - check families understanding of testing, and whether an interpreter (and which language) was available for testing and feedback sessions. This resource on IQ test scores can be helpful to explain results.
Immigrant health resources. Author: Georgie Paxton, Shidan Tosif. Updated April 2020. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org