Assessing Your Child’s Social Emotional Skills…at Home!

The social emotional realm is comprised of self and social awareness. Social emotional skills are those that children need to identify and manage their own emotions, as well as the skills needed to interact with others in a social capacity. 

These are incredibly important skills for success in school and life!

Social emotional deficits may be present in toddler and preschool-aged children, and if overlooked, may lead to continued problems in elementary school (and beyond). 

Many parents may not know if their child struggles with social emotional issues, or if they are aware of a problem, they may not know in what areas they can seek help for their child. Further, some parents may be simply interested about their child’s social emotional skills and would like to educate themselves about their child’s abilities at home. 

How do you know if your child is on track?

Fortunately, there are ways that parents can be proactive and assess their child’s social emotional development at home. In turn, this knowledge can then be used in collaboration with the child’s teacher, if desired. Collaborating in the assessment process:

  • Creates various opportunities for parents and teachers to communicate with each other about the child’s progress and/or problem areas.
  • Ensures that assessments are based on multiple settings (and reflect social and cultural backgrounds of the child’s home).
  • Connects teaching practices at home and at school; parents are aware of assessments and know what to do with the results at home.
  • Respects parents and helps them understand assessments! (for more info. on engaging families in the assessment process check out this issue of Young Children found here.)

Let’s get started!

1. Depending on the age of your child, the first place to start is with the M-Chat revised. This assessment is valid for children ages 16-30 months old. This test is used to assess Autism Spectrum Disorders, and is a good place to start, as social emotional skills are included in many of the questions. 

Questions are in yes/no format, which makes it difficult to determine “on the fence” answers. Therefore the follow up questions are incredibly important to answer; they are new to the revised version and allow you to think about items with a “sometimes” answer. You can find this assessment here.

2. Another assessment you can complete at home is the ASQSE, the Ages & Stages Questionnaires: Social-Emotional. This test is broken down into specific age groups; Parents can monitor and track responses when children are the following ages: 2 months, 6 months, 12 months, 18 months, 24 months, 30 months, 36 months, 48 months, and 60 months. 

Some pediatricians use this assessment in their offices; my son’s preschool teacher sent the four year old version of this test home this school year. Questions are straightforward and are answered “most of the time,” “sometimes,” or “never/rarely.” This assessment can be found by searching (through Google or another search engine) the term: ASQSE PDF. Scoring is fairly simple and can be done at home. 

Sample ASQSE questions

There is also a generalized ASQ that touches briefly on social emotional issues (it also analyzes communication, gross motor, fine motor, and problem solving skills). This test can be found online here. You can print this out or complete it online through the Easter Seals site. 

3. Another option for analyzing social emotional skills is through Owocki and Goodman’s (2002) Interactional Competencies checklist.  This assessment is from the book Kidwatching (by Gretchen Owocki and Yetta Goodman), and the items are included below. Please include the Copyright information if you print it out.

There is no scoring measure with this assessment, instead it may be a helfpul tool to complete together with your child’s teacher as a point of discussion. The checklist allows parents and teachers to discuss and determine differences between at home and school behavior regarding self and social awareness. If a child is successful at home, but not at school (or vice versa), parents and teachers can work together to bridge this gap. 

4. There are a gazillion and a half developmental milestone trackers online today, but the PBS Parents Developmental Tracker is by far one of the best. And fortunately, they even have a list for social emotional skills. To access the list, click here. Click on the age of your child (1-8) and go to “Social Emotional Growth.” The tracker will give you an idea of what is developmentally-typical for your child’s age group. 

What is great about this tracker is you can look behind or forward within age groups to see what level your child may be if they are not on track. For instance, you may find that your three year old is struggling with their social emotional growth and is more in line with the two year old list. 

5. Scholastic also has a developmental tracker for social emotional development (can download in PDF form). The developmental charts can be found here. These are short and sweet but are a good means for understanding age appropriate social emotional behavior if you are short on time. 

Social emotional assessments discussed in this post allow parents to be educated and prepared to talk with professionals about their child’s social emotional development. 

But remember that screening tools are just that…tools. They are meant to help you analyze your child’s behavior, but they can not give your child a diagnosis, nor can they tell you how to improve your child’s behavior. They can, however, give you an idea if there is a need for further assessment or intervention. 

If you believe your child would benefit from a thorough and complete assessment by a licensed professional and your child is under the age of three, you can contact early intervention in your state (Autism Speaks Early Intervention by state ). If they are older than three, discuss your concerns with your child’s teacher and/or contact your local school district for further assessment (for free!). And remember, you can always talk with your pediatrician about any concerns you may have about your child’s development. 

*If you are struggling to score any of the assessments or to determine what they mean, feel free to leave a comment here, send me an email (unrewardedgeniuses@hotmail.com), or message me on Facebook (Unrewarded Geniuses on FB) and I will do my best to give you a hand!

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