Comprehensive Early Language and Social Development Assessment: Supporting Strong Beginnings in Children 12 Months Through 5 Years of Age

Watching young children grow and explore the world with curiosity and excitement is a wonderful experience. But what if your child has difficulties communicating and interacting with children and adults early on? What can you do? There are many things you can do to help your child, but it’s hard to know exactly what to do when you don’t know why your child is struggling. And if you wait to take action, difficulties can grow much bigger over time. Science says that early intervention is better than later intervention but figuring out the right treatment for your child’s difficulties is really important, too.
At Possibilities, we’ve created a Multidisciplinary Team dedicated to helping you find answers when your young child is struggling. The team focuses on early language and social development in children 12 months through 5 years of age. Our experts include a psychiatrist examining medical and developmental history, and assessing early social skills development, a psychologist examining whether anxiety and concerns like selective mutism are contributing to your child’s challenges, and a speech-language pathologist assessing language development and communication skills. Together the team provides a service called the Comprehensive Early Language and Social Development Assessment.
It takes time for words to develop. So very young children can’t tell you what’s wrong—and older children can’t describe what is frustrating for them either if their language is delayed. If you’re worried about your young child’s language, or how your child relates to others, it can be tempting to think, let’s just wait and see what happens. Friends and family might tell you, “Don’t worry. He’ll grow out of it.” or “She’ll be talking in no time!” But a wait-and-see approach can be harmful, creating even more challenges later on.

    Development happens at different rates in different children; that fact is true. But waiting when you have worries—or when you sense something is wrong—could make difficulties even harder to treat. Brain research shows that there are windows of time in early childhood—called critical periods—when the brain is most ready to learn language. But as time goes by, those windows of opportunity start to close, making it much harder for your child to learn to speak and to understand words and sentences. So, it’s really important to start interventions early if there are problems communicating, before the brain’s windows of opportunity for learning language most effectively start closing. Starting treatment early, before delays get too big and critical windows close, is one of the most important things you can do to help your child. Experts who can figure out what’s going on, and who can suggest the right treatments at the right time, can help make meaningful change happen for your child.
    Here are some questions and answers about our unique service.
    Who sees my child in this assessment?
    The Comprehensive Early Language and Social Development Assessment Team includes a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and a speech and language pathologist, all with expertise in early child development. Experts on our Team will speak with you, and assess your child directly, to explore strengths and why difficulties are happening from multiple perspectives. They’ll give you solid ideas for supporting improvement, too!
    What can happen if there are language and communication delays early in development?
    Children with challenges early in development struggle in many ways. Frustrations with talking, or not talking, can result in big emotions and big behaviours. And by the time school starts, young children with language difficulties are more likely to struggle with subjects like reading and writing, and with communicating and playing with peers, compared to students without these challenges. With the Comprehensive Early Language and Social Development Assessment Team, you’ll be connected with experts in communication, emotions, behaviours and social skills, early in your child’s development. Their findings and treatment suggestions can help your child make important gains, and every gain becomes a stepping stone for the next success!
    What information can we get from the assessment?
    The psychiatrist, as a medical doctor, can help figure out whether health, genetic, or developmental issues might be contributing to your child’s current difficulties. The psychiatrist also specializes in mental health and cognitive abilities, like processing social cues and paying attention, which can offer important clues about your child’s challenges.
    The psychologist on the team understands how young children show their feelings—like frustration, anger and anxiety—with and without words. This kind of knowledge can be really helpful when problem-solving about communication skills and how to help your child feel less stressed and more connected with peers.
    The speech-language pathologist specializes in language development and understands how children use and understand words, sentences, and social communication skills across different ages. Expert knowledge in language means the speech language pathologist will offer you specific suggestions to help support your child’s developing communication skills.
    Can this assessment tell me whether my child has autism?
    No. Experts on the team recognize that, for some children, autism might explain why there are delays in language and social development. This assessment screens for the possibility of autism, but autism cannot be diagnosed from the tests and questionnaires we use for the Comprehensive Early Language and Social Development Assessment.
    A different set of tests and questionnaires—exploring in depth whether your child’s difficulties meet an extensive list of symptoms consistent with an autism diagnosis—is required. More information about our Autism Spectrum Disorder Diagnostic Assessment for children and adolescents 18 months to 17 years, can be found on our website.
    What kinds of treatments might the team suggest after the assessment?
    At Possibilities, we offer a range of treatments to young children with language and communication difficulties. The team will recommend treatments based on the type of challenges your child is experiencing. If your child is struggling with selective mutism, working with a psychologist or speech and language pathologist will be recommended. For other children, working with a speech-language pathologist and communication disorders assistant might be recommended. In some cases, medication treatment will help to improve attention and language processing.
    How many appointments are there for this assessment?
    There are 6 appointments all together—and each appointment is one hour—for a total of 6 hours over different days. There are 3 sessions with the psychiatrist, 1 session with the psychologist, and 2 sessions with the speech and language pathologist. At the end of the 6 sessions, you will receive a written report outlining the findings and the team’s recommendations. You’ll learn more about the order of the sessions, and what sessions are for interviews, testing/observations, and discussing recommendations, when you book a Comprehensive Early Language and Social Development Assessment for your child.
    Can this assessment be done over video sessions?
    At Possibilities, we offer assessments through secure video sessions. On the first assessment appointment with you and your child, the psychiatrist will determine if all the appointments for the Comprehensive Early Language and Social Development Assessment can be done over video, or whether a combination of video and in-person sessions will be necessary.
    Is there a fee for this assessment?
    The psychiatrist on the assessment team is a medical doctor, so the fees for your 3 appointments with the psychiatrist are covered by OHIP. The fees for assessment and consultation sessions with the speech and language pathologist and psychologist, and the cost of questionnaires and testing materials, are not covered by OHIP. Fees for allied health services like psychology and speech and language pathology may be covered by private insurance plans.
    The cost for the Comprehensive Early Language and Social Development Assessment is $1750.
    For more information, please contact us at or call 1-833-482-5558. If you would like to get started right away, fill out our Child and Adolescent Intake Form and have your child’s Paediatrician or Family Physician send us a referral. Once these forms are received and reviewed, our Care Coordinator will contact you to arrange the series of appointments.