Concern before diagnosis – Observing your child

Are you unsure about your child’s behaviors? Do you feel something might be not quite right? The best way to help you and your child’s doctor answer those questions is to make observations of your child. See the checklist below to learn how to make your observations and what to look for, as well as some example observations.

  • Have specific behaviors you are concerned about and focus on them keep it to a maximum of 3.
  • Make sure to observe at different times of day and in a variety of situations over a period of at least a few weeks.
  • Important information for your observations: date, time of day, specific setting, what happened before and after the behavior, detailed description of the situation and behaviors, what physical signs are exhibited (stomping, rapid breathing, hitting, kicking, biting etc.), does your child express their feelings, give eye contact, avoidance, do they stay in control, do they run or hide, what works to calm your child or resolve the situation, what escalated the situation, and the duration of the situation.
  • Note if your child consistently has trouble during certain times of day or in specific places (school, crowds, athletics, homework time etc.)
  • It’s important to observe first and then write down your observation. You may miss something if you are busy writing everything down.
  • Take note of your own behaviors during these observations and see how your own reactions affect your child.

Sample observations:

1/4/2017:  Gus was playing with a ball at the park alone after school at 3pm. Another boy came up and took the ball without asking, Gus screamed hit and bit the boy, then he ran away and hid in the slide for 20 minutes. He refused to talk or apologize. He would not make eye contact. He only came out with the promise of going home and getting a snack 30 minutes after the situation started.

1/6/2017: Gus was at home at 5pm working on math homework. He was working independently and was getting frustrated. I attempted to help him and he threw his pencil at me, screamed about leaving him alone and then ran to his room unwilling to talk or finish his homework the rest of the evening. He did not come down for dinner or complete his evening chores.

5/12/2017: Amy was in the living room at 10am with me. She grabbed my hand and pulled me into the kitchen toward the fridge. She made no eye contact and didn’t speak even when I asked her if she was hungry. She nodded yes that she was hungry, but wouldn’t respond when asked what snack she would like.

5/13/2017: Amy was at her play group playing with a ball in the corner. She made no eye contact with the other kids or parents and never said a word. She had no emotional expression either and didn’t fight leaving.

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