Denver Test: what it is and how to use this evaluation instrument

Denver Test: what it is and how to use this evaluation instrument

Psychological evaluation (test) instruments are classified in various ways. Among these criteria we can consider what we want to measure, since we must apply a test that allows us to evaluate exactly what we need.

The Denver test, for example , is an instrument designed to evaluate and measure psychomotor skills, as well as physical and intellectual development in children. It is applicable in the child population up to the age of 6.

In this article we will talk about the characteristics of this test, see what it allows to measure, and also review the method of application and correction of this psychological test.

What is the Denver test?

The main objective of the Denver test is to measure the physical, intellectual and psychomotor developmental skills of children , to determine whether these are in line with their chronological age or whether there is a developmental delay in one of these areas. It could also happen that responses are shown that are above the average population for children in that age range.

Depending on the results obtained by the infant, the specialist then proceeds to generate a personalized treatment plan for that child taking into account his or her individual capabilities.

This may translate into a benefit for the subject being tested, since although it presents limitations in a specific area the test will also show where the individual’s strengths lie ; it allows the assessor to have a broader picture of the individual’s particular situation.

Another of the advantages of the Denver test is that it allows specialists to determine the degree of maturity of the Central Nervous System (CNS) since the development of physical, motor and intellectual skills is a faithful reflection of the development of this system.

This tool was designed based on the standards of children with adequate maturity in the areas evaluated by the test; this establishes clear standards in terms of these skills and the development of infants.

In other words, it allows to corroborate if the development is taking place in a correct way taking into account the average population. In addition to this , it is efficient to follow up the subjects , and could be applied after a time to determine the progress in the case.

What exactly does this test measure?

The Denver test is designed on the basis of four specific areas, which are divided into 55 reactive items. Let’s see how this works.

1. Personal social area

It allows us to measure the relationship of the child with the environment that surrounds him or her ; that is to say, the way in which he or she develops within the social environment.

2. Fine motor area

This area focuses on the level of accuracy an infant can have, accurately assessing fine movements, which involve concentration, coordination, and subtle manual skills. For example, drawing or writing.

3. Language area

This part of the test determines how the child’s language learning process is , as well as his or her ability to listen and communicate in general terms.

4. Gross motor area

Unlike fine motor skills, gross motor skills represent all those movements of a more imprecise nature, which involve a greater degree of coordination of the whole body. For example, painting a picture or throwing a baseball.

Method of application of this test

Now let’s see what’s the right way to apply the Denver test to our child population. First of all we must establish the rapport with the child , so that the child trusts us and remains calm.

It should be done in a controlled environment, where no unplanned interruptions occur. The application is individual in nature, and to help the child feel calm and confident the parents or caregivers should ideally be present during the application process.

Despite the fact that the instrument consists of 55 reactive items, as mentioned above, the child should only respond to the items to the left of the age line .

Initial step

The evaluator will draw a line connecting the four scales of the instrument to the infant’s chronological age (fine motor, gross motor, language, and social area).

Step two

It is necessary to carefully observe the subject during the response process and to take note of significant aspects during the time it takes to answer the exam, which would be the following:

  • Verify that the child carries out the tasks assigned to him/her .
  • Check if the child misses a task that 90% of children his age do.
  • Notice if the child stops doing a task but still has time to do it later, which is atypical in the population of this age.
  • In case the child does not want to collaborate, it will be tried in the next session.

Materials needed

These are the materials needed for a correct application of the Denver test . If you don’t have exactly the ones mentioned below, you could replace the missing one with another one of the same characteristics.

  • Balls of yarn.
  • Bell.
  • Tennis ball.
  • Marbles.
  • Rattle.
  • Bottle with screw cap.
  • Graphite pencil.
  • 8 cubes of 23 mm.

Interpretation of data

Since this is not an intelligence test , children should be avoided in this respect. We will only check and evaluate if they comply with the activities that the average population of children of their age are capable of doing.

Based on that and taking into account the specifications of the manual, the specialists issue a diagnostic print.

The child’s personal factors should be taken into account at the time of application, such as whether he or she slept well the night before, ate well before the session, or felt anxious and scared during the evaluation process.

Bibliographic references:

  • Borowitz, K.C.; Glascoe, F.P. (1986). Sensitivity of the Denver Developmental Screening Test in Speech and Language Screening. Pediatrics. 78: 1075–1078.
  • Lipkin, P.H.; Gwynn, H. (2007). Improving developmental screening: Combining parent and pediatrician opinions with standardized questionnaires. Pediatrics. 119: 655–56.

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