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Early Detection of Children Aged 3-6 Years Facing Developmental Risks - FegK 3-6

Background and aims

Assessment instrument and allocation procedure for children aged between 0 and 6 years old

Some children face psychological, social or economic conditions which impair, impede or disrupt their development and which can have a negative effect on their behaviour. Children are described as facing development risk if they are exposed to risk factors or lack resilience factors and are diagnosed as suffering from a borderline impact on their development. Children who do not display symptoms but are exposed to risk factors are described as children with a potential development risk. Early diagnosis permits appropriate measures to be taken in order to prevent serious consequences.

Using a system of early diagnosis in the context of a primary indicated prevention, specific measures can be introduced to avoid serious consequences in the form of increased, cost-driven, special needs provisions.


The aim of this project was to devise, test and implement an appropriate ICF-compliant diagnostic procedure.


In the first stage of the project, a theory-driven procedure was developed for the early identification of children aged 3-6 years who face a development risk. The procedure is a systematic four-phase aid to definition and decision-making when assessing whether a child's development is at risk, whether there is a need for support measures, and which (child- or environment-centred) measure to apply. In the four-phase procedure, the child's development is first assessed using a choice of standardised tests which meet ICF criteria. A case history is constructed on the basis of a questionnaire with 29 closed, semi-open or open questions for evaluating personal and psychosocial risk and resilience factors.

The findings of the status assessment are considered in the light of the risk and resilience factors identified. This juxtaposition of these data permits a plausible assessment of whether intervention is required.

There are three aids:

  • a guide to the entire procedure
  • the case history questionnaire
  • a record sheet

74 staff members of special education services in 18 cantons in German-speaking Switzerland are testing the procedure. They have submitted 119 cases of children assessed between September 2010 and April 2011 using these procedural methods.


Assessment permits early detection of children whose development is slow or abnormal. The case history interviews used for social behaviour, cognition and motor skills proved useful; only form MOT 4-6 was discarded as obsolete.

Verbal communication is a particular challenge when supporting families from a different linguistic or cultural background, and this must be taken into account when choosing the right policy or measure.

As establishing the state of language development has proved difficult, some thought must be given to whether it is the state of language development itself that needs redressing or the ability of parents and children to communicate.

The interview for the purpose of establishing a case record should not be designed as a questionnaire, but as a guide, leaving room for discretion with regard to how to ask the question, the sequence of questions and the timing of specific items.

The procedure will be revised again and then made available to practitioners.



Project Management

Project team


Special needs education services in the German and Rhaeto-Romanic speaking parts of Switzerland


Forschung und Entwicklung
Tel: +41 44 317 11 81

zfe[at] zfe