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What is the Gesell Early Screener?

The Gesell Early Screener (GES) assists parents, educators, and other professionals in quickly producing a snapshot of a 3 to 6 year old child’s development, compared to other children of the same age. The GES can be administered to a child by persons with varying levels of experience in less than 20 minutes.

The components of the GES include:

Purchase all GES materials here.

The Results of the GES

Results of the GES are recorded as a Performance Level Rating across four domains of Development.

  • Performance Level Rating: A child’s abilities are defined as Age Appropriate, Emerging, or Concern
  • Domains of Development: Cognitive, Language, Motor, and Social-Emotional Developmental and Adaptive Skills.

Unlike the Gesell Developmental Observation-Revised (GDO-R) the GES does not assign a Developmental Age. To better understand this and other differences between the GDO-R and the GES, and assist you in making an informed decision, we suggest viewing this video.

Training to Become a GES Examiner

No training is mandated to administer the GES (unlike the GDO-R). A manual is included in your GES kit purchase and can be followed by individuals with experience using the GDO-R as well as by some child development or education professionals.

However, Gesell strongly recommends that to be best prepared, GES examiners:

  1. Complete a brief online training to ensure they are adequately trained in valid administration and competent in analyzing results. View training details here.
  2. Adhere to assessment best practice, as summarized here.


How do the GDO-R and the Gesell Early Screener (GES) differ?
The GDO-R is an in-depth, multi-dimensional child assessment. Its purpose is to help educators, parents and other professionals understand the characteristics of child behavior in relation to typical growth patterns. The GDO-R provides a Developmental Age based on in-depth interpretation of the developmental items as well as strand scoring. The GES is based on selected GDO-R items, provides a “quick look” at the child and is intended for use with 3-6-year-olds. It has fewer items than the GDO-R, takes less time, is scored objectively and results in a simple, three-tiered scoring rubric. No Developmental Age is provided. The GES also flags if further testing (i.e. the GDO-R) is necessary.
What does the GES’s “three-tiered scoring rubric” mean?
Based on the national 2010 technical data sample, the simple scoring rubric for the GES generates one of three levels for the child. Children scoring in one tier have responses that are essentially normative for their age level for their age level, indicating no concerns about development at the time of the screening. Scores in a second tier indicate a pattern of non-ideal responses relative to the child’s age level that prompts mild concern. A child scoring at this tier may need more attention or more individualized instruction, and it would be appropriate to watch the child more closely and retest. Children who score at the third tier exhibit responses that deviate well below the average for their age level and may benefit from an in-depth assessment and observation.
How does the Gesell Early Screener meet IDEA and Head Start mandates?

The GES kit meets evaluation requirements for both Head Start (§ 1304.20) and Section 614 of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act). Namely, the system meets the following guidelines:

  • In collaboration with each child’s parent…obtain linguistically and age appropriate screening procedures to identify concerns regarding a child’s developmental, sensory (visual and auditory), behavioral, motor, language, social, cognitive, perceptual, and emotional skills
  • Screening procedures are sensitive to the child’s cultural background
  • (Assessment system) utilizes multiple sources of information on all aspects of each child’s development and behavior, including input from family members, teachers, and other relevant staff who are familiar with the child’s typical behavior
  • Use technically sound instruments that may assess the relative contribution of cognitive and behavioral factors, in addition to physical or developmental factors.