The Gesell Test: An Important Cognitive Motor Assessment for Infants

The Gesell Program in Early Childhood is a non-profit organization that offers comprehensive developmental assessments, parent coaching and educator training.

The Gesell Program in Early Childhood is a developmental assessment and intervention center that assists families and educators in finding the best match between what individual children need and what educators and parents can offer.

The Gesell Program in Early Childhood

General Overview

The Gesell Program in Early Childhood (GPE) is a comprehensive, system-wide approach to meet the needs of each individual child.

This program teaches children what they need in order to perform at their full potential and is uniquely structured to stimulate development in children from birth to 3 years.

The GPE is based on the best research on early child development, and uses a unique process that promotes safe exploration of the world around the child.

All of the procedures are designed to teach a child to experience the world and how to express and manipulate their own behavior and sensory experiences.

As a preemie specialist, I have learned how crucial a strong vocabulary is for children from early on in life.

What is the Gesell Test?

The Gesell Test is a standardized assessment that measures the motor development of young children. The test is commonly used as a screening tool for developmental disorders in children.

The Gesell Test tests five cognitive motor skills. It identifies which skills are developing well or poorly.

The following tables summarize the Gesell Test:

Vision test

What’s the difference between vision and hearing? Vision is the ability to see. Auditory is the ability to hear.

Five questions

Test questions are completed in 25 seconds.

The question about language

This question is to check if a child has a receptive language system, which means that she understands what is spoken to her, and has good communication skills.

Why is the Test Important?

The test shows a child’s preference for motor planning and how well they are able to link thoughts with action and planning.

The Gesell Institute is the nation’s leading source of educational developmental assessment and intervention (including the Gesell test) for infants and young children.

The test can be administered at birth and it includes measures for motor planning and cognition.

Gesell Institute — Official Homepage

Gesell Test — Official Gesell Test

+ The Gesell Test Explained

Jim and Debbie Gesell founded The Gesell Institute in 1987, in order to improve the effectiveness of early childhood intervention programs.

The approach the Gesell Institute follows is not based on prior results, as is the common practice in clinical psychology.

How Does the Gesell Test work?

Each child completes six screenings.

Scoring the screenings (samples) determines a child’s level of need in their areas of development.

Children with scores higher than moderate and not low, are considered to be in need of additional help.

Scoring high indicates that the child has a great need for further development.

There is no shame in having an IEP. IEPs can and should be valuable tools in finding a path forward for every child. And they do have their place in the history of special education. They have been an essential tool for educators in a way that these technologies (i.e. tablet computers) could not be.

Lorrie, her son Ezra, and I recently interviewed Dr.


Gesell Test

What are the advantages of this test?

This test may be an effective assessment tool for identifying children who may benefit from developmental interventions to improve language, cognitive and social skills.

Such interventions can help the child (and family) learn important cognitive and motor skills to promote growth, develop language skills and support communication.

In specific, the Gesell program is designed for infants who have less than 20 words, who are not verbal, who have few to no words and who have limited expressive and receptive language skills.

The Gesell Test allows professionals to decide how to move forward with the program.

The test also gives families the best chance of developing their children, thus ensuring a successful outcome.

Who can be Tested with the Gesell Assessment?

The assessment may be used to help address a child’s motor or social development, as well as academic. The original purpose of the assessment was to identify infants who had underdeveloped muscles or development in their gross motor skills. The application has since been broadened to include children with an undiagnosed developmental delay or delay in development. The purpose is to use the standardized measurements of motor skill at 1 year to determine developmental scores. Children with developmental delays or disorders may benefit from treatment to improve motor function, motor planning and motor control.

What are the Disadvantages of this Assessment?

Negative Conclusions, Poor Initial Identification

Often the results are negative and indicate that a child is not prepared for other age and social development. This is often due to their learning difficulties, or to other problems such as autism or developmental delay.

Lack of Meaningful Improvement

Test results may show a poor basic level, but little practical progress is made through teacher instruction and practice.

Poor Existing Child-Parent Communication

Families may not recognize the developmental areas where they have communication challenges or may not even be aware of the existence of the problem.

Scant Vocabulary Acquisition

Developmental goals for learning the use of language are often not met.

What are the benefits of scheduling a Gesell Test?

The advantages to a Gesell Developmental Observation are numerous, but they all fall into one of two categories:

The benefits to you are very straightforward: you’re adding a very valuable item to your child’s current, and future, work of teaching and learning. If done with the utmost professionalism, you’re also adding an extra level of assurance and security to your child’s current and future instruction, so that you will have fewer of the fears and anxieties that most parents have regarding their child’s development.


The list above can be condensed into two main areas: the present state of current research and recommendations for helping children with ASD:

1. Expect differences in the spectrum of symptoms as they relate to differences in brain development

2. If you are concerned about your child, you can start by seeking professional help from a qualified health care professional. Most diagnoses of autism require behavioral assessments. If an autism diagnosis is required, early intervention is crucial to ensuring that the child has the opportunity to flourish and reach their full potential.


Andersen, C., Zachariae, J., & Levy, M. (2015). The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders in the United States: The absence of a genetic marker in the latest estimates.

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