Recommendations and Guidelines for Virtual Administration of the Gesell Assessment System - Updated 2021

Released January 2021

The Gesell Assessment System, including the Gesell Developmental Observation-Revised (GDO-R) and the Gesell Early Screener (GES), uses direct observation to evaluate a child’s cognitive, language, motor and social-emotional responses. Ideally, the Gesell Assessment System is administered in person. However, it is reasonable for a trained examiner following guidelines piloted by Gesell to administer the GDO-R or the GES using  a web camera in real time. Early evaluations confirm that even by video camera, an experienced examiner can learn a great deal of information about a child abiding by this virtual administration protocol.

We urge examiners who choose to administer the GDO-R and/or the GES by video camera to:

  1. Complete and show mastery of the Virtual Administration of the Gesell Assessment System (link) online training. Click here to register for an upcoming session. 
  2. Strictly abide by the Recommendations and Guidelines for Virtual Administration of the Gesell Assessment System found here on our website (link)

General Recommendations for Virtual Administrators

Consult with a Gesell NLS Expert Examiner  

Exclusively for GDO-R examiners trained in the last 5 years we offer a consulting package that gives you access to a Gesell National Lecture Staff (NLS) Level 4 examiner to ensure your assessment needs are met with the utmost integrity. 

Use their time to administer web assessments directly, to review Child Recording Forms from web assessments your examiners administered, to manage the parent end of the process or to help you design a best practices plan for your program’s web administration. They are eager to serve you in any way that would bring some ease to your assessment process.  Register here for a plan. 

$500 for 10 hours

$1,000 for 20 hours

$2,000 for 50 hours

$3,000 for 100 hours 


Use Only Currently Trained GDO-R Examiners

If you have been trained in the last 5 years, you may choose to administer and interpret the GDO-R by web camera using the Recommendations and Guidelines for Virtual Administration of the Gesell Assessment System found on our website. 


Complete Training in the Gesell Early Screener

If you choose to administer the GES under virtual conditions , we strongly recommend 

  1. Only assessors trained in the last 5 years in GDO-R administration undertake administering the GES under web conditions. While under live conditions the GES does not require special training, the camera can be less revealing than an in person assessment. For this reason, we recommend only trained assessors utilize this process.
  2. Assessors complete the Gesell Early Screener web training (register here).
  3. Assessors follow the Recommendations and Guidelines for Virtual Administration of the Gesell Assessment System as applicable to GES tasks.

Guidelines for Virtual Administration of the Gesell Assessment System

Prepare families. All families should watch the Gesell Web Administration video which will explain the administration, the limitations of virtual administration and ask them to prepare materials for the at home assessment. Gesell recommends asking families to sign and submit a consent form, like the example offered on our website. Additionally, have the family member print the attached forms, as they will be needed for the child to complete the assessment.

Record. If possible record the assessment for possible review during interpretation. If you choose to record, inform families first. 

Use a large screen. Find as large a screen as you can. Attempting an administration on your phone is insufficient. A system like Zoom or Google Hangouts on a computer or laptop is recommended.

Stay consistent to GDO-R and GES script/instructions unless otherwise stated. Understanding it will be impossible for most families to access Gesell materials used in the GDO-R and GES, Gesell suggests the following set of adaptations under virtual conditions. Aside from these few adaptations, proceed with the administration as you were trained. No other items should be or skipped or amended.

  1. Tasks to Skip in Virtual Administration: Unless the family has access to Gesell materials relevant for these tasks, you may skip them in a web administration. We warn that using substitute materials could result in an invalid assessment. Note that this accommodation will impact strand scoring.
  • Cubes
  • Color Forms
  • Three Hole Form Board
  • Pellets
  • Tasks to Amend in Web Administration: Unless the family has access to Gesell materials relevant for these tasks, you may amend classic assessment protocols as follows:
  • Copy Forms: Use an 8.5 X 11 sheet of plain white paper. If the child is viewing on a tablet, place the tablet flat on the table.
  • Incomplete Man: Print and administer on an 8.5 X 11 sheet of plain white paper. Do not use other colors or lined paper.
  • Visual I: Print and administer on an 8.5 X 11 sheet of plain white paper. Do not use other colors or lined paper.
  • Visual III: Print and administer on an 8.5 X 11 sheet of plain white paper. Do not use other colors or lined paper.
  • Identifying Letters and Numbers: Print and administer on an 8.5 X 11 sheet of plain white paper. Do not use other colors or lined paper.
  • Bean Bag Throw: Use a beanbag or substitute a small stuffed animal/beanie baby.
  • Tasks to Allow Parent/Guardian Proxy for Examiner in Web Administration: Certain tasks will require the assistance of a parent/guardian that is proximal to the child. Remind the Parent/Guardian that this is to help the examiner, not to help the child. During multiple tasks in web administration the examiner may need to request that the parent/guardian place materials properly, point, measure, throw or perform other actions that would typically be performed by the examiner. Only actions typically undertaken by the examiner are to be allowed.

Identify Child Recording Form and Strand Scoring Worksheet as “Virtual”. Mark all material clearly as taking place under Virtual Administration Guidelines. This will be important when referring back, in the future.

Seek Additional Sources. As always, Gesell recommends the GDO-R and the GES as one part of the admissions and placement process. Additional information should be gathered from other sources, such as interviews with the child and parents/guardians, child observations during a classroom visit, input from prior year teachers or a home visit.  

Repeat the Assessment in 4 - 8 Months: Nothing can replace the authenticity of a live administration. When able, reassess children and potentially reconsider your placement for 3 and 4-year-olds if necessary.

virtual virtual administration virtual gdo-r

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