Frequently Asked Questions

We understand that you may have questions about the MDAT and we’re here to provide you with the answers you need. Please find below and if you can’t find what you’re looking for – ask us a question!

The MDAT is a directly assessed (with some parent report items) developmental tool that was first created in 2004 and revised with a detailed validation completed in 2008 in Malawi. It measures development in four areas (gross motor, fine motor, language and social adaptive development) with cognitive development being measured across the domains but particularly across the fine motor and language domains of the tool.

It is best used for providing information about children’s development for programmatic purposes e.g., for evaluating whether an intervention or risk factor is affecting children’s development in large numbers of children

Children in low resource settings are more likely to have difficulties with their development than children in resource wealthy settings. There are more risk factors in a low resource setting that affect children’s development – including caregiver education, pregnancy and post-natal infections in a child, food insecurity, poverty and stressors within the household. Interventions that can affect children’s development in resource-limited settings can make big differences for outcomes of all children into school age and adulthood. Being able to measure child development in resource limited and varying cultural settings can support programmes as to what the best choices are for interventions that they provide.

The MDAT is one of the only tools for children from age 0-5 which includes direct observation and has been well validated in Sub-Saharan contexts. It has items that are understandable and easy to use in a variety of different contexts. It has been used in over 25 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and Central and Latin America. It is cheap to create a kit and the kit can be created out of local materials, many of which can be found in local markets and households. The MDAT can be scored using a Z-score approach so it can provide a level of development (DAZ) which can give information about the population that is being assessed.

The MDAT assessor’s manual is free, and the kit is cheap to create (between $30-$45).

Some of the MDAT training may in future be done online but presently, it requires training either in person or online. The trainer would then need to certify those who are trained either in person or through 2-3 videotapes of assessments. This costs in terms of funding the trainer locally or through our team. We can provide specific costs for training in person or online.

No. The MDAT enables teams in low- and middle-income settings around the world to measure the impact of interventions which may affect early child development in the first few years of life. MDAT has been used in over 20 countries such as India, Pakistan, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania, Lisbon, France, RD Congo and more! Additionally, it has been endorsed by Governments, Researchers and NGOs such as the Gates Foundation, Save the Children, Medicine Sans Frontieres and World Bank.

Learn more about MDAT’s Impact and global reach.

The MDAT can take 20 mins for a small baby but up to 45 minutes in an older child as there are more items to do when assessors are experienced. When assessors start to learn and use the MDAT, it may take longer until you feel confident in its use.

The MDAT can be scored using a shiny app programme on R ( This will provide a Z score but is presently only against normative data from Malawi and a few other sub-Saharan African countries that have provided data.

To use this app, data does need to be re-coded. Information on this re-coding is provided in the user’s site.

You can also simply use the raw scores if the scores are obtained using the appropriate “start/stop” rules where at least 6 items are marked with a “Yes” in a row. All items below this would be assumed to be a “Yes”. This is only helpful if you are comparing children of exactly the same age.

You can be trained in MDAT either online by the central team or by some certified trainer of trainers in a number of countries. We have a database of trainers which we can provide you with if you get in touch with regard to which country you need support for working in.

You can learn to use the MDAT by reading the assessors manual, taking the quiz, and hopefully soon by doing more online self-paced training. To use the MDAT you do need to be certified either by a local trainer or by sending videos once you have practiced and reached a level where you think you can be certified. The review of videos and training takes up the time of a trainer and will therefore need to be funded.

To become a trainer, you need to have been certified by one of the MDAT team as an assessor on the MDAT. You will then need to provide us with information on how you are going to train (providing your agenda) and will need to link with us to discuss how to ensure you have consistent training as a trainer prior to starting.

You can book your place for the available/upcoming training dates here. Alternatively, register your interest in training by filling out a form here.

MDAT Toolkit includes items easily available in most countries, such as soaps, plastic bottles, pen/pencil, toy cars, chalk, basket, etc. More informationand to request a toolkit can be done once an MOU has been signed by you and returned to us.

Access to all documents such as the MDAT manual, training resources and more is granted upon signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

Yes. MDAT has a basic manual and a trainers manual. You can access these by logging in your member account.

Access to the MDAT requires an MOU as it is important that we as a central team know who is using MDAT, who has been trained on it and so we ensure that we maintain a standard for its use. The MOU just requires the user to sign to say that they will adhere to the principles of not changing the tool as it is and to following the guidelines of the central MDAT team.

Please find attached translation guidance for MDAT here to learn more about forward and backward translations. Access to this link will require you to register as a member.

Click here to become a log in/sign in as a member.

Access to all documents such as the MDAT manual, training resources and more is granted upon signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) available here.

 Please reach out to us with your query on the contact us page.

Cannot find your query?