No one knows your child better than you. If you are concerned about your child’s behavior and are considering having them evaluated by a child psychologist, do it. If your gut feeling is telling you that your child is experiencing emotional, mental, or learning difficulties, follow your instincts. There is no harm in being sure your child is happy and healthy. An evaluation by a child psychologist won’t harm your child and if the good news is your child is perfectly fine mentally & emotionally, then wouldn’t you feel better knowing instead of wondering?
Trust Your Instincts
Children undergoing emotional or psychological stress may manifest their symptoms differently than adults. If you sense a change in your child, such as change in appetite, sleeping habits, headaches or other physical ailments without obvious cause, these can be signs she needs help. If your child is usually a good student but is now falling behind, maybe he is experiencing emotional stress.
Your child’s pediatrician can be a wonderful resource for guidance and support. It is a good idea to first have your child examined by her pediatrician to make sure changes in appetite, sleep, or school performance are not linked to any physiological causes. Your child’s pediatrician can also refer you to a Michigan child psychologists in your area and discuss your child’s behavioral changes with you.
If you discussed your child’s behavior with your pediatrician and the pediatrician assures you that your child is perfectly fine and is not in need of psychological evaluation, but you still have a sinking feeling that she isn’t actually okay, don’t back down. You know your child the best. If you think your child is really in need of help, seek a child psychologist. As a parent, you are your child’s advocate.
If your concerns for your child are not necessarily her emotional health, but your daughter has difficulty with her school work, a psychological evaluation will help determine the cause. The cause could be ADHD, dyslexia, or language based learning issues. A child psychologist will use a variety of assessments and tests to find a solution to help your child. If an issue is found, you have given your child the opportunity to flourish and overcome her learning difficulties.
If your concerns are more developmental for your toddler or preschool age child, a psychological evaluation will help determine if your child has any developmental delays. In these situations, it’s best to catch these delays early. Physical, occupational, speech, and other early intervention therapies can help your child catch up.
In any of these situations, a psychological evaluation will only help you understand your child more. It will be encouraging to your child no matter what the evaluation determines, that you love, support, and are interested in her well being.
What Will a Psychological Evaluation Entail?
It really depends on your child’s age and what problems they may be having. In general, tests in the form of questionnaires or checklists are norm-referenced, meaning the tests have been standardized to apply to anyone taking the test regardless of where the test is being taken or who is giving the test. For example, a norm-referenced test evaluating focus and attention may rank the child’s ability to focus based on other children of the same age.
An evaluation for a baby or toddler will include hearing and vision tests and play observation. A young child will be unable to complete any standardized written tests. The psychologist will interact with your child and observe how he responds to his environment.
There are several screening and assessment tools to evaluate child development. Parents may be given a questionnaire, like the Child Development Inventories, which measures the development in five domains: gross motor, fine motor, language, comprehension, and person-social. Scores will provide information to a child’s significant advancement or delayed development. Similarly, the Battelle Developmental Inventory Screening Test, measures development in receptive and expressive language, fine and gross motor, adaptive, personal-social, and cognitive/academic, but this tool is completed by the psychologist.
If your concern is attention and focus, a parent and/or teacher may be given the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ) Vanderbilt Assessment Scale. The parent or teacher answers questions about the frequency in symptoms. For example, a question is: “Has difficulty organizing tasks and activities.” The answers to choose from are never, occasionally, often, or very often.
If your concern is your adolescent’s mood or anxiety, there are a number of tools that may be used to help assess your teen: Kutcher Adolescent Depression Scale (KADS), Youth and Worries and Fears Questions (YWFQ), and the Tool for Assessment of Suicide Risk for Adolescents (TASR-Am). These tools will help determine if your adolescent is in need of help and will also help your teen communicate her thoughts and feelings in general.
A referred Michigan psychologist may also use the Psychotherapeutic Support for Teens (PST). This tool provides guidelines on how to best direct clinical interactions with teens to create a supportive environment. The tool focuses on compassion without judgment, emotional identification, friendliness without being a friend, and patience.
These are just a few examples of the types of tests or questionnaires that may be used in your child’s evaluation. There are hundreds to choose from and each psychologist has her preferences and will choose which tool she feels will best evaluate your child. Be assured that a licensed child psychologist has undergone years of training specifically for children.
Tests, tools, and questionnaires aside, the cornerstone of a psychological evaluation is the clinical interview. If your child is still too young to speak, the psychologist will mainly be interviewing you and observing your child play. For older children, the psychologist will try develop a rapport with your child while observing how he interacts with others, thinks, and processes information. A psychologist will perform an overall assessment including demeanor, comprehension, social interaction, and behavior just by interacting with your child. Interviews with family members, teachers, siblings, and friends may also be part of the evaluation.
The child psychologist’s goal is to understand the comprehensive picture of your child. Observation, clinical interview, tests, and questionnaires used together will guide the psychologist to tailoring individualized help based on your child’s needs. An evaluation might be something you are nervous about, but the psychologist is there to help you. These tests, assessments, and tools are not graded and can’t be studied for. The initial psychological evaluation is to help your child and help the psychologist map a plan for the best way to help.