How can a psychological assessment help?
Many children have difficulty succeeding, coping, or getting along with others at some point in their life. Children may be having difficulty in any or all of the important areas of their life. Problems with family, school adjustment, friends, learning, or their own feelings often bring them to us. Sometimes a child’s difficulties are ongoing, have a significant negative impact on the child and may even create a great deal of stress for others. Problems may fail to resolve or even worsen over time. Parents, educators, and other caregivers struggle to understand why the child is having difficulty and why their efforts to help are not sufficient. Some children also succeed and function very well but demonstrate unique learning and academic needs that parents wish to have formally identified to assist them in planning for and accessing programming to meet their child's needs. In these instances, a psychological assessment can be an extremely valuable source of information to assist in planning appropriate interventions, academic programming, and support for a child.
There are many reasons why children struggle with learning, relationships, and their feelings. By the time parents come to see us, the adults in the child’s life have usually been struggling for a while to fully understand the reasons for the child’s difficulties and how to best help the child. At this point, it is often helpful to take a closer and more complete look at possible reasons the child is having problems. The goal of a psychological assessment is to uncover the reasons a child struggles and offer suggestions for how to assist the child. A wide range of factors which influence the child’s success and well-being are typically explored including the following possibilities.
- Underlying cognitive problems that make every day problem solving and academic tasks difficult and frustrating. (Such as intellectual deficits, learning disabilities, attentional problems, and developmental delays or disorders.
- Developmental Delays, Disabilities, or Disorders that interfere with the child's ability to meet typical learning, social, and behavioural expectations for their age.
- An academic program or environment which is a poor fit for the child's learning needs.
- High levels of stress in the child’s life that interfere with the child’s ability to learn, socialize, and/or behave appropriately. Stress may be related to a wide range of experiences such as family conflict, other family stressors, exposure to trauma, a difficult change or loss in the child’s life, difficulty with peer relationships, as well as many other possibilities.
- Emotional or social problems that interfere with the development of healthy relationships, appropriate behaviour, learning, and school adjustment.
- Poor coping skills that hinder a child’s ability to deal with typical childhood stressors and frustrations.
- Poor physical health or health habits which interfere with a child’s energy and availability to learn.
- Mental Health problems such as depression, anxiety, or thought disorders.
The assessment may place more or less emphasis on each of the above factors depending upon the referral question but by exploring each area, we strive to identify those concerns that are contributing to the child’s difficulties.We also look for strengths the child may have which we can then use to help promote the child’s overall development. All of this information allows us to offer guidance on how best to assist and support the child at home and at school.
Lyla Caudle, M.A. C.Psych.Assoc.