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Understanding psychological evaluations and assessments on children

Sera Jang
Sera Jang

Child psychologist at the International Wellbeing Center in Jakarta

Jakarta | Wed, April 18, 2018 | 11:22 am
Understanding psychological evaluations and assessments on children

As parents, always remember to seek a professional evaluation and diagnosis, so that you will get a clear picture of your child’s psychological condition (Shutterstock/File)

“I think my child has ADHD.”

When our children show any particular symptoms, we easily Google them and reach certain self-diagnoses. As the parent do more research, it becomes easy for them to be obsessed with the self-diagnosed result and strongly believe in it. However, professionals warn parents to be careful when diagnosing their children.

In many cases, the symptoms are caused by various reasons that are not as simple as they seem. For example, let’s say there is a child who often forgets his belongings, shows hyperactive behaviors and is not able to focus on one thing for long. By hearing the symptoms, we may think of Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD). However, by jumping to conclusions, we rule out the possibilities of the child having a low cognitive functioning, emotional difficulties like depression or high level of aggression, behavioral issues or a maybe blend of these all.

Why do we need a psychological evaluation?

Any parent who has ever brought their children to a psychological center for any support would have been asked to have them go through a psychological evaluation before moving on to further therapy or counseling sessions. The parent may come up with questions: Do we really need an evaluation? Is it accurate and worthy enough? What can we expect from it?

The American Psychological Association (APA) emphasizes the need for a psychological evaluation, saying that figuring out the nature of the problem through psychological tests and assessment is a must to set accurate therapeutic goals and make the right approach for individual needs. Effective goals and therapy sessions can be driven from having a full picture of a child’s state.

Psychological evaluation

A psychological evaluation includes formal and informal tests that are standardized by researchers and proven to be effective in measuring a particular traits or disorders. Licensed and trained psychologists conducting the standardized assessment play the most important roles in the process.

Checking if the provider is using standardized tools to assess the child is necessary, as standardized assessments were designed to accurately identify the child’s condition and to develop an efficient treatment plan. The evaluation result driven from world standardized tools may become useful when providing the child’s information to schools, referring the child’s case to other therapists or tracking the child’s history, as the assessment is well-known and understood to most licensed counselors or therapists.

Prior evaluation steps 

An intake session and diagnostic evaluation are prior steps to collecting more information about the child and parent. The intake session is an initial clinical observation/interview session with the child and parent, which helps therapists understand the child’s developmental history, interaction and traumatic experiences.

Therapists gathers information directly by observing the child and indirectly by interviewing the parent. While interviewing, the parent can organize the difficulties of their child by retelling the child’s history. Not does an intake session offer general information, it also gives the therapist an idea on what subsequent test or assessment is needed.

A diagnostic evaluation is a procedure accessing intellectual, behavioral, emotional and social difficulties that affect the child’s life in general. It is similar to medical checkups like x-rays or blood tests we take when we visit hospitals to find out what is causing our physical symptoms.

The psychological assessment gives information on the child’s intellectual capability, strength and weaknesses in abilities, cognitive functioning and what behavioral and emotional difficulties are present and how deep they are in comparison to the child’s same age group and mental disorder standards.

It gives a full picture of the child’s psychological condition, which will reduce time in having to go through trial-and-error. An accurate diagnosing is as important as the treatment.

What are the benefits? 

Some psychological centers will ask the parents to undergo an evaluation as well to understand their approach to nurturing and the interaction methods they use with their children. Because the parent provides the main environment for the children, it is important to analyze parents’ mental condition and way of dealing with their children.

It is understandable that the parent may be reluctant to being analyzed. However, we need to remember that a parent evaluation is not to judge parenting skills, but to support the parent so they can provide a better environment for their children. The parent will receive comprehensive feedback and parenting recommendations based on their individual needs. 

What to prepare 

Some parents believe they need to prepare their children for the assessments. However, what they need to prepare for the assessment is the child’s physical condition by giving him/her enough sleep and proper meals. The psychological evaluation is to study the child’s psychological condition at that point in time and find the right method to help the child. It is not a test that the child may pass or fail or needs to study. Studying and practicing the assessment ahead of time may backfire and lead to misleading results that may affect the proper approach to the child. 

As parents, always remember to seek a professional evaluation and diagnosis, so that you will get a clear picture of your child’s psychological condition. (kes)

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Sera Jang is a child psychologist at the International Wellbeing Center in Jakarta. Sera has 11 years’ experience practicing Play therapy and Youth and Parent counseling. She studied Journalism (B.S) and Child psychology (M.A) at Hanyang University, South Korea, and participated in workshops and research in the field of psychology. She occasionally writes articles for parenting magazines and daily papers.

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