Why Should I Get An Evaluation For My Child?
How Can A Psychological Evaluation Or Psychoeducational Evaluation Help My Child?
Is your child struggling academically or behaviorally in school? Has your child received tutoring or specialized education and they still have a hard time learning? Do emotional or social challenges get in the way of your child developing friendships and enjoying childhood?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, psychological testing could give you a clear understanding of your child’s strengths and identify opportunities for intervention. While psychological and psychoeducational evaluations often lead to a diagnosis, the most important aspect is getting a game plan with recommendations and referrals for services designed to help each child succeed.
What Type of Services Are Often Suggested?
There are a variety of services available to support children and parents depending on the present concerns. As part of the recommendations I make when evaluating a child, I often incorporate a variety of the services below.
Individual and Family Therapy –
The goals of therapy depend on the child’s needs. Common reasons I suggest therapy include managing emotions, difficulty with relationships, feelings of low self-esteem, and/or learning communication skills such as assertiveness. Family therapy can be helpful when parents would benefit from learning tools to support their child’s needs and/or to improve communication in the home.
Art and Equine Therapy –
Some children may respond better to addressing their personal challenges in creative ways such as art therapy or equine therapy. Typically these sessions occur outdoors and involve learning at the moment which can be great for children who are more hesitant to open up and share about personal matters.
Art and/or horses offer a unique way to help children let their guard down. Also, for children with various emotional and physical limitations, therapeutic horseback riding can be tremendously healing and enhance self-esteem while also improving balance, strengthening the core, developing hand-eye coordination, and helping with sensory integration.
Speech and Language Therapy –
Speech and language therapy can help when there are language delays, however, this service is also beneficial for children with various Communication Disorders such as Stuttering, Language Disorder, Speech Sound Disorder, Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder, or Autism Spectrum Disorder. While speech and language therapists often help children with articulation difficulties, they can also focus on communication skills, understanding social cues to self-regulate the conversation, and the ability to express ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
Occupational Therapy –
Occupational therapists can help children improve their grasp, develop good handwriting, and help with their daily activities. For children with ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorder, the focus may be on sensory integration or developing tools for self-regulation.
Specialized Tutoring –
While many adults offer tutoring services, to work with children with learning differences, they must have specialized training to know how to instruct these children. In addition, they utilize evidence-based programs and methods for teaching children with various learning disabilities such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, nonverbal learning disorders, among others.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) –
This is an approach often suggested when working with children who present with various behavioral and/or emotional problems in-home and/or school. The goals of ABA are tailored to each child and family but often aim to decrease problem behaviors, improve language and communication skills, provide children with self-monitoring and self-regulation techniques to reduce challenging or interfering behaviors, or focus on improving adaptive functioning and self-care activities. The ABA therapists often work in the home with the parents or even in the school setting.
Psychiatry and other medical providers –
There are many times when medications are appropriate. A psychiatrist or psychiatric nurse practitioner who specializes in children and adolescents can assess your child and discuss potential medication options. Other medical providers include:
Audiologists – When a child has auditory processing difficulties or other challenges hearing or understanding what they hear, an audiological evaluation can provide helpful insights and recommendations for how to help a child thrive.
Neurologists – When testing uncovers various concerns pointing to a possible neurological condition, this referral may be suggested to rule out any brain-based issues before finalizing a diagnosis.
Developmental Optometrists – A Developmental Vision Evaluation performed by a Developmental Optometrist is designed to assess all the visual functioning required for reading, writing, and learning. This is very different from a routine eye exam. This may be a crucial recommendation when there is evidence of dyslexia or visual processing weaknesses.
Social skills groups –
This recommendation is often suggested for children who struggle to initiate, develop, or maintain friendships. Most groups last for 8 to 12 weeks and cover a curriculum of vital skills necessary to create relationships. These groups are led by licensed mental health professionals and typically include 6 to 8 peers which give opportunities to practice these skills.
Nutritional counseling –
Collaborating with a nutritionist is crucial for children coping with eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating patterns. However, nutritionists can also work with children on the autism spectrum who may be very selective in their eating habits.
Guidance for Schools –
As part of my evaluations, I make recommendations for 504 Plans and Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for children attending public schools or suggestions or accommodations in private schools. At times, I may also suggest connecting with an educational advocate to support parents in this process and to ensure their rights and needs are being met according to the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
School Placement –
Once a psychologist has a clear picture of a child’s strengths and challenges, they may suggest a different school based on that child’s unique needs.
Other important recommendations that would be selected specifically to meet the needs of the child and their family may include:
Resources such as applying for grants or services in the community
Support groups for parents/families
Bibliotherapy or reputable websites to help you learn more about your child
Apps for parents and/or children that teach skills such as mindfulness, mood tracking, coping skills, organizational skills, or reminders and alarms to improve self-efficacy and independence.
Other personalized recommendations such as ideas for parenting, sleep hygiene, managing test anxiety, creating a reward system in the home, among many others.
With the number of services and resources available, there is no need to watch your child struggle with social, learning, emotional or developmental difficulties. But knowing what services you need, what is available, and where to access support can be tough.
While a diagnosis may be an important outcome of getting your child evaluated, the diagnosis will lead to a roadmap of recommendations to help your child succeed personally, socially, or academically which I believe is the most important aspect of an evaluation. You and your child deserve to be happy. You also deserve to know where to go for help.
What steps should I take if I want to have my child evaluated?
Find a psychologist in your area who specializes in psychological testing and evaluations. I would suggest calling to ask questions about how they structure their testing, what their reports look like, and find out if they provide thorough recommendations and can connect you with services in your community.
Call Dr. Kuhl today at (954) 391-5303 to get started with your complimentary consultation today! She provides testing and psychological evaluations in Fort Lauderdale and Coral Springs, Florida.