Does My Child Need to Be Tested / Evaluated?

There is the old saying that “children should come with a manual”. However, to the dismay of us all, children do not come with preset directions. Therefore, adults are often left with trial and error, as the means for determining “normal” development versus which behaviors should raise alarm. There are a few things to consider when determining whether a particular behavior is “normal” or not. Here is the acronym TEST to help you determine what’s typical and when it may be time to seek psychological testing:

Timing — How big is the concern? The first thing to consider is just how large of an issue is the behavior of concern. Three things to help you determine the size of the concern are frequency, intensity, and duration. Frequency refers to how often you are observing the behaviors. For example, is the child getting into fights with siblings and/or peers several times a week, as compared to once a month? Intensity refers to how strong the behaviors are. For example, is the child breaking things as compared to isolating themselves when angry? Lastly, duration refers to the length of time you’ve seen the behavior of concern. For example, did you just have this concern today or has it been for several months?

Effort — Who is the behavior affecting? Next on the list of considerations is the effort that the behavior is requiring or, in other words, the impact of the behavior. Is it disrupting school functioning or making home life intensely difficult? Are the behaviors of concern affecting your child’s usual eating, sleeping, or play habits?

Stage of Development — What is the child’s stage of development? – After considering timing and effort, it is then critical to consider the stage of development. As a rule of thumb it’s important to remember that all children, at various ages and stages, will demonstrate behaviors that may frustrate and grab attention. For example, it is expected that children who are less verbal will tend to “act out” behaviorally. Also, teenagers often engage in “acting out” behaviors, which is one reason that adolescence is often called a “second childhood.” Therefore, the point to remember is that behavior should be viewed within the context of the child and their current stage of development.

Treatments Tried — What treatments or things have been tried to address the behavior? Lastly, it is important to consider whether the behaviors of concern improved (or failed to improve) when various strategies have been attempted at home, school, or within the community.

In summary, at times parents may wonder if their child is in need of testing and evaluation by a psychologist. As a rule of thumb if the behavior(s) have increased in timing, require a lot of effort from the child or those around them, do not appear related to what is typical for their stage of development, and various treatments have been tried and failed – then it may be time to consider having your child evaluated. A comprehensive psychological evaluation can be useful in supplying answers to the questions you and the school may have about your child’s behavior, as well as their learning, social, and emotional needs.

I’m Not Crazy….Why Should I See a Therapist?

There is a common misconception that to darken a psychologist’s door means to admit one’s own “craziness.” However, what would seem more “insane” is to live a life with feelings of dread, incompleteness, or lack of fulfillment. Eleanor Roosevelt stated that “The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.” Her words so eloquently highlight that life is intended to be lived without the shadow of fear. Yet so many of us are clouded by fear… fear of what others think about us, our work, and our families. Fear about being significant and relevant on the job. Even fear about the existential question of “who am I?” Although fears are a common fact of life, particularly when we are going through various life changes, sometimes the weight of fear can leave us feeling paralyzed, unmotivated, and guilt ridden. What is one to do with this fear? The first step is to acknowledge the fear and then to accept the fact that you need not be alone as you question this journey called life. The feeling of aloneness can be alleviated through the support and guidance of a well-trained, empathetic, and encouraging therapist. Therapy is a great solution for finding an environment that will empower you to conquer your fears and face the life questions that may have only recently begun to plague you or even those that seem to have been present for some time. There is much work that can be accomplished within the therapist’s office. However, one of the greatest intangible gifts inherent to the therapy process is insight. Insight is the heightened awareness of self, as well as a greater understanding of a particular struggle/issue. Provided with the clinical know-how of an effective therapist, you can expect to experience a renewed sense of hope and exhilaration, thereby freeing you from fear and any other stumbling blocks that may be limiting your full potential. Find the courage to live your life fully. Be inspired to live out your life’s purpose. Sometimes all that is needed is to take that first step, as it is often the hardest one!