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Does My Child Need a Psychology Assessment?

by Dr. Elizabeth Orr
Teenage girl looking into distance

“My daughter can’t seem to focus and it’s affecting her schooling.” “My son is falling behind in his ability to read.” “My daughter is afraid to approach others and is isolating herself.” “My son worries non-stop about worst-case scenarios.” “My daughter seems down and depressed more days than not.” “My son is bullying another child.” “My daughter is being bullied.”

These statements represent concerns that parents might have about their child at various points in their child’s development. These concerns might simply be a phase through which a child is going. Yet, if the concern begins to interfere with a child’s day-to-day life, a psychology assessment can be highly useful.

A psychology assessment is a process whereby a psychologist uses a combination of techniques to better understand a person’s behavioural, emotional, cognitive, and/or personality difficulties. Based on the individual case, an assessment can examine such things as cognitive functioning (e.g. reasoning, and memory), ability to learn, inattention, hyperactivity, social problems, alcohol and substance abuse, personality  concerns, depression, anxiety, mood regulation problems, sleep problems, psychosis, eating/body image difficulties, trauma and/or attachment problems.

To gather information, a psychologist will meet with the parent(s) for an interview. The child may also attend the interview depending on his/her age and comfort level. Following this interview, the psychologist will meet with the child for testing activities in a comfortable setting where the tests are presented in a positive and child-friendly manner. The psychologist may also ask to speak with the child’s teacher(s) to gather additional information.

With this information, the psychologist assesses how the child is functioning and, if relevant, makes a diagnosis and recommendations for next steps. The psychology assessment will also highlight the child’s unique strengths which can offer hope and a realistic understanding for the child’s future development.

Where to go for a Psychology Assessment:

If you feel that a psychology assessment could be helpful for your child, the following options are available:

The School Board: Each school board provides a certain number of assessments per year. However, these assessments are limited by resource availability. Parents can check with the school principal about their child’s eligibility.

The Centre for Mental Health Research (CMHR): At the CMHR, psychological assessments are offered on a sliding fee scale provided by PhD students at the University of Waterloo. Each case is supervised by a Registered Psychologist. If interested, you can contact 519-888-4567, ext. 33842.

Private Pay Assessments by Registered Psychologists: Psychological assessments may also be accessed via private practices. Generally, private psychologists offer short wait list times; however, the rates are higher. Contacting your family doctor is a good first step to connecting with a private psychologist in the area.

Other treatment resources:

Parents may wish to contact Front Door at 519-749-2932 where an Intake Clinician will listen to your concerns, help determine eligibility and if appropriate schedule a meeting for services. A walk-in counselling service is also available.