Our testing philosophy and approach with children

Most parents bring their children for evaluation knowing very little about testing—what it consists of, what it can and cannot do, how long it takes, etc. It is a process that can be unnecessarily shrouded in mystery and people can feel intimidated to ask about it. This statement is our attempt to give you some basic information about testing and about what the evaluation process will entail, should you decide to work with us. Please feel free to ask questions about what we have written here, or about anything else.

What is testing? Testing by a psychologist is used to assess a child’s overall strengths and weaknesses in terms of problem-solving and intellectual skills. For example, it can help show whether the child is more comfortable with verbal tasks than visual ones, or vice versa. It helps to assess the child’s level of functioning in terms of attention, memory, learning skills, language skills, nonverbal reasoning, organizational skills, and complex problem solving. It is also a way of investigating whether the child is experiencing any emotional distress that is severe enough to meet criteria for a formal psychiatric diagnosis, such as depression or an anxiety disorder, and to get a sense of his or her coping skills.

Testing can be very helpful when a child has had an ongoing problem without a clear diagnosis, or when a new problem develops that is unclear in origin and has not responded well to treatment. With a clearer diagnosis, it is often possible to make recommendations for treatment, school, and home life that are much more tailored to the child and the issues he or she is having.

Philosophical approach There are probably as many different approaches to testing as there are psychologists doing testing. We think it is important that you understand a bit about our philosophy and approach so that you can decide whether we would provide the kind of service you are seeking.

People often come for testing with an urgent need for results. Some psychologists will accommodate this need, even at the expense of examining the issues thoroughly. We do not feel comfortable working this way and we feel that your child’s issue deserves a full examination. While we do not intend to go on a fishing expedition, our experience has been that most issues that people bring to a psychologist are complex. The issues did not develop overnight and it takes time to investigate them sufficiently. Furthermore, in order to make a sound diagnosis, there are usually many things that must be ruled out—many things in psychology look alike initially.

Our goal in testing is to look at the problem from the ground up, in context, to determine what the problem is, and then to make recommendations that will be useful in managing or solving the problem. We want the testing to be as informative as possible regarding the problem, so that you do not find yourself taking your child from person to person over the years trying to get a clearer opinion. In short, our approach is to do a meticulous, in-depth look now, in the hopes that it will save you time, effort, and frustration in the future.

What will we be doing? We will start by doing an in-depth interview with you, the parent, to get background on the problem as well as your child’s medical, social, and academic history. If it is relevant, we will ask for copies of any past testing or other evaluations he or she has undergone. If it is relevant, we will also ask for permission to speak to other people who might be helpful in getting a fuller picture of your child’s situation. You are free to provide this information or to exclude it from the evaluation. At the end of the interview, we will determine what tests we think need to be done and will give you an estimate of how long they will take.

Although it is different for each child, depending on the issue, his or her age, motivation, and attention span, typically we will meet for several sessions to do the testing. The total number of hours varies but generally it is in the range of eight hours. If the child is under 10, generally we do not advise meeting with him or her for more than an hour to 90 minutes at a time, as this is exhausting for the child. Therefore, you should be aware that if you decide to do the testing, it is likely you will need to bring your child multiple times.

After the testing When the testing is completed, we will score and analyze all the material. Assuming that you opt for a full assessment, we will then write a detailed report based on the work we have done together, as well as any background material you have provided. It will be an in-depth look at your child’s situation and will include recommendations for treatment, school, and/or home life. Depending on the complexity of your child’s situation, as well as the practice schedule, this report can take up to two months to complete. However, we try as much as possible to have it completed sooner than this.

As soon as the report is finished, we will contact you to set up a feedback session. During this session, we will go over the findings and we will share my recommendations with you. We will provide you with a copy of the report to keep, and we can discuss whether you want to give a copy to anyone else who works with your child, such as a therapist, pediatrician, or teacher.

After the feedback session, if you have questions regarding the report or anything related to your child’s situation, you are always free to contact us to discuss things further. We are also available to write a letter or talk by phone at your request regarding the testing to a school, agency, etc.

It is important that you think about whether you feel comfortable making this commitment of time and money. Our promise to you in return is that you will receive a respectful, in-depth look at the issue that brought you here, leading to either a clear diagnosis or a significant narrowing down of the potential causes. Either way, you will leave here with a clearer sense of what to do next.