Assessments of Mood and Behavior
A child’s emotional state, and subsequent behavioral manifestations of their mood can directly impact their performance in the educational setting and have far reaching implications for their overall level of adjustment, well-being, and success. A comprehensive assessment must use tools that provide pertinent information on a child’s feelings about themselves and others, their overall mood, personality traits, and patterns of behavior. This information is typically collected through a combination of measures administered directly to the child, as well as questionnaires that are filled out by parents and teachers. Child measures may directly ask questions pertaining to the domains being evaluated, or indirectly obtain the information through having children complete drawings, tell stories, etc.
A diagnostic assessment is pursued when parents have concerns about children’s behaviors, moods or other symptoms. These symptoms are typically present across multiple environments and are having a notable negative impact on the child’s functioning. In these instances an evaluation can help to identify possible reasons for the problems, such as the existence of a learning disability (LD), a mood disorder (e.g. Anxiety, Depression), or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD). Once an appropriate diagnosis is made, it becomes possible to begin an appropriate course of treatment, including securing additional supports and accommodations as needed. In order for a child to access a range of services that are available through the school districts and regional centers, eligibility is typically established through the presence of a specific diagnosis. The determination of an accurate diagnosis early on is an important factor to ensure that the child’s struggles are not perceived as simply something he/she could overcome with extra effort, a common misperception that can take a toll on the child’s sense of self-confidence and self-efficacy.
This type of assessment includes intelligence testing and achievement testing, amongst a variety of other tests. Evaluating a child’s intelligence as well as their present level of achievement on academic subjects allows for a determination of strengths and weakness in functioning, while also accounting for neuropsychological factors that underlie functioning. Having this information at hand allows a parent to collaborate with the school to create an optimal learning environment for the child. At the conclusion of a psycho-educational assessment, the psychologist provides recommendations for a variety of supports and accommodations to be used in the academic setting, such as extended time on tests, visual supports, note-taking support, preferential seating to reduce distractions, etc. Having the appropriate identification of the child’s areas of difficulty and providing the necessary supports in place can have a notable impact on the child’s experiences of success in the school setting, including improving motivation for learning and self-esteem.
Individualized Accommodations Testing is provided for adolescents and young adults who require documentation to obtain accommodations for standardized tests (e.g. SAT, ACT) or for college. There is no guarantee that the test results will ensure accommodations as the decision is ultimately made by agencies that proctor the tests or by the schools. The decision is made based on the quality of the documentation provided, the qualifications of the professional who certifies the presence of the disability, and the demonstrated need.
Program Evaluations for Children with Autism
For a child who has already been diagnosed as having an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and has had a program in place to address areas of need, a program evaluation can provide an objective assessment of whether the intervention plan continues to be relevant and effective. The evaluation can outline developmentally appropriate goals to be targeted, and strategies that may enhance the child’s learning and maximize progress. Individualized Education Plan (IEP) attendance and additional consultation with service providers may be scheduled upon request