A psychological assessment of a child’s learning, social, behavioral and personality development is conducted to plan a child’s educational and mental health needs.

What is a psychological evaluation?

A psychological evaluation is designed to evaluate strengths and weaknesses of a child in various areas. The psychological evaluation includes a series of interviews, standardized tests, and questionnaires. They may be conducted at the request of a parent who may be seeking answers, a teacher who recognizes that something is amiss with the child’s development, or a pediatrician wishing for a more comprehensive assessment of their patient.

The psychological evaluation ensures that everyone in a child’s world is included in the overall plan for success for the child and is working toward the same goals. Parents, teachers, doctors and psychologist can all work together for the benefit of the child, and documenting the actual evaluation will help the child to receive the services they need, as well as to lay the foundation for future treatments and evaluations.

What areas does a psychological evaluation consider?

A psychological evaluation is an individualized assessment, based on the needs of the child and the issues that led to the evaluation or referral. While each psychological evaluation is unique and tailored to the individual needs of the child, there are certainly some commonalities to expect from a psychological evaluation. The different areas included in the typical psychological evaluation include the following:

There will be a series of tests which assess the ability for the child to absorb and process information. During the intelligence evaluation, professionals are observing possible developmental delays or intellectual disabilities in the child, the language and communication skills they possess, their nonverbal reasoning skills, and their overall intellectual gifts and/or disabilities.

Standardized tests will measure the child’s abilities with reading, mathematics, and writing, and these educational tests can identify academic strengths as well as learning disabilities such as dyslexia. Following the psychological assessment, tangible actions can be planned and executed, including the development of a Special Education Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) at a Planning and Placement Team meeting (PPT) for the child.

A psychological evaluation will also measure a child’s reasoning abilities, memory skills, and organizational skills. Depending upon the age of the child, these evaluations may take place within games or play time, so that the child can perform their best without stress or distraction to affect the results of the evaluation and give a mixed or incorrect result. Such tests of a child’s reasoning abilities, memory skills, and organizational skills can identify issues such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Interviews and social, emotional and personality evaluation tools are designed to uncover mental health and behavioral issues, including depression, anxiety, or social issues that may affect the child at home or at school. After the psychological evaluation, therapists will be equipped to plan a course of treatment, and provide direction for behavioral management strategies to be used at home or school. The evaluation can also help to determine whether or not medication is appropriate.

This differs from a psychosocial evaluation which evaluates a family’s psychosocial risk profiles in the primary care setting as a valuable screening tool for identifying families with psychosocial risk profiles associated with increased risk of childhood behavioral problems.

What will happen during a psychological evaluation?

A psychological evaluation includes a series of interviews, standardized tests, and questionnaires, which are often completed before the appointment time.The child’s parents will be asked to fill out questionnaires regarding the child’s developmental, medical, social, and academic history. There will also be reports from school as well as any other evaluations which will form the basis of the psychological evaluation.

The psychologists will also want to know about a child’s background and history, including their cultural and socioeconomic background, major life events such as divorce, death of a loved one, health and developmental history, and past abuse. Such events would most certainly play a role in the child’s development, and knowing the child’s health and social history will help the evaluator to gain a clear and accurate picture of the child and the issues they face today.

Interviews will be conducted between the evaluator and the child, as well as with the evaluator and the parents. When the evaluator is interviewing the child, they will discuss any issues or difficulties the child is experiencing currently, as well as past issues, and the evaluator will be listening as well as observing how the child thinks, reasons, and interacts with people.

As part of the psychological evaluation, a psychologist will also speak with those closest to the child, especially the parents, and if available, their teachers. The adults in the child’s life can provide a different angle or additional insights that would be helpful for the evaluator to absorb.

There will be different types of tests for the child which examine cognitive, educational, and social-emotional functioning, each measuring different things. The tests will generally depend upon the area of concern mentioned when the child was referred for psychological evaluation. the reason for the child’s referral to psychological testing, whether it be academic, emotional, social, mental, or something else.

After the evaluations are completed, a written report is presented to the parents to review the results and discuss the proposed recommendations.

When Should One Seek Out Psychological Evaluation?

Parents, teachers, and guardians should seek out psychological testing if their child is experiencing difficulties in their daily life, such as:

  • If the child is bullying others or being bullied
  • Experiencing feelings of anxiety, fear, anger, sadness or hopelessness
  • Has mood changes frequently or dramatically
  • Is using drugs or other substances
  • Experiences a drop in academic performance or is struggling in school
  • Is having difficulty concentrating
  • Misses school, acts out in class, or doesn’t completing school work

If you or a teacher are concerned about your child’s behavior, attitudes, intellect or emotional state, then you should not hesitate to set up an appointment for a psychological evaluation. A full psychological evaluation can reveal underlying mental health disorders, learning disorders, or developmental disabilities. Once the evaluation has been completed, the parents will be able to decide on the best course of action for their child, whether that includes seeking mental health treatment services, requesting accommodations at school, or enrolling the child in a special program.