In my last article on GoodTherapy.org, I provided an in-depth explanation of what is entailed in a formal evaluation for attention-deficit hyperactivity (ADHD), when completed by a psychologist. While knowing what is entailed is important, understanding signs to look for to determine when it may be appropriate to have your child or teen formally evaluated by a psychologist is equally so.
Formal testing by a psychologist may be helpful if you encounter any of the following situations:
- Child/teen frequently has trouble completing and turning in homework.
- Parents get frequent reports of child/teen not staying focused in class, being late to class, etc.
- Child/teen often appears withdrawn.
- Child/teen’s grades do not reflect the amount of effort put in.
- Child/teen is displaying significant oppositional or behavioral issues at home.
- Child/teen is being disruptive at school (i.e., talking during class, mouthing off to the teacher).
- Child/teen has significant trouble sitting in his or her seat during class, or fidgets frequently.
This list is certainly not exhaustive, but it provides a few common situations that are key indicators of a specific issue. If your child or teen fits any of the scenarios listed above, or otherwise is struggling at school, with friends, or at home, it is important to seek services early rather than waiting for symptoms and issues to broaden. It is also important to know what is causing the issues before implementing interventions; otherwise, you may end up wasting a lot of money and time on interventions that are not appropriate for your specific situation.
For example, there could be several reasons why your child/teen is struggling in social studies. He or she may have trouble staying focused, have difficulty processing orally presented information from his or her teacher, may be anxious if the teacher is perceived as intimidating, or could have trouble interpreting graphs and charts used to help convey course material. In this situation, if you don’t know what the specific cause of the difficulty is, any intervention you would obtain would essentially be used as part of a trial-and-error approach to see what would help.
A formal evaluation conducted by a psychologist really shines in clearly identifying where your child or teen’s issues lie. The evaluation should provide you (and teachers) with a clearer sense of how the child/teen is functioning, hopefully determine if ADHD is a factor or not, and rule out the presence of a learning or auditory processing issue, depression, anxiety, or other issues that may mimic ADHD.
In some cases, evaluations will lead to recommendations for further evaluation by a different type of professional (i.e., speech-language pathologist, audiologist, or occupational therapist) to flesh out possible issues observed that are beyond the expertise of a psychologist.
While formal evaluations are useful and there is a wide variety of reasons to seek them, it is always important to speak with a psychologist to make sure an evaluation is warranted in the first place. There may be times where it makes sense to hold off on an evaluation (i.e., if your child just started at a new school two weeks ago and is struggling for the first time, if your child just experienced a significant loss, or if your child recently moved from another country and has not had previous difficulties).
One way to think about an evaluation is that it can serve as a “road map” or “manual” to understanding how your child or teen functions. It gives you the understanding you need to seek appropriate interventions so that the services you obtain will likely be effective.
Disclaimer: The preceding article is intended as general guidance based on the author’s professional opinion, does not constitute an established professional relationship, and should not replace the recommendations of a psychologist or other licensed professional with whom you initiate or maintain a professional relationship.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.