Psychological Assessment

A psychological assessment involves the collection of information about individuals, including their behaviours, problems, unique characteristics, abilities, and intellectual functioning. This information may be used to diagnose problematic behaviour, to guide an individual toward optimal functioning, to describe an individual’s personality characteristics, to select treatment techniques, to provide a more complete picture of an individuals problems and to establish pre-treatment baseline levels of behaviour against which to measure post-treatment improvement. The process of an assessment usually includes a clinical interview, psychological testing measures, behavioural observations and speaking with family members or other healthcare practitioners when necessary. Assessment results are provided in a collaborative manner, where one is able to ask questions and provide their input on the results. A written report may be produced upon request (fee’s may apply). At The Therapy Centre we assess children, adolescents, adults and seniors.

Psycho-educational Assessments

Psychoeducational assessments allow individuals to obtain an understanding of their learning profile and psychological functioning. We all learn and process information differently; psychoeducational assessments help determine our unique strengths and difficulties. This allows us to determine what aspects may be interfering with our ability to learn or functioning in different areas of our lives.

Psychoeducational assessments help us identify the following:

  • Giftedness
  • Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Social/Emotional Functioning (e.g., anxiety, depression, behavioural difficulties, etc.)
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Cognitive Difficulties or Developmental Delays
  • Autism
  • Language Impairments

The outcome of a psychoeducational assessment is helping people understand their cognitive and learning abilities, as well as their emotional health. Sometimes a diagnosis is given which helps explain the difficulties a person is experiencing. In addition, the psychologist provides a list of recommendations to increase the individual’s strengths and obtain support for the areas they struggle in. These recommendations will help support the individual’s ability to succeed in the various areas of their life (e.g., home, school, work, social). At The Therapy Centre, we provide comprehensive psychoeducational assessments by a qualified practitioner. Our assessment reports are geared towards the school boards to support the development of an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Psychoeducational assessments involve an intake interview with the individual and/or parents, testing sessions (to assess cognitive, academic, and socio-emotional functioning), questionnaires for parents, teachers, and the individual, interpretating data and report writing, and then a feedback session to explain the findings and recommendations.

Giftedness

Giftedness may be defined differently across school boards. In general, giftedness is identified when a child’s intellectual abilities are significantly higher than their peers. Children who are gifted often benefit from a modified curriculum that ensures they are being challenged and supported at their level. Sometimes children who are gifted act out at school or get low grades because they are struggling to remain interested in the current curriculum and need to be challenged.

ADHD

ADHD (previously known as ADD) is a neurodevelopmental disorder of executive functioning (i.e., higher order cognitive skills). Specifically, individuals with ADHD struggle with cognitive, behavioural, and emotional dysregulation. For example, they may have trouble focusing, following directions, planning, and organizing, be hyperactive and impulsive (i.e., talkative, interrupt others, impatient), and their emotions may be intense and quickly activated. Individuals with ADHD often benefit from medication as well as behaviour and emotion coaching from parents (with the help of a therapist).

Learning Disabilities

Everyone learns and processes information differently. Because of this, some people have difficulty learning based on the mainstream school curriculum, and require additional support. These academic difficulties are not explained by cognitive delays and impact a person’s ability to read (e.g., sound out words, read fluently, understand what they have read), write (e.g., spelling, putting their thoughts onto paper, following grammar and punctuation rules), and/or understand mathematics (e.g., use fingers to calculate, forget basic math facts, issues understanding the relationship between numbers). Sometimes people with learning difficulties seem unmotivated or like they do not care; in reality, these individuals are tired from struggling in school and are trying to hide the fact that they cannot do what is expected of them (due to embarrassment or fear of getting in trouble). Learning difficulties can negatively impact a person’s self-esteem and result in internalizing (e.g., withdrawing) or externalizing (outbursts, non-compliance, distracting others in class to avoid work) behaviours. Learning disabilities are usually not assessed for or diagnosed until a person is at least 8 years old; before this, children are only just entering the school environment and getting accustomed to learning in a structured manner.

Autism Assessments

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that is characterized by longstanding difficulties with social communication and restricted/repetitive behaviours or interests. Some signs of autism are:

  • Language delays
  • Difficulty with back and forth conversations or activities (e.g., passing a ball back and forth)
  • Difficulty starting conversations with others or responding to others attempts to start a conversation
  • Not sharing successes or enjoyment with others
  • Difficulty understanding sarcasm or humour (i.e., they take words literally)
  • Difficulty understanding emotions or expressing emotions
  • Difficulty using nonverbal gestures (e.g., eye contact, waving, facial expressions)
  • Difficulty with friends (e.g., no interest in peers, playing alone or parallel to other children)
  • Difficulty engaging in imaginative or make-believe play
  • Flapping arms, spinning, running in circles, lining toys up
  • Repeating words or phases
  • Difficulty adjusting to even small changes, black and white thinking, needing to do the same things in the exact same way (e.g., eating a certain cereal in a certain bowl every morning)
  • Restricted interests
  • Sensory sensitivity (e.g., indifference to pain, overwhelmed by loud sounds and smells, staring into lights, rubbing hands over carpets or walls)

Autism is assessed via interviews with parents, a review of developmental history, questionnaires for parents and teachers, and a structured observation of the child (using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule – 2). Depending on the age and presentation of the child, cognitive, academic, and socio-emotional testing may be required to determine other factors which may be impacting the child’s functioning. Following an assessment, you will be provided with the appropriate referrals to access treatment and services. Autism is best assessed at a very early age (e.g., under 6 years old) to ensure the child is given the necessary supports. Although in the past, professionals have discussed the “wait and see” method (i.e., waiting to see if the child grows out of the behaviours), research has found that this is not an effective approach and children need to be assessed as soon as possible.