Sniffing Out The Facts
Both Dude, therapy dog extraordinaire, and Grace, want-to-be therapy dog (i.e. in training) know that both a keen sense of smell and smarts are essential to knowing what critters they’re tracking. They also know that ADHD, Asperger’s, and Speech and Language Disordered kids, to name a few, all act differently. Similarly, child clinical psychologists know that you can’t successfully treat kids and teens if you don’t know what you’re dealing with first. However, sorting it all out is neither quick nor easy. In fact, it takes time, multiple contacts, observation, multiple sources of information (e.g. parent & teacher report, & Dude/Grace feedback), and then a great deal of education, experience, and skill to know what it all means never mind what to do with it all.
Still, parents often ask: why can’t you generate a diagnosis after one contact with a child or teen? Well, how a child may act in a first contact may not truly be representative of their actual functioning. For example, many years ago, in a first appointment, a child exhibited significant hyperactivity. However, in subsequent appointments, he didn’t. Generating a diagnosis based upon that first contact and then embarking upon treatment would have been disastrous for that child. Only over time do trends in functioning become apparent.
Others parents sometimes ask: why do you need multiple sources of information? Some children and teens act quite differently with psychologists than with their parents and teachers. Only when behavior is consistent across settings and people, do you really know that you’re on the right track. Even then, it’s complicated because in our attempt to make sense of the world around us, most folks (even psychologists!) overly simplify what they see and typically look for only one cause or explanation.
This results in some but not all contributing factors being identified. Such situations almost always result in treatment failures. Therefore, once you have completed this comprehensive psychological evaluation then, and only then, are you ready to embark upon treatment where the likelihood for success is high.
So, ask any dog that can hunt, and he’ll/she’ll tell you that you just can’t bark and chase without first having an exceptional nose and good sense!
Originally published in The Healthy Planet, December 6th, 2011