Raising a child is demanding – their emotions and personality trait can change frequently. As a parent, how can you tell if your child’s behaviour is part of growing up or a cause for concern?
Child psychologists at Promises, Tan Su-Lynn and SC Anbarasu speak to the editorial team at ANZA about psychological tests for children and adolescents which help parents better understand the strengths and challenges their child has in areas of cognitive, behavioural, learning and socio-emotional functioning.
Learn more about the types of tests and what goes into one.
As parents, we all want the best for our children. We naturally see the good in them and marvel at their every new development and discovery. However, raising a child can be demanding. Even under the greatest circumstances, their emotions and personality traits can change frequently, and it can be difficult to pinpoint when certain behaviours are typical or might need special attention.
Just like us, children experience a huge range of emotions (some more adorable than others!). They can be sad, anxious, aggressive or irritable. They can be restless, reclusive or downright grumpy. In most cases, these feelings are perfectly healthy, but how can you tell if your child’s mannerisms are a part of growing up or a cause for concern?
Promises Healthcare, Psychiatric & Psychological clinic can help to put your mind at ease with their psychological tests for children and adolescents. Carried out by their expert team of senior child and educational psychologists, these evaluations can help parents to better understand the strengths and challenges their child may have in areas of cognitive, behavioural, learning and socio-emotional functioning.
Tan Su-Lynn, Senior Educational Psychologist at Promises
Why take a psychological test?
While the idea of psychological tests for children might sound daunting, they can be essential in helping parents to make educated choices and implement strategies to ensure a child is getting the right support. “Intelligence – sometimes referred to as the Intelligence Quotient (IQ) – includes cognitive functioning, intellectual ability, aptitude, thinking skills, and general ability,” explains Senior Clinical Psychologist at Promises, S C Anbarasu. “Based on the type of assessments used, trained psychologists can obtain a more in-depth understanding of a child’s challenges. Some potential issues that can be detected include emotional or behavioural problems, or delayed learning with writing, spelling, maths or reading. Testing also helps to identify the presence of autism, ADHD or dyslexia.”
Says Tan Su-Lynn, Senior Educational Psychologist at Promises, “When a child is observed to have difficulties with their learning or behaviour in school or at home, this may suggest the possibility of a learning or behavioural disorder. Severity of the difficulties should also be taken into consideration, such as whether they impact their social, home and/or school functioning. Psychological testing can obtain a profile of a child’s strengths and areas that require support.
Reasons for a psychological test can include:
Learning difficulties or delays (for example, difficulties with spelling, writing, reading)
Emotional or behavioural problems in the classroom or home
Admission to special educational programmes
Increased understanding of a child’s learning style
Concerns regarding possible attentional difficulties
What are the tests and how do they work?
Depending on your concerns and your child’s needs, there are two types of psychological tests for children available at Promises to ascertain a child’s profile. “The IQ test measures a range of cognitive abilities and provides a score that is intended to serve as a measure of the child’s intellectual abilities, overall thinking, reasoning skills and potential,” explains Su-Lynn. “Our Academic Testing assesses areas in language, reading, writing, mathematical skills, comprehension and fluency.”
After an initial consultation period, both assessments take place in stages. As each one lasts approximately 6-12 hours, sessions are spaced out to reduce fatigue and distraction. There are no scary school exam style set-ups here: each test involves fun problems, puzzles and questions. “Generally, most children enjoy the testing sessions as it’s an engaging process,” says Anba. “To make sessions as stress-free as possible, we have regular breaks so they can play with their favourite toys. Tasks that involve using hands to construct or fingers to point at pictures appear to appeal the most. Parents are welcome to join their child throughout for support.”
Once completed, a feedback session is arranged to discuss the outcome and provide parents with the opportunity to ask questions. Parents also receive a comprehensive written report with recommendations for home and school settings. Continues Anba, “With psychological tests for children, we can address potential issues early and hopefully prevent the child from feeling demoralised, stressed and anxious in the future.”
When parents and teachers work holistically with Promises, everyone receives a better understanding of the child’s behaviour and game-changing solutions to bring them a brighter and happier future.
Psychological evaluation is often helpful in understanding the strengths and challenges an individual may have in their cognitive, behavioural, learning and socio-emotional functioning.
At Promises Healthcare, we believe that “one size fits all” is not an approach that is applicable to the treatment of psychological disorders and challenges. We provide tailored recommendations for parents, teachers, and therapists so that interventions and accommodations allow each child to reach their potential.
IQ and academic testings can provide important information about a child’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses, academic needs, and preferred learning style. These can assist parents and children in making educational choices and implementing strategies to ensure that the child’s learning is appropriately supported.
Specific reasons for testing include:
Learning difficulties or delays (e.g. difficulties with spelling, writing, maths and/or reading)
Emotional and/or behavioural problems presenting in the classroom and/or at home
Admission to special educational programs
Increasing understanding of a child’s learning style
Concerns regarding possible attentional difficulties
What is IQ testing?
Intelligence testing is a method used by psychologists to measure a child’s intellectual capabilities. Intellectual assessment is a good indicator of a child’s potential. We use the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, fifth edition (WISC- V). This is an individually administered instrument for assessing the cognitive ability of children aged 6 years to 16 years.
The WISC V is one of the most reliable and valid IQ testing instruments available and is the most widely used measure of IQ. The WISC V provided scores that represent intellectual functioning in four specified cognitive domains: Verbal Comprehension, Perceptual Reasoning, Processing Speed and Working memory. During the testing session, a child is asked to solve problems and puzzles and to answer a range of questions. Generally, most children enjoy the testing session as it is an engaging process involving novel and fun tasks. Should parents have worries about their child’s emotional wellbeing during the assessment, raise it with us and, we can explore a workable collaborative plan to support you and your child during the testing process.
What is Academic Testing?
Academic Testing provided an overview of a child’s current performance across a range of academic domains. We use the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT-III) with subtests including:
The assessment provides a rich source of information about a child’s achievement skills. Information obtained can then be utilized for intervention decisions.
The Assessment Process
The assessment is conducted in several stages:
An initial assessment with parent(s) is an integral part of our assessment procedure.
A time is set to administer the WISC 5 and the WIAT-III and other relevant tests. Usually, you may have to set aside about two or more sessions for approximately 6 to 12 hrs (excluding initial consult session) for testing, depending on the capacity and the needs of the child/person. Spacing out testing over several days can help some children overcome fatigue and stress.
A comprehensive written report will be prepared after all the testings are completed, based on the outcome of the assessment and testing process. The report will highlight relative areas of strengths and difficulties, with recommendations for home and school settings.
A feedback session will be provided to parents after the completion of the report. During this session, parents can be given an opportunity to clarify and discuss any concerns regarding the report.
Fees for assessments
The Psychologist conducting the tests will inform parents of the charges involved during the initial consultation session, based on the needs of the child/person and the different tests required.
Payment plans are available for our testing procedures. Clients may choose to pay the full amount for testing at the end of the initial consultation or they may elect to pay in two payments. Like most of the private practices, reports will not be released prior to receipt of full payment.
Referrals/ For Information
Please do not hesitate to speak to our friendly reception staff at (+65) 6397 7309 if you wish to make an initial appointment. Alternatively, should you wish to clarify matters with me personally, you can leave your name and contact details with the reception at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have you met Michael recently? He’s the bright, young, dynamic person at our office… I always thought of him as the person who’s the life of the party, and he genuinely seems to care for his colleagues… Aah, yes, the same person who unfortunately missed out a promotion this year… I heard his boss say that he definitely had the potential, but it wasn’t showing up in his work. He would initiate tasks with enthusiasm but would lose interest quickly; turned up late for meetings, or even forgot about them, and frequently misplaced important files as his table was often cluttered.
Does this seem familiar? Do you recognise similar signs in yourself or someone else you know? These issues might be due to something known as Executive functioning deficits or disorder (EFD). Though symptoms start in early childhood, the challenges might have been seen as the individual’s behaviour problems and not as a syndrome. Even as adults, many of those with EFD aren’t aware they have it — they just know that even everyday tasks can be challenging.
What is EFD?
Executive functions are the set of higher-order mental skills that allow us to analyse, plan, organise, make suitable decisions, manage time, focus attention and execute the plan. No matter how smart or talented one is, not much will get done well without these key capabilities. The human brain comprises of two systems: the automatic and the executive. While the automatic system guides 80 to 90% of our activities every single day, the executive system guides the remaining 10 to 20% and requires purposeful, regulatory effort.1
What causes EFD?
Experts don’t know exactly what causes this and a 2008 study found that differences in these skills are “almost entirely genetic in origin due to differences in brain chemicals” 2
People who have executive functioning deficits might have problems with many of these functions:
starting, organising, planning, or completing tasks on deadline.
listening or paying attention
remembering tasks or details
controlling emotions or impulses
But it is important to note that EFD is not associated with low IQ.
Almost everyone has some symptoms similar to EFD at some point in their lives but It isn’t EFD if the difficulties being faced are recent or occurred only occasionally or intermittently in the past. If you’re curious to know if you do have EFD, you could take the test given below.
Even if you’re not sure if EFD is indeed the cause of the problems experienced, or, if you do not want to give it a label, you could still use the tips/ strategies given below to enhance your general skills and productivity at work.
One surprising way found to improve executive function in adults is aerobic exercise. Many research journals have published that regular aerobic exercise in older adults can boost the executive functions that typically deteriorate with age, including the ability to pay focused attention, to switch among tasks, and to hold multiple items in working memory.3
If you think that the feeling of the constant deluge at the office is largely the result of so many things clamouring for attention at once, a tool like Stephen Covey’s Quadrants can be used. Each quadrant (Q) has a different property and is designed to help prioritise tasks and responsibilities. These are:
Q 1 – Urgent and important
Q 2 – Not urgent but important
Q 3 – Urgent but not important
Q 4 – Not urgent and not important
Another useful technique is the Pomodoro technique of time management developed by Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. It uses a timer to break down work into 25-minute intervals, separated by 5-minute breaks. This method not only helps you remove distractions and enhance focus on your task, but it also factors in time to take a short breather.
Those who are tech-savvy can find these as smartphone apps. Other technology tools that can help are File-sharing software like Dropbox to keep notes handy, digital sticky notes or reminders, and password manager software to keep track of passwords. Those who are not comfortable with technology can compensate for working memory deficits by making information external — using cards, signs, symbols, sticky notes, lists, journals, clocks and timers.4
Other simple workable strategies are:
Break large tasks into smaller individual tasks and put them into a linear order or flow chart. This helps provide clarity and allows you to monitor your progress
Keep a routine
Know yourself and get your best work done according to your own biorhythms
Give it a positive twist – make the activity a ‘want to do’ instead of ‘should do’.
Games can help to improve executive function skills. Games like Checkers, Monopoly, and Clue use planning, sustained attention, response inhibition, working memory and metacognition. Games like Zelda and SimCity help with problem-solving and goal-directed persistence. Managing fantasy sports teams also use executive skills like task initiation and time management while having fun.4
Positive emotions reduce the impact of stressful events on the self and help build resilience. They make us more flexible, allowing us to be more open to options of problem-solving. Studies show that people feel and do their best when they have at least three times as many positive emotions as negative emotions.5 It is, therefore, most important that you periodically reward yourself when you have met the goals you have set. Equally important is positive self-talk which is a powerful tool for increasing your self-confidence and strengthening your resolve to make these healthy new habits a part of your personal and working life.
When to seek help?
Diagnosis of EFD can be difficult because certain symptoms are similar to those caused by other conditions, such as ADHD, LD, depression, anxiety, mood disorders or OCD. If any of the symptoms listed above continually disrupt your life, talk to a mental health professional. There is a variety of strategies recommended by experts to help strengthen the areas of weakness that EFD creates. Treatment options could be medications and therapy such as occupational or speech therapy, Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
If you’re a parent who believes in taking a proactive approach to your child’s education, then you’ve probably realised by now that comparing your young one to the school’s resident whiz kid(s) is ill-advised. There is truth then, in this kernel of wisdom: “Every child is a unique gift from God”.
Understanding how your child takes in information, assimilates it, learns, is perhaps the first step to making their education a better experience for them. When parents start getting a grasp of what their child’s preferred way of learning is, they can start taking steps to work with that style of learning, instead of foisting the next flavour of the month upon their child. Individual learning styles don’t necessarily dovetail with the school’s pedagogy – but that’s OK. This just means that you’re blessed with more opportunities to help your child grow up with the values and convictions you hold dear.
Conventional wisdom tells us that people generally fall into one of three categories – visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learning. But before you pigeonhole your child into one of those convenient boxes, it is worth noting that while a child may have a dominant learning style, a combination of all the styles is required to learn about the wonderful, wider world that they’re growing up in. Once you have figured out their style, you can then begin to take steps to ensure that they have ample opportunities in the classroom and at home to take advantage of that particular style.
However, there are some children who constantly struggle when they are subject to the traditional classroom setting. Despite your efforts to supervise and coach them, they might continue to face persistent difficulties with reading and writing skills, as well as attention and behavioural regulation in terms of their academic performance.
A child with learning difficulties is affected in different ways, with the impact ranging from mild to moderate or even severe, with symptoms surfacing when the time comes for them to learn literacy and numeracy skills in the classroom. Children with learning difficulties are at risk of developing low self-esteem, which in particular is a consequence of the condition going undiagnosed and/or untreated. Imagine a dewy-eyed child who, with all the innocence of youth, proudly strives and strains to do well at school – yet never reaping a jot of acknowledgement. Imagine (or remember) what it feels like to have the purity of childlike endeavour constantly rebuffed by the shame of underperformance. To have effort always met with negativity is tough for even the most motivated child, which may lead to the development of a poor self-concept that ends up causing further social-emotional issues in future.
All children, learning difficulties or not, need love and support for them to cultivate a strong sense of self-worth, build confidence and develop resilience. In seeking ways to help your child who has a learning difficulty, bear in mind that your role as a parent is not to “cure” the difficulty, but to arm your child with the social and emotional tools they will need to work through challenges and develop strategies for compensating with their difficulties. In the long run, your child will emerge stronger and more resilient.
Even though everyone’s been a kid before, I know that the new and bewildering responsibilities of parenthood can sometimes make us forget what we, as children, wanted to have for ourselves. I’ve outlined some tips which can be invaluable to our efforts to support a child with a learning difficulty.
Knowledge is power – learn everything you possibly can about your child’s learning difficulties and needs.
Doing your own research and keeping abreast of the new developments in evidence-based learning and behavioural interventions not only helps your child, it helps to foster a sense of solidarity with your child. The more you know about your child’s needs, the better you are equipped to help your child. Start with your child’s teachers and consult with professionals (e.g. educational psychologists, school psychologists, or child clinical psychologists) who are best positioned to work together with you and your child in this journey. Collaborating with your child’s school teachers and fostering a good relationship with them helps in the overall understanding of your child’s needs – this facilitates consistency between home and school, which is particularly essential for children with challenging behaviour.
Be an advocate for your child by raising awareness.
While society has made great strides towards the goal of inclusivity, awareness of special education needs and learning disabilities is still limited (but growing). Embrace your role as a proactive parent, taking responsibility not only for your child’s welfare but also contributing to the child who does not have a dedicated guardian in their life. Yes, your journey will be fraught with challenges and frustrations, but always remember to remain calm and to persevere. We often don’t realise just how much children internalise behaviour and views that they perceive in their parents. As a parent, you are entrusted with the very delicate task of moulding a young mind. Your healthy optimism, perseverance, and sense of humour doesn’t just benefit you – it positively influences your child to be a self-advocate, which is a very important goal for a parent in these circumstances.
Some parents choose to hide their children’s learning difficulties in secrecy, for fear of stigma or unjust treatment by others. They might honestly feel that they’re serving the best interests of their child. On the contrary – it is this very lack of understanding and awareness from family and friends that causes the misattribution of a child’s developmental needs to ‘laziness’ or ‘poor parenting’ or ‘mischief’. By shining a light on the condition, you help others develop empathy and come to be more supportive of your child. Within the family, siblings might feel that there is more attention and preferential treatment towards the brother/sister with learning difficulties, despite being aware of their condition. Hence, it is also important for parents to reassure all their children equally that they are loved, to provide support to their work, and to include them all in routines for the child with learning difficulties.
Focus on your child’s strengths, not just weaknesses.
No one is defined by disability or need. And no one is perfect either. As you embrace your child’s flaws, celebrate their strengths in the same breath. As with all other human beings, a child with learning difficulties too will come into their own personality, interests, strengths and weaknesses. Focus on the gifts and talents which your child is blessed with, and help them to nurture their areas of strengths such as in activities they excel in.
Praise effort rather than outcome.
Children with learning difficulties may not always excel academically, and if they do, they likely have put in a lot more effort than their peers to have achieved a similar good grade. Acknowledge the effort made, which deserves recognition – no matter if the child has gotten the answer right or wrong. Your child is demonstrating courage when they try out new approaches to assignments and study strategies, and if you want them to learn from mistakes and be receptive to feedback, credit and praise must be given where due. It will take time for new practices and interventions to work and for new skills to be acquired, so bear in mind to focus on the long term goals, and to break larger tasks down into smaller, more manageable milestones which can be spaced out over time.
Everyone’s definition of success is different, but the aspirations you have for your child probably extend well beyond the fulfilment of good grades. Working with parents, it has been my experience that most, if not all, express the desire for their child to lead an independent life, in which they are capable of providing for themselves, and above all else, to be happy. This being the case, then success in life definitely isn’t based on just academic success, but rather on things like having a sense of self-worth, the willingness to ask for and accept help, the ability to bounce back in the face of adversity and the emotional depth to form healthy relationships – values and qualities that are not quantifiable like the metric of exam grades.
Keep your child motivated.
As school is most likely a source of frustration for your child who puts in much more effort than in proportion to the reward of good performance, it is important to find something in school that brings your child enjoyment, that they are motivated to pursue without much prompting. Sometimes, to taste the fruit of serendipity, one must eschew his comfort zone. This may involve having your child participate in a CCA of their choice, attend camps or other school-related activities, and encouraging your child to have good relationships with peers and teachers. It can be difficult to motivate your child to learn, and to invest time in subjects which already make them feel inferior and bad at. You will probably meet less resistance if you start from your child’s level of ability, carefully choosing lesson topics that already are of interest to them. Give them some measure of autonomy to choose how they study or complete homework – building in breaks and breaking down challenging tasks into smaller chunks gives them ownership in the crafting of their own timetable, helping to keep them motivated to follow through with their plan.
Finding a role model who has flourished in spite of their learning difficulties can show your child that success is attainable, and that it is their own choice not to allow their current difficulties to define them. Celebrity, athlete, friend, neighbour or pastor, the only requirement to those role model shoes is that your child feels comfortable talking to them.
Encourage healthy lifestyle habits.
Stress may manifest differently in children than in adults. While some signs may be more overt, such as trouble sleeping, agitation, acting out, or meltdowns, others may retreat inwards – shutting down, spacing out, withdrawing and isolating. Even as adults ourselves, we may lack the prescience to recognise that our internal systems are under stress, let alone children who have not yet matured into such skills. Hence, it is your responsibility to be vigilant of signs of stress in your precious one.
Your child’s eating, sleeping and exercise habits are also vital to their overall learning ability. With a healthy routine which incorporates a balanced diet, quality sleep and sufficient physical activity, children will be better able to focus and concentrate.
Other than the physical, paying attention to your child’s emotional needs is also important. When they are faced with the frustrating challenges presented by their learning difficulties, allow them to express their feelings in a safe space. Validate them by acknowledging that the cause of their gripe is an issue, but be careful not to coddle them into poor self-restraint. Be ready to listen when they are ready to talk, and be a grounding, reassuring presence which helps their mind integrate with their body, and re-orient into a sense of calm.
Above all, remember to take care of yourself! The uniquely sacrificial dint of parenthood sometimes diverts needed attention from our own needs. If you are to project an empathetic sense of warmth, you will first need to cultivate self-compassion, and allow yourself the space to tend to your own needs. The quality of support you are able to provide to your child is dramatically affected by your own levels of stress and exhaustion. Parenting is a full time job, but don’t let yourself burn out emotionally.
In order to do this, you need to be mindful of your own limitations. You are the best gauge of when to rouse the oarsmen to right your ship. If you have a supportive spouse, or friend, or family member, take heart. Lastly, there is great benefit in the solidarity of support groups, which serve as useful support and also reminders that you are not alone in your unfolding journey!