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Sometimes the issues initially come to the attention of a physician, psychiatrist, pediatrician or teacher, where a specific question or concern has been conveyed to parents and where the role of a psychologist has been explained. At other times, parents seek the help of a psychologist where their question or concern is not as precisely formulated, but they are still hoping for a better understanding of their child.
Concerns that typically motivate parents to access a child psychologist include:
Issues related to school such as
- learning challenges that are difficult to explain - not performing at grade level or spending far more time and effort to achieve the same results as other children
- a specific learning or attention challenge has been described and where the child is felt not to be working to potential
- child appears to be ‘lazy’ or is stressed by school demands
- challenges with behavioural adaptation: disruptive or withdrawn behaviour, problems with resolving conflict with peers or making friends or following rules, despite good intent to do so
- school refusal
- bullying or being bullied
Issues related to social or behavioural functioning, such as
- the presence of problematic or unusual behaviours - temper tantrums or explosive outbursts
- emotional reactions that are worrisome - high level of sensitivity
- higher level of worries, fears, negative thoughts or anxious reactivity than most children of the same age
- anxiety about being separated from parents
- challenges in socializing with peers
- the presence of unusual interests and behaviours
- challenges with focusing, following instructions or following through on tasks and activities
- parents feeling overwhelmed by their child’s challenges
The role of a child psychologist is two-fold; one is to formulate an understanding of the child that answers the question or concern initially presented, that resonates with the parents and their experience of their child and second, the formulation allows for interventions that will benefit the child and family and address, when appropriate, the needs within the school environment.
Both clinical (or psychodiagnostic) and psychoeducational assessments are offered through the practice. Interventions are often multifaceted and are typically along the lines of creating a positive support network in their school and family environments, the building of skills and resiliency and an increased understanding of the child’s talents and strengths. Treatment of children always includes participation of parents who become an integral part in helping children overcome their challenges. In addition, when appropriate, understanding of the child’s unique profile can be shared with teachers and educators for the purpose of improved empathy and understanding of the child’s functioning, including possible pedagogical interventions.