Child Psychiatric Evaluation: Does Your Child Need It?

A child psychiatric evaluation gives insight into the root cause of a child’s difficulties. The evaluation results help with diagnosing developmental, emotional, and mental disorders. With a proper diagnosis, the child can receive the necessary treatment and support to live a productive and meaningful life.

Why can it be difficult for parents to recognize if their child has a mental health issue?

All children go through different emotions and unique struggles, and developmentally, meltdowns, temper tantrums, and outbursts are expected up to a certain age. However, there are times when these behaviors are signs of underlying problems, which makes it hard for parents to determine what behavior is normal and what requires professional help.

So, children who could benefit from treatment don’t receive the help and support they need. This emphasizes the importance of recognizing the symptoms of childhood mental illness and knowing how to support your child.

What are the signs that parents should look out for if they suspect a mental issue in their child?

The following list of warning signals can help differentiate mental illness symptoms from regular children’s behavior. It is important to note the severity and frequency of these symptoms. While this aids in deciding whether to seek professional help or not, any serious concerns you have as a parent should be discussed with a professional.

Severe anxiety or worry that interferes with day-to-day activities.

Extremely poor concentration and restlessness in class, which is affecting their schoolwork and peer relationships.

  • Intense melancholy or withdrawal for two weeks or longer.
  • Dramatic mood swings that damage relationships.
  • Significant alterations in behavior, personality, eating or sleeping.
  • Consistent alcohol or drug use
  • Disrespectful and harmful behavior to themselves, and others.
  • Delinquent behavior, being violent or cruel and showing disrespect to others.

What is a psychiatric evaluation for a child?

Child psychologists and psychiatrists with specialized training conduct children’s psychiatric evaluations. Mental health professionals assess the child’s abilities and areas for improvement, after which they collaborate with the parents and teachers to develop a plan to advance the child. The assessments are not ‘pass or fail’ tests. They help in understanding more about the symptoms, and the therapist will speak with the child and parents separately as part of the evaluation.

They will also look at neurological functioning in areas such as spatial processing, observe the child’s behavior, and assess movement, dexterity, communication, and social, numerical, and literacy skills. It is not a quick evaluation as they typically take about four to six hours to complete. By putting the results together, the specialist can establish a diagnosis, understand where a child needs assistance, and determine the best course of treatment.

What are the benefits of children’s psychiatric evaluation for a child?

It is more crucial than ever to understand your child’s needs, especially considering the increase in mental health illnesses. Psychological evaluations are essential to minimize the potential negative effects that your child’s problems have on both their academic and social development.

Understand their own behavior

An evaluation can determine the true causes of your child’s difficulties, lessen their feelings of guilt and self-doubt, and improve their confidence and understanding of their condition. Through individualized therapy programs, children can learn to manage their symptoms and behaviors and become more self-accepting.

Improve academic and social performance

These assessments are helpful in pinpointing children’s underlying learning, developmental, psychological, and/or neurocognitive vulnerabilities that may affect their academic and social development. It can be a relief for a child to discover they are not incompetent but simply learn differently.

Improve learning environment

The kinds of academic and social accommodations that are offered within the school system itself are greatly influenced by psychiatric evaluations. This provides the opportunity to put the proper support in place that helps the child learn and succeed academically and socially.

What are the benefits of child psychiatric evaluation for parents?

Psychological assessments not only benefit your child but they can be a lifesaver for parents.

Understand your child’s behavior

When you don’t know what your child needs or how to explain to them what is occurring in their brain, it can be very challenging for you as a parent. The results of a psychological evaluation can help you and the school better understand your child’s requirements, enabling you to support them effectively while they learn and develop to their fullest potential.

Reduce parental anxiety and family stress

Undetermined needs can put pressure on parents and other carers who are only trying to help their children. The pressure is tough to deal with, and it can put a strain on the entire family unit. The knowledge gained from your child’s psychological assessment can offer parents peace of mind knowing treatment and support is available.

Opportunity for self-reflection

Children of nervous or depressive parents are more likely to experience psychiatric illnesses. Although parents are not screened during the psychiatric evaluation, it presents an opportunity to reflect on the family dynamics, parenting styles, and negative patterns that are counterproductive to a nurturing environment.

Final thoughts

It is not easy for many parents to distinguish between typical behavior and conduct that may be a sign of more serious problems. Occasionally, it’s natural for children to have a bad day, but when this happens frequently, there may be more going on.

Anxiety, ADHD, and behavioral disorders are the most prevalent mental illnesses in children today. Getting help and support is the best step to take in helping to improve your child’s well-being and potential for the future.

How can you get a psychiatric evaluation for your child?

Getting a child mental health evaluation improves the chances of receiving the appropriate treatment sooner rather than later. You can get a psychiatric evaluation in the following ways:

  • Referral from your family doctor: Your GP can write a referral to a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
  • Research telehealth psychiatry options and online healthcare platforms that offer online mental health services. Consider criteria such as specialized services, user ratings, and ease of use.
  • Search online psychologists and psychiatric directories based on personal preferences such as location or expertise.
  • Enquire about community and school-based health services that could provide a referral to a psychiatrist.
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