Child Assessment & Testing - General Information
Child Assessment & Testing - General Information
Below you will find some useful information about child assessment and related topics. We provide information on the various tests used in evaluating children's functioning, how these tests were developed and what constitutes to a good psychological test. You can find out about our fee structure and browse through our resource section, containing various tests and our parent interview form.
Child Assessment & Testing - How Can Test Results Help?
When most people think about child psychological assessments they think about IQ testing or educational assessments. While intellectual and educational ability assessments are frequently requested, psychological test results can help children, parents, and educators in many other ways.
At CPAC our approach to child psychological assessment falls within one of four broad categories:
- Developmental Assessments
- Clinical/diagnostic Assessment
- Educational and Intellectual Ability Assessment
- Behavioural Assessment
As the term suggests, developmental assessment is focused on collecting information about children's developmental functioning. This may be relevant because of suspected developmental delay or in determining whether a child is ready for school entry. In other cases, such as suspected ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorders, the first step is always to screen for possible developmental delay. For example, specific or global developmental delay may have similar symptoms to ADHD or Autism, but it is important to distinguish the two.
Developmental tests identify cognitive (thinking), physical, social, emotional and self help skills and associated strengths and weaknesses. When children's weaknesses are known, appropriate intervention plans can be designed and implemented. Early recognition of problematic developmental areas can assist children to make sure that they reach their full potential.
CLINICAL / DIAGNOSTIC ASSESSMENT
Diagnostic assessments cover a broad range of childhood disorders. These include emotional difficulties (such as childhood depression, trauma or anxiety), ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders, Learning and Intellectual Disability and behavioural disorders.
An important fact about most psychological diagnoses is that they are NOT definite or static. A diagnosis is only a way of communication between professionals about a cluster of symptoms. Minor disagreement between professionals is common, just like small deviation between the given diagnoses. A good advice is to always seek a second opinion and to look for consistency.
Generally, our assessment process for diagnostic purposes is somewhat less structured and more explorative than other assessment approaches. It includes psychological tests, parent and child interviews and parent questionnaires. The reason for this exploration is simple; when parents or other professionals suspect some form of childhood disorder, it is important to screen for a range of symptoms, not only for symptoms of the suspected difficulty. Different psychological disorders often present together and it is important to explore all options and areas of functioning.
Our diagnostic assessment process aims to combine as much information as possible to evaluate children's functioning. This approach ensures that we don't rely on clinical judgment or test results alone, but we use them in combination.
EDUCATIONAL AND INTELLECTUAL ABILITY ASSESSMENT
Educational and intellectual assessment is not the same as class testing. Stand alone tests, such as the NAPLAN, only rely on test results, whereas in depth, individual assessments rely on information from multiple sources. These include psychological and educational tests, observation during test taking, interview with the accompanying parent and incorporating other relevant records, such as medical and teachers' reports. This process ensures that children receive individual attention and the results reported are based on the most accurate information available at the time of the assessment.
Educational assessment can help children in many ways. In case of learning difficulties , some children perform poorly on academic tasks, despite average or above average intelligence. Appropriate assessment can identify the areas of learning difficulties, such as oral expression, reading skills, listening comprehension, written expression or mathematical reasoning. Sound knowledge of these specific areas can help children by allocating them to the right programs and to tutoring in the right areas.
In case of giftedness, results from intelligence and achievement tests can assist in determining advancement to higher school levels or to extension programs. Often gifted children show behavioural problems at school, simply because the tasks designed for their age group are too simple to maintain their attention. Gifted children benefit from fittingly difficult tasks and may need special attention from teachers, or even advanced placement.
Behavioural assessment can help parents of children with diagnosed developmental disorders, such as developmental delay, intellectual disability or Autism Spectrum Disorders. The aim here is to identify existing strengths and weaknesses in adaptive functioning. Parents who care for children with disabilities often feel that they are "left wondering in the dark" and may struggle finding ways to help their children. The assessment of adaptive functioning can help parents shift their focus to areas where children may need help and to areas where children's strengths can be further utilised. It is the first step in developing a program for children with disabilities.
Child Assessment & Testing - Testing Process
Psychological testing is different from other forms of assessments, such as medical tests. It is non invasive, it can be carried out in a playful manner and a good interviewer will adjust to a child's temperament to obtain the most representative results. There are a few key principles that parents should be aware of in order to make the assessment an easy process.
WHAT TO EXPECT ON THE DAY OF THE ASSESSMENT?
The overall assessment has three main components: the parent interview, the testing session and the report as a form of feedback.
The Parent Interview
The parent interview is the first part of the overall assessment process. Children can be present, particularly older children, but depending on the referral question we may prefer if the child plays in the adjacent play room while we are talking about him/her (note: the play room is separated by a glass partitioning wall and we are able to monitor the child).
The purpose of the parent interview is to collect as much information about a child's history and social/family context as possible. Often relevant information relating to a child's functioning emerge during the interview session and parents can find it surprising how little details can be important. The interview usually takes up 40 to 50 minutes. Parents can also download the standard "Parent Interview Form" from our resources page here .
The Testing Session
Following the interview we administer the selected psychological tests and if necessary and part of the referral question, we interview the child. With very young children we may require the parent(s) to be present, but we ask parents to be respectful of the testing process and do not try to provide cues to the child or assist him/her. The time involved depends on the selected tests and the child's individual approach. For an estimation of overall testing times, please see our fees page here.
All test data first must be scored and interpreted. This is a delicate process as we try to incorporate the information learned during the parent interview with the test scores and behavioural observations. The report is prepared separately. In every case the report provides detailed descriptions of the relevant background information, the assessment tools used, behavioural observations and specific recommendations based on the referral question. The report is written in an easily read descriptive style to be presented to parents, other health professionals and teachers.
WHAT TO TELL YOUR CHILD?
Parents are often concerned about what to tell their children before the assessment. As with most aspects of the assessment, it depends on the purpose of the assessment and the age of the child. With older children over 7 or 8 years, there is no need for "white lies" and parents should have an upfront discussion about why they would like their child to be assessed. With younger children, particularly around 3 - 4 years old, parents may want to tell them that they will be doing some puzzles with a "puzzle teacher". Try not to put too much emphasis on the testing process, the more relaxed the children on the day of the assessment, the more representative their results.
Child Assessment & Testing - Test Descriptions and Development
At CPAC, where possible, we use child psychometric instruments with Australian norms. To better understand how tests differ based on their normative groups and why Australian norms are important to interpret scores, please read the following brief description on test development and score interpretation.
At the core of their development, psychological tests are standardised by using groups of people as norms, against which individual performances are later compared to. The composition of groups varies, based on the purpose of the test. For example, the standardisation process of tests measuring children's intellectual ability (IQ) involves administering the tests to large groups of children in different age groups. Six year olds, 7 year olds, 8 year olds and so on. Determining an individual child's performance is based on comparing his or her scores to the average performance of children who comprised the original standardisation sample. The closer the characteristics and environmental context of children in the standardisation sample to an individual child's characteristics and environmental context, the more realistically the scores will represent his or her abilities.
IQ and achievement scores are calculated by comparing an individual child's performance to the average performance of the standardisation samples. Scores derived through this method are best treated as estimates of functioning at the time of test taking. Apart from the child's true abilities, test scores are influenced by a number of other factors, such as fatigue, interest, test anxiety and characteristics of the examiner. Reporting of test scores include the careful analysis and inclusion of these factors.
For example, when conditions are optimal and a meaningful interpretation of an intelligence test is possible, the report will contain two distinct interpretative categories, an IQ range and a percentile rank. Both categories are represented in ranges, rather than in concrete scores. While concrete scores are calculated, placing the child's performance within a range is more accurate and representative of his or her abilities. Wechsler classifications are as follows:
SELECTED TESTS OF INTELLECTUAL, ACADEMIC AND EMOTIONAL FUNCTIONING
At CPAC we use the latest scales, and when possible we use tests that were normalised on samples of Australian children. This approach ensures that your childs performance is compared to the most current and representative population of children.
Wechsler Preschool & Primary Scale of Intelligence - Australian Standardisation (WPPSI-IV Australian)
The Wechsler Preschool Primary Scale of Intelligence - Australian Standardisation (WPPSI-IV Australian) is an individually administered instrument for measuring the general intellectual functioning of children aged 2 years 6 months through 7 years 3 months. The WPPSI-IV Australian includes composite scores that reflect intellectual functioning in specified cognitive domains. The verbal subtests measure the child's ability to process verbal material and to use language. The nonverbal subtests assess nonverbal reasoning, visual-spatial perception, and the ability to process visual stimuli.
Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale for Early Childhood - Fifth Edition (SB5)
The Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale for Early Childhood - Fifth Edition (SB5) is an individually administered instrument for measuring the general intellectual functioning of children aged 2 years to 7 years 3 months. The SB5 includes 10 subtests that yield IQ scores on five distinct indexes of Fluid Reasoning, Knowledge, Quantitative Reasoning, Visual-Spatial Processing and Working Memory. Due to the high ceiling to identify superior intellectual abilities, the SB5 is particularly useful in identifying giftedness.
Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - Fifth Edition - Australian Standardisation (WISC-V Australian)
The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - Fifth Edition - Australian Standardisation (WISC-V Australian) is the latest revision of Wechsler's intelligence tests for children and adolescents. The WISC-V Australian is an individually administered intelligence test designed for children a
aged 6 years 0 months to 16 years 11 months.
The WISC-V Australian is based on a theoretical foundation that places more emphasis on fluid reasoning, working memory, and processing speed.
Traditional Verbal and Performance IQs are not calculated, however, the test still yields a Full Scale IQ (FSIQ) and five Index scores: Verbal Comprehension Index (VCI), Visual Spatial Index (VSI), Working Memory Index (WMI), Fluid Reasoning Index (FRI), and Processing Speed Index (PSI).
Wechsler Individual Achievement Test - Third Edition - Australian (WIAT-III)
The Wechsler Individual Achievement Test - Third Edition - Australian (WIAT-III) is a comprehensive individual achievement test that measures educational skills. The test provides composite scores in four domains of educational achievement: reading, mathematics, written language, and oral language.
Beck Combined Youth Inventories of Social and Emotional Impairment for Ages 7-17 (BYI)
The Beck Combined Youth Inventories of Social and Emotional Impairment for Ages 7-17 (BYI) is an individually administered self report scale of emotional and behavioural functioning. The questionnaire is used as a diagnostic instrument in clinical settings and identifies severity levels for Childhood Depression, Childhood Anxiety, Anger, Disruptive Behaviour and Self Esteem.
Child Assessment - Fee Structure
As of 1st July 2023, the Australian Psychological Society's (APS) recommended fee for psychological assessment is $300 per 45-60 minutes.
Our fees are considerably lower than the APS recommendation and are based on a different structure. Fees based on hourly rates would be determined only at the completion of the assessment and report. Our fees are determined as per assessment and do not increase if additional time or more than one session is needed to evaluate a child's functioning. This includes unexpected difficulties during testing (e.g., fatigue) that may require additional sessions.
All fees include a clinical interview, administration of the selected psychological tests and a written report with specific recommendations. Our reports are individually prepared and very detailed, usually consisting of 5 to 7 typed pages and 3 to 5 pages of tables and graphs.
Based on the significant number of families and children we tested, we were able to comprise a list of assessment categories that most parents are interested in:
Assessment of Intellectual Ability
Time Involved: Approximately 2 to 3 hours
Involves interview with parent(s) accompanying the child, administration of the WISC-V Australian, or for preschool children the WPPSI-IV Australian, and a written report. The report provides information about the childs background, his or her test taking behaviour, and an interpretation of the results. A concrete IQ score is suggested and ranges of IQ and percentile ranks provided. The child's intellectual strengths and weaknesses are discussed and suggestions provided for future plans.
Assessment of Achievement Ability
Time Involved: Approximately 2 to 3 hours
Involves interview with parent(s) accompanying the child, administration of the WIAT-III Australian and a written report. The report provides information about the childs background, his or her test taking approach and an interpretation of the results. Concrete scores suggested for reading, mathematics and language abilities and ranges and percentile ranks provided for more accuracy. Age and grade relevant interpretation is provided to explain whether the childs scores reflect age and grade appropriate performances. Suggestions are made about areas of academic strengths and weaknesses and about future directions in educational advancement.
Assessment of both Intellectual and Achievement Abilities
Time Involved: Approximately 3 to 4 hours
Involves interview with parent(s) accompanying the child, administration of WISC-V Australian and the WIAT-IIII Australian and a written report. The report provides information about the childs background, his or her test taking approach and an interpretation of the results. Separate sections report performances on the WISC-V Australian and on the WIAT-IIII Australian. In addition, a comparative analysis is provided between the WISC-V Australian and the WIAT-IIII Australian results. The childs academic performance is evaluated in terms of his or her intellectual ability. The comparison includes an interpretation whether the child performed consistently with his or her intellectual abilities, or whether child under or over performed. In cases of over or under achievements, suggestions made about approaches to best utilise the childs academic potential.
Assessment of Developmental Level/School Readiness
Time Involved: Approximately 1 to 1.5 hours
Involves interview with parent(s) and/or other involved parties, test administration and a written report. Assessment includes developmental scales to determine the child's motor skills, language skills, academic skills, self-help skills and social-emotional skills. This is often the "assessment of choice" when "in depth" knowledge is not required and the child is not experiencing notable difficulties.
Time Involved: Approximately 1hour
Involves interview with parent(s) and/or other involved parties, test administration and a written report. Assessment instruments include basic psychological screening and a parent questionnaire. This option is suitable for families who want to find out whether their child is experiencing any difficulty and whether there is a risk of a childhood disorder. Further assessment may be recommended.
Clinical/Diagnostic Assessment (Including the assessment of Autism)
Time Involved: Approximately 3 to 4 hours
Involves interview with parent(s) and/or other involved parties, test administration and a written report. Assessment instruments are selected on the basis of the referral question and may include tests of intellectual abilities, childhood and adolescent psychopathology, memory and attention, and social functioning. As a standard procedure, parents or caregivers are asked to complete an "in depth" questionnaire about behavioural observations. The report provides information about the child's emotional and behavioural functioning and suggestions are made about future treatment and directions. Diagnostic assessments are suitable for children experiencing severe behavioural difficulties at school or home, or suspected of ADHD or Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
PLEASE NOTE: ASSESSMENTS OF AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDERS WITH APPROPRIATE REFERRAL MAY QUALIFY FOR A MEDICARE REBATE.
Child Assessment & Testing - Case Examples
The following case descriptions are examples only. Although actual child assessment cases are often very similar, to ensure confidentiality we did not use past results or client information. The names, ages and presenting problems of the following children are invented in a way to represent typical parental concerns and child difficulties. Our experience is that the majority of parents interested in child assessment seek advice for problems that fall within these case example categories.
Jessica - Assessment of intellectual abilities and behavioural problems
Age at testing: 11 years, 10 months
Jessica was referred by her mother for an assessment of intellectual abilities (IQ), academic achievement abilities and emotional/behavioural functioning. Jessica's family moved 8 months ago from interstate to Sydney and her school performance dropped notably since the move. Her term 2 results indicated that she was within the lower quarter of her class, performing below her previous level. Her behaviour has also changed and teachers reported that she was inattentive and disruptive in class. Her mother reported that Jessica often complained of stomach ache, she acted unusually needy and on several occasions cried before going to school in the morning. The mother was worried and wanted to know whether Jessica's difficulties were related to the recent move or whether the new school was too difficult for her. Jessica's two older sisters had no similar difficulties and settled well in their new schools.
Assessment and results:
The psychological tests administered to Jessica included the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - Fifth Edition - Australian Standardisation (WISC-V Australian), the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test - Third Edition - Australian Standardisation (WIAT-III Australian) and the Beck Combined Youth Inventories of Social and Emotional Impairment (BYI). Jessica's overall level of intellectual ability (IQ) was within the High Average range and her academic ability was within the Average range. Although Jessica's intellectual ability was in a higher range than her academic ability, the difference did not suggest that she was under performing. According to the discrepancy analysis, on some mathematical tasks Jessica performed below what was expected of her, but generally her result of academic ability was consistent with her intellectual level. In terms of emotional and behavioural functioning, Jessica reported Severe level of anxiety symptoms and Mild acting out/externalising symptoms. Her scores for anger, depression and self-esteem were all within the Average range.
Based on the interview with Jessica's mother, her test results and observation during test taking, it was concluded that Jessica's poor academic performance and behavioural difficulties at school were related to generalised anxiety and most likely resulted from the family's relocation. Jessica showed above average intelligence for her age and average level of academic abilities. These results did not correspond with her school performance and school results. It was also observed during test taking that Jessica gave up on tasks quickly and her attention wondered off. She needed frequent appraisals to maintain her attention on the tasks. Jessica's parents were encouraged to discuss her difficulties openly and to inform her teachers about her problems of settling in. Suggestions were made for relaxation techniques to reduce the physical symptoms of anxiety and a plan was outlined to gradually improve Jessica's attention and motivation.
Thomas - Assessment of learning difficulties
Age at testing: 8 years, 2 months
Thomas was referred by his family's doctor for an assessment of intellectual abilities and possible learning difficulties. He was accompanied by his mother for the assessment. She reported that Thomas always had some problems at school, predominantly with reading, writing and expressing himself. He started talking late, at age 18 months and reportedly had little interest in picture books and stories. Thomas had one older sister who was doing well at school and often tried to help him with school work and writing.
Assessment and results:
The tests administered to Thomas included the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - Fifth Edition - Australian Standardisation (WISC-V Australian) and the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test - Third Edition - Australian Standardisation (WIAT-III Australian). On the WISC-V Thomas achieved within the High Average range for the Perceptual Reasoning Index and within the Low Average range for the Verbal Comprehension Index. Since Thomas' performance on these main indexes was significantly different, his full scale IQ was not a meaningful representation of his intellectual abilities. On the WIAT-III Thomas performed within the Borderline range, with his mathematics abilities nearing the Low Average range. A discrepancy analysis between his intellectual and academic abilities was performed by using Thomas' results on the WISC-V Verbal Comprehension Index as the base line intellectual ability measure. The results revealed that Thomas performed significantly lower on reading and writing tasks than was expected of him, based on his intellectual ability measure.
Thomas' assessment results suggested that he was experiencing learning difficulties, especially within the areas of reading and writing. It was suggested that Thomas attended special classes or programs, aimed at improving reading and writing skills. Thomas' performance on the WISC-V Verbal Comprehension Index suggested that intellectually he was capable of performing better on these tasks
Katie - Assessment of giftedness
Age at testing: 6 years, 4 months
Katie's mother called, enquiring about intelligence assessment. Katie was doing exceptionally well at school and her teachers suggested that she might be gifted. School assessments revealed that her reading and writing skills were on average 3 grades above her current level. Katie enjoyed numerous extra curricular activities, including swimming, ballet, piano lessons and tutoring in English and maths.
Assessment and results:
The tests administered to Katie included the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - Fourth Edition - Australian Standardisation (WISC-V Australian) and the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test - Third Edition - Australian Standardisation (WIAT-III Australian). Katie's overall level of intellectual ability (IQ) was within the High Average range, whereas her academic ability was within the Very Superior range. A discrepancy analysis was carried out and revealed that Katie's academic performance was significantly above what was accepted of her, based on her overall intellectual ability. This suggested that Katie was over performing, compared to her "pure" abilities.
Katie's assessment results suggested that she was intellectually highly capable, but did not indicate giftedness. She performed well above her expected level on the academic tests, indicating a well developed ability to achieve beyond her age limits. During testing Katie appeared relaxed and her mother indicated that they were mindful not to put her under undue pressure. Since no distress was reported and Katie appeared at ease and was able to maintain her attention on the tasks without difficulty, no special recommendations were made. The family was encouraged to introduce leisure activities for Katie and was advised not to increase the amount of tutoring.
Child Assessment & Testing - Useful Resources and Forms
The following resources are for informational purposes ONLY. No questionnaires or online tests should replace a face to face clinical interview or used to evaluate a child's functioning. We offer access to the forms and tests below to help formulating your assessment question and to provide a structured way of thinking about your child's functioning.
CPAC Parent Interview Form
To reduce the parent interview time on the day of the assessment, we comprised a structured interview form that you may print and complete at home.
Download the CPAC parent interview form:
Autism Rating Scale
The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) was designed to screen children between 16 months to 30 months old who are believed to be at risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). The M-CHAT is a 23 item scale, completed by parents or caregivers. Although freely available, please note that the M-CHAT was NOT designed to be scored by the parent completing it and concerned parents should contact us to arrange an individual assessment for their child. For informational purposes a scoring guideline can be accessed here .
Download the Autism Rating Scale:
Giftedness Rating Scale
The Giftedness Rating Scale is a simple checklist of different characteristics that gifted children often display. Please note that high scores do not automatically indicate giftedness.
Giftedness Rating Scale:
Parenting Style Questionnaire
The Parenting Style Questionnaire is a 30 item scale, aiming to identify one's dominant parenting style. The different parenting styles include Authoritative Parenting, Authoritarian Parenting and Permissive Parenting.
Download the Parenting Style Questionnaire:
0421 812 198