Testing is a generic term that can be used in different places and often means that a professional, such as a teacher, pediatrician, counselor or special education consultant wants to learn more about your child. Testing can show a child’s strengths and weaknesses, and it can help diagnose a child, based on their symptoms. It can give us information about their intelligence and academics as well as behaviors that are a problem.
Screening is when several brief tests and/or instruments are used to identify children who may be at risk for certain mental health issues. For example, children in the juvenile justice system in Connecticut are screened for mental health issues to determine the types of services/supports they might need.
Assessment is a more comprehensive process that uses a series of different tests or instruments to help create a picture of your child. Assessment may look at specific areas such as your child’s educational needs, or your child’s psychological functioning. Assessments are often done by child psychologists, either individually or part of a team. Results of assessments can be used to determine the best level of care, the right services and help point to the needs of your child.
Evaluation is the most comprehensive. It may include screening testing and assessment as well as clinical interviews of you, your child, service providers and other adults in your child’s life. Evaluations often include gathering your child’s history and background and to know all the things that contribute to your child’s mental health issues. Often, a team of mental health professionals including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and other educational and mental health professionals will conduct evaluations. Results of an evaluation may be used by court systems, schools, state agencies and treatment providers to help find out the best services for your child. Family members should be an active part of an evaluation.