Getting kids to perform the tasks they least like can be a daunting task. For psychometrists at the IWK it is all in a day’s work.
“The biggest thing is establishing rapport,” says Sarah Martin. “We spend a lot of time with the kids and are usually asking them to do things they don’t enjoy doing.”
Those undesirable tasks come in the form of a lot of tests. IWK psychometrists work with neuropsychologists to conduct evaluations in order to understand the impact of a child’s medical disorder on their brain development. They use a battery of tests to measure memory, attention, perception, coordination, language and cognitive skills. Assessments can often take five to six hours and with scoring it is a full day.
“Our goal is to get the best estimate of ability,” says Nick Ciccarelli. ” Based on our findings the neuropsychologist is able to make recommendations to make the child’s life easier at school or at home.”
Martin and Ciccarelli work with kids aged 5-19 with a variety of medical disorders such as brain injury, ADHD, Tourette’s and language development issues.
“Every case is different and we are always looking at ways we can improve our assessments,” says Ciccarelli. “We have to modify our assessments based on the child’s abilities. Whether they have speech or no speech etc. With children with spastic quadriplegia, for example we have to rely on certain gestures for them to respond.”
“Diagnosis can range from no issues to a learning disability, memory deficit, ADHD, or intellectual disability,” says Martin. “If we can understand how they learn, how they remember and how they think then we can work with doctors and teachers to develop the best treatment and school plan for them.”
In recent years technology has come to the aid of Martin and Ciccarelli. Some of the tests can now be administered on iPads with some applications even able to provide scoring. While this frees up time and focus for the psychometrists its true value is in the comfort level and familiarity it provides to the kids.
“Ultimately the reason we do this is to improve quality of life,” says Ciccarelli. “A win may not necessarily come in the form of a child performing better at school or home. Sometimes it is as simple as that child and family feeling more successful.”
February is Psychology Month.