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Child/Adolescent Evaluations - what to know

I've been in child/adolescent psychiatry for over five years now. I hear a lot of concerns about telehealth not being the best option..because connection can be hard, kids don't stay still..etc. So let me break this down for you.


Telehealth vs. In Person


In office appointment: You have to make sure you load your kid(s) up in the car to go to the appointment, drive over, and sit in the waiting room. When it's your turn, you come in. Your kiddo is restless and bored. They are frustrated and want to leave the room (unless the office offers some toys to play with, which may or may not be sanitized between appointments). Your teenager is angry that they have been dragged to an office that is out of their comfort zone. They talk to us while you sit in the waiting room scrolling on your phone. You come back in after about an hour and talk. Now you need to drive them to the pharmacy followed by back home or to school.


Telehealth appointment: If you have a little kiddo, they are able to come and go from the appointment as they please (especially kids with ADHD). They can show us their room, their art, or come bring their favorite toy. They can take breaks as needed and be in their safe place. You. can divert them into another room if you need to speak with us privately. They aren't forced to sit in a chair for 60-90 minutes staring at us waiting for this boring appointment to be over. And no dragging them back and forth in the car is necessary.


If you have a teenager, they can take a laptop, iPad or phone into their bedroom for privacy to speak. You are able to go wait in the kitchen, have a coffee or watch TV while you wait for them to complete the evaluation. Your adolescent is in their comfort zone, able to share parts of their room, their pets, their artwork, their environment. They can have a snack. They don't need to be in an uncomfortable, sterile, foreign office to answer questions.


Tips

Children

  • Let them come and go from the appointment and do their own thing. We want to observe them how they actually are.

  • Encourage them to do show and tell with us with their favorite toy, a favorite game or a recent art project.

  • We don't need to spend the entire 60-90 minutes talking to them - a lot of it will be directed toward you. They don't need to be present for the "boring" part of you talking.

  • We will have questions for them too though! We can ask them sporadically (like okay quick answer a question..okay he ran away...okay he came back - another question!)

  • If you have a pet, encourage them to let us meet their pet!

  • We are also happy to do tours of their room or other neat things they'd like to show us!

  • This definitely isn't a very strict, sterile "sit down and we are going to assess you." This is very relaxed, conversational, and we are here to hear your concerns and get to know your kiddo.

  • If they have a 504B plan, IEP, recent labs, or have any other evaluations, emails from teachers..assessments, letters home, suspensions - please send our way. We would love to review.


Adolescents

  • Typically we definitely want to hear your concerns about your teen, as well as a developmental history and a timeline of when you began to notice things. We also want. to spend time speaking with your teen privately.

  • For many teenagers, prompting them to answer our questions while you are present can lead to shrugs and "I don't know," but they really do warm up once they are in their own environment.

  • Have a list of hospitalization dates, past med trials and anything else that may be relevant that you could send over

  • If you have things to say about your teen that you feel they may be sensitive about, please talk to us privately about it. It can cause them to shut down if they feel you are speaking "negatively" about them -- even if you are telling us something that recently happened.

  • Be open minded. Teenagers and parents often have trouble with communication. They may view things very differently than you do.

  • Know that we are not "taking sides" if there is a dispute between you and your teen. We are here to evaluate, and help your teen and the entire family unit.

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