Your Questions Answered

Q&A: Psychological Services for Children with Special Needs

Does your child exhibit troubling behaviors? Does your child have difficulty making eye contact or responding to their name? Do you have questions but don’t know who to ask or how to ask them?

The Watson Institute can help. A highly trained psychologist at the Watson Institute is answering your pressing questions – specifically regarding psychological services for children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, Emotional and Behavioral Challenges, and Development Delays.

Follow along each week as we add Q&As to address your concerns and offer solutions to meet your needs, including:

  • Psychological testing
  • Diagnostic evaluations
  • Parent support groups
  • Social skills
  • Group therapy

The following are common questions we receive from parents – and answers are provided by one of the Watson Institute’s psychologists:

Q: My child has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, what is the process for my child to receive a psychological evaluation?

Psychological Evaluation Process for Children with Special Needs

A: In order to receive a psychological evaluation for treatment services or for diagnostic testing, a parent should contact our Intake department by calling 412-749-6425. Our scheduler will gather your insurance information and your concerns in order to ensure that you are matched with the most appropriate evaluator.

You will then be asked to fill out paperwork regarding your child’s history and current concerns in order to help the evaluator better understand what you are seeking.

You will then be scheduled with an appointment.

If you are coming for psychological testing, a three step process is required.

  • You will first have an intake appointment where the psychologist will gather information about your concerns and your child’s history. Your child is required to attend the appointment, and the psychologist will observe the child throughout the parent interview.
  • After this appointment, the intake department will process the request for psychological testing through your insurance. Once a preauthorization is provided by insurance, our scheduler will then give you a call to schedule two more appointments.
  • The first of these two appointments will be for psychological testing. Typically, a testing appointment is schedules for three hours. Approximately two weeks later, you will return for an hour-long feedback session to discuss the results and recommendations.
Q: As parents of children with special needs, how can we be involved throughout the psychological evaluation process?

Family involvement is important…

A: As a parent of a child with special needs, you will be involved in every step of the evaluation process. You are the expert of your child and his or her needs.

You will first be asked to provide your concerns about your child, as well as what you feel are your child’s biggest areas of need.

During psychological testing you will be asked to fill out questionnaires about your child’s behaviors and areas of concern, and if you have a young child, you may be asked to be in the evaluation room while the psychologist is conducting the evaluation.

During the feedback session where the results of the evaluation are provided, you will be presented with recommendations on how to address your child’s specific needs.

You will be asked about your thoughts related to the services suggested and a dialogue will be encouraged in order for the psychologist to be able to provide specific recommendations that will be most helpful for you and your child.

You serve an extremely integral role in the entire evaluation process because you know your child best and the needs of the people in your home.

Q: Are there support services for parents of children with autism and other special needs?

Support for Parents of Children with Autism

A: There are many parent support groups in the Pittsburgh area in order to address the needs of parents with autism and other special needs. At the Watson Institute, parents are encouraged to return as needed to talk with the psychologist regarding their child’s needs

When your child is first diagnosed with autism, information can be overwhelming. As such, it is often more helpful to parents to return for another appointment to discuss the diagnosis and treatment options once they have had the time to process the initial diagnosis.

The Watson Institute’s Education Center also offers a parent support group which meets monthly on Fridays. This group offers parents the chance to talk with one another and share their questions, concern, and successes.

Q: How does the Watson Institute's psychological services program for children with autism differ from other outpatient service providers?

Treating Children with Special Needs through Continuum of Care

A: Although we see children with a multitude of concerns for psychological and neuropsychological evaluation, we specialize in evaluating and treating children with autism.

Our clinicians are well-trained in the evaluation and treatment processes for these individuals, and we are fortunate to be able to offer psychological testing, social skills group therapy, and individual behavior therapy for children with autism spectrum disorders.

We feel that it is important to be able to follow a child from the initial diagnosis through to completion of services and believe that continuity of care is important for both parents and children with special needs.

Q: Are there support groups for children and adolescents with special needs?

Support Groups for Children with Special Needs

A: At the Watson Institute, we offer social skills groups specifically designed for children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Masters’ level clinicians who have been working with children with autism for years run the groups and the children who participate get to know other children who are dealing with the same challenges.

In social skills group, children and adolescents learn through teaching how to work through their specific social difficulties. Then, during the last half hour of the group, they are provided with time to practice these skills. Skills include improving conversation skills, making and maintaining friendships and applying emotional regulation skills.

This social skills group may be the first experience that they have had in meeting other children with autism. Knowing that they are not alone and are not the only one dealing with such challenges is important for self-esteem.

Often, children make friends in these groups and parents are able to work together to set up play dates outside of group treatment. These interactions outside of group are encouraged in order to promote generalizations of skills.

Do you have questions you don’t see answered above? Contact us by filling out the form below!