Registered Psychologists Naomi Lee (right) and Kendal Toll (left) are members of the six-person team that manages CASA’s Psychological Assessment and Consultation (PAC) Program. We asked them to describe PAC’s activities. Here’s an edited version of that interview.
NL: Sure. PAC is an internal contract service that provides psychological assessment and consultation to almost every program CASA offers. We provide psycho-educational assessments, which are important tools used by schools to help plan a student’s programming, and important tools therapeutically as well.
Q What is involved in the assessment process?
NL: Basically, we help therapists or psychiatrists answer a question they can’t answer themselves. No matter which program it is, usually at some point someone says, ‘Maybe there’s something else going on here,’ or ‘We don’t know what diagnoses fit this child,’ so they ask PAC to help clarify it.
Q What are the most common questions you get?
KT: The most common questions are about a child’s cognitive functioning, such as: ‘Is this client cognitively able to handle the demands of therapy?’ Inside the tertiary programs CASA offers, there is a level of functioning that’s needed to be able to manage group work, going to school and attending individual therapy, all simultaneously.
NL: Outside of the tertiary programs, a common question is to query behavioural versus learning difficulties.
Q Does PAC also do more specialized types of assessments?
NL: We do standardized batteries of cognitive assessments, academic assessments, memory assessments, executive functioning assessments, personality assessments and adaptive functioning. We can also help therapists narrow down the details about an anxiety or depression diagnosis, for example, or help a psychiatrist determine whether a diagnosis of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is appropriate.
Q Who receives your reports?
NL: Our reports are used within CASA and are shared with the family. They can also be given to a school, and to other service providers such as family physicians, external therapists or speech language pathologists.
Q How long does an assessment typically take?
NL: About a month and a half. We’ll usually see the client over one to three sessions, and over the next few weeks we’ll look at the results, write the reports, provide a debriefing and make our recommendations.
Q What other ramifications do PAC’s assessments have?
KT: They can also have implications for funding through programs like AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped), and can be used to make decisions about school programming and funding for students.
Q Has demand for PAC’s services increased?
KT: In CASA’s tertiary programs the demand over the years has really increased, since these assessments have had really positive practical applications for our kids.
Q What do you enjoy most about your work with PAC?
KT: I feel that our job is very much like piecing together a puzzle. I get a lot of satisfaction from putting together the puzzle and having that ‘aha’ moment when we discover the missing piece.
NL: I really enjoy seeing children learn better, so when I have the ability to help a child understand how they learn, that’s extremely important. I can actually help them to access and use those strengths inside the classroom.