Archive for Children

When Do Children Need Psychological Testing?

Tom Stevens, MA, LPC-S, RPT-S
12337 Jones Road, Suite 444
Houston, Texas 77070

“When Do Children Need Psychological Testing”

by Tom Stevens, LPC-S, RPT-S

I get calls every week from parents asking me whether they should get their child tested. Most parents aren’t even sure what kind of testing they are looking for, yet others are very specific and asking for ADHD testing, or depression testing, or anxiety testing. The difficulty can be that entering a clinic that tests specifically for ADHD (or other disorders), can very often give you the diagnosis for that disorder. This is due mostly to the fact that when they test for something, they are looking for it, and not necessarily doing a “full body” test. The real answer comes in seeking out a professional that can look for everything, emotionally, intellectually, and developmentally. There is a reason I only have 2 professionals I refer to for psychological testing, and 2 professionals I refer to for psychiatric medication. That reason is that they don’t all do the same work, and parents need to make sure who they are taking their children to before getting them tested.

When I first met psychologist Susan Rosin, Ph.D. what impressed me most was how thorough her testing was, and how much detail she gave in her observations. She didn’t just listen to why the child was sent to her, she got to know each child, and spend time with them (often 4-6 hours), so she could form a sound opinion. The best part was that her opinion didn’t always match up with mine, and she had data from her testing to back her up. As a psychologist, she works to help each child in the long run and not just now, by recommending a referral for medication (if necessary) and a recommendation for counseling (if necessary). She is also a “down to earth person”.

When parents as about getting their child tested, it’s important to know there are 3 levels in the mental health field…therapists (counselors), psychologists (counseling and testing), and psychiatrists (medication). When done right, all 3 areas work together with no one area being more important than the others. Psychological testing can help a parent get a good “overall” look at their child’s emotional, intellectual, and developmental makeup, and also what to do about it (counseling, medication, or accommodations in school) so the child has the best chance at succeeding in life. Before getting your child tested, do your homework, ask around, and interview to professional on the phone so you are confident in their approach.

Tom Stevens, LPC-S, RPT-S

Resistant Children: How To Get Them To Follow Directions

What to do when your child says “NO”

by Tom Stevens, LPC-S, RPT-S

Every parent has been there…those times when you just want your child to do what they’ve been told, without talking back. The hardest times are when it happens in public, or when it’s the end of the day and you are on your last nerve. Whether it’s bedtime, mealtime, leaving a birthday party, not wanting to leave a play date, not wanting to leave the store without a toy, or any other example, if you’ve ever experienced any of these you know how exhausting it can be. I feel like children can seek out and attack any hidden weakness in their parents, and they can even store up a huge amount of memory to remember those weaknesses for later in life. The old saying “children should be seen and not heard” has gone out the window, and we are in an era where children feel more confident about speaking out and resisting than ever before.

The truth of the matter is that children are constantly seeking boundaries, and will often push up against those boundaries until the adult (parent, teacher, caregiver, etc) follows through and holds them accountable for their choices. So many parents don’t like to “have to” set boundaries, or develop consistent routines because it requires effort and follow through. Let’s face it, how many of us WANT TO go on a diet and stay on one? It is a challenge to live responsibly and in a healthy way, and it is a challenge for many children to live responsibly because they are constantly seeing new and exciting things in the world. What is most important to remember is that children NEED consistent routines and boundaries, and it NEEDS to be up to the parent or caregiver to put those boundaries into action. If it is bedtime, mealtime, getting a piece of cake for breakfast, or letting kids have a toy at the store, parents need to be intentional with what they are teaching their children about responsibility, self care and healthy living.

Believe it or not, there are several ways to handle times of stress and strain in dealing with your resistant child, and I will give you a few quick tips to getting you back on track right now.

(1)Try to make bedtime, mealtime, and other daily routines as consistent as possible – Knowing that every day can’t be the same, try to have a steady routine of eating, sleeping, etc so your children can have something to count on.

(2)Know how you are going to handle discipline situation “before it happens” – Try not to wait and decide what you are going to do, have consequences and alternative plans ready to put into play (even if it means leaving the party or restaurant, or going to bed hungry)

(3)Model the same behavior you want your children to show – When it comes to self care, your children are watching how you eat, sleep, live, pray, and treat others. Many times they only show us the behaviors that we are showing them.

Tom Stevens, LPC-S, RPT-S

Surviving Summer – Top 3 Websites for Kid Activites this summer

Listen to the show: Surviving Summer: What Parents Can Do To Make Summer Great

Houston on the Cheap – your local source of deals, discounts and freebies in Houston.

Local Kidz Stuff – local resource for family-friendly events, places and businesses such as birthday party spots and supplies, kids fun, parks, day care centers, pediatricians, mom groups, sports and more.

Groupon – Offering daily deals at restaurants, retailers and service providers.

Helping Children Deal with Grief and Illness

Helping Children Deal with Grief and Illness

Listen to the show: Grief and Loss: Healing In a Whole New Way

Grief and Illness is hard for anyone to cope with, and even more difficult for children. Children under 10 years of age process information differently than adults, which means we need to talk with them on their emotional level. Children do not only grieve when someone or something dies, they can grieve over an illness or even a perceived loss (something they see on TV or pain they feel for someone else). Since children are feeling based, rather than adults who are thought based, they tend to act and react depending on how they feel in the moment. When it comes to grief in loved ones, whether it is death or a prolonged illness, remember the 5 main stages of grief that they can and will go through (Kubler-Ross &Kessler):

Denial – “This isn’t really happening”
Anger – “I’m so angry this had to happen to me”
Bargaining – “God, I won’t don’t…or…if you just heal them or bring them back”
Depression – “This really is happening and I don’t think I can deal with it”
Acceptance – “I realize this has happened, I don’t like it, but life goes on and I will survive”

These stages are processed across various lengths of time and in a different order at times. Children even go back and forth between stages often, depending on how intense the grief is for them. Here are some quick tips to help you talk with, and help your child deal with the grief they may be facing:

*Talk less and listen more (what’s important is how they feel about the event, not their knowledge of it)
*Explain things with examples they can relate to (like characters they know, and things they play with)
*Follow up with them regularly (don’t just make it a “one time event”)
*Keep them in the present tense (children tend to take things to the extreme)
*Always be open for questions (they may come back later and ask them)

The key to remember is children need to be heard and understood, not just given a logical explanation for what is happening and why. Give them time to talk, and take the time to notice their feelings. Grief and illness (especially long term illness) is a process, and there is no guaranteed path for how any of us deal with it. Younger children can benefit from “playing out” their feelings with dolls, puppets, or stuffed animals. You can help them by being the voice for their feelings and play. DON’T ask questions, just talk about the play you are observing and the feelings you see them having. Don’t hesitate to consult a professional, watch for signs of regression, notice mood swings, and be proactive at dealing with the issue before it becomes a chronic concern.

What you need to know when your child attends Play Therapy

What is Play Therapy? When adults have emotional problems or when things begin to bother them so much that it is hard for them to think of other things, they go to a therapist to talk about their problems and to get help with solutions. Children don’t have the vocabulary or the insight of adults, so it is difficult for them to talk about the things that worry them. Therefore therapy for children is held in a playroom where they can demonstrate their problems to the therapist.

When does a child need play Therapy? All children exhibit what adults might call “abnormal behavior” from time to time. Parents usually get worried and begin seeking help when a child either exhibits the same abnormal behaviors for a long time or when the child begins exhibiting several abnormal behaviors at once.
In general, it is wise to have the child checked first for a possible physical cause to the continuance or increase of abnormal behavior. If there’s no indication of physical cause or medical treatment doesn’t eliminate abnormal behaviors, therapy is indicated.

What if my child does something “Bad” in Therapy? There is much more freedom in the play therapy room than can be allowed in other areas of the child’s life. During that hour once a week, every thought and every action the child has is accepted (with the exceptions of hurting himself, or the therapist, or destroying property.) This freedom is necessary so that the child will feel trusted enough to reveal fears and problems which have been kept bottled up inside. Therefore, there is no such thing as “Bad” behavior in therapy.

Share information with the Therapist? It is often helpful in therapy to know recent events in the child’s life, especially those to which the child has reacted strongly. Please do not give the child the responsibility of reporting events. Telling the child to “be sure to tell your therapist…” puts pressure on the child and may seem like a punishment. You might want to mention to your child, in an understanding way, that this “…might be something you will want to work on in therapy.” If there is an event in the child’s life that you feel the therapist should know we would prefer you contact the therapist by phone or email before the child’s visit.


Part of my practice focuses on children and helping time conquer the fear, anxiety, and hurt caused in their life.  This is done through a mode of treatment called “play therapy”.  Being a registered Play Therapist (RPT), I have been specially trained and supervised to help children build self confidence and feel capable of handling what life throws at them.  Play therapy gives the child a chance to share their feelings through play, allowing them to feel more confident in the world they live in.

Play Therapy

An Explanation of Play Therapy

Some children experience difficulties in making adjustments. Play therapy provides an opportunity for them to work through these problems in a permissive situation. Adults find relief in talking over their difficulties with an understanding therapist. Children typically cannot express their thoughts and feeling in words, but can find release through various forms of play.

When a child’s fears and anxieties have been built up during past experiences with significant other close persons (parents, teachers, brothers, and sisters) the child has very little opportunity to explore and examine these feelings in either the home or school situation. Play therapy offers a unique relationship with an objective and accepting adult who is not in a position to “use” any disclosures for or against the child in any way.

In order to ensure the privacy of this agreement, it is essential that the child not feel pressured to give an accounting of the events that occur in the playroom. This should be viewed as the child’s own private hour with the therapist. For this reason, parents are asked to refrain from questioning the child about playroom activities (asking how the child liked the session, if he/she had a good time, etc.) Drawing, painting or other projects made in the playroom may often have a hidden meaning of which even the child is not aware. When these such items are brought home it is best (1) not to question as to what it represents, (2) not to praise it as a “masterpiece,” or (3) not to criticize it or make suggestions for its technical improvement. If the child offers it to you, accept it casually and without much comment.

For the child’s first session, he/she can be told that they will be coming each week to play with Tom Stevens in the playroom. If the child has additional questions simply state that sometimes it helps children to have someone they can talk to and play with. Moreover, be honest in stating that you don’t have any other information about the specifics of what happens in the playroom.

What you need to know when your child attends Play Therapy