Psychiatric Disorders/childhood disorders/Assessment

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As previously mentioned, as a generalisation children live within a family context and so it is usual to begin with interviewing the whole family. If there are no biological parents then the child is seen with the usual caregivers; for orphaned children the child is seen with the adult responsible for their care. Again, the practitioner needs to be knowledgeable on the child's developmental stage and what are the usual capacities and competencies for a child of that age. Importantly, this includes knowledge of the communication style and ability that would be expected. Some practitioners are fortunate in that they have been personally exposed to caring for young children in non-clinical settings. If this is not the case the practitioner can be guided by the type of school activities that are typical for children of different ages and school grades. For example, very young children in the school setting are often engaged in creative activities. Play is the primary communication mode of young children. Older children will draw, colour in or engage in imaginary play with toy figures. Towards the end of primary school children will more readily engage in conversation, although will often give few details spontaneously. Guiding the conversation with drawings or timelines or an activities leads to greater richness of detail. Adolescents will usually engage in greater self reflection and prolonged conversation and are often seen before other family members to emphasise their progress towards individuation from the family. Cultural issues are important when considering what information should come from father or mother and whether children should be seen by themselves or only when other family members present.