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Tools for evaluation
Evaluation of the preschool child requires different tools and skills from those used with older children and adolescents. The evaluator needs to be comfortable playing with children. This sounds simple, but often professionals feel that it is not "appropriate" to get down on the floor and romp with a 3 year old. They would rather talk to the 3 year old because they are more comfortable talking then playing, but usually a 3 year old would rather play than try to understand what the adult wants to talk about. Often, 3 year olds will talk after they have had a chance to play with an adult who likes to play. It is also important to realize that the need for activity is very normal for this age group and really necessary if a child is feeling anxiety or tension. Enjoying oneself while playing with a young child is a good way to demonstrate acceptance of the child. It is critical that the evaluator do whatever is necessary to reach the child on the child's level. If the child is sitting on the floor, the interviewer must sit on the floor with the child. If the child wants to talk while sitting under the table, the interviewer should eagerly come to the child and sit under the table. Evaluating young children is a difficult job, and the best tool the evaluator has is himself or herself. The willingness to be "childlike" and to really enjoy doing "childish" things in less than optimal situations is necessary in order to work with very young children effectively.
The most common tools used in these cases are dolls and doll families. Under ideal conditions, the evaluator would have a large assortment of dolls and toys in a room especially designed for interviewing little children. In reality, an evaluator usually carries all of the dolls and other materials used in interviewing young children with him or her. This does limit the number of dolls, but it is still important for the child to have a selection of types and sizes to choose from. Dolls that have been successfully used vary from dollhouse size families to large soft body rag dolls that are almost child sized. Children really do have preferences, and they relate better to some dolls than to others.
If possible, the evaluator should have a set of anatomically correct dolls. Observing a child play with dolls with correct genitalia is a good way to observe the child's reaction to sexual material and the child's knowledge and level of sophistication about sexual behaviors. It is not unusual for an anxious child to throw a doll across the room upon discovering that the doll has a penis. Often this same child will return to the same doll that was thrown later on in the interview period or at another session. Sometimes the child takes a peek to ascertain that the doll really does have a penis. Sometimes the child won't say a word but will go to the doll and be physically abusive with the part of the doll's anatomy that is offensive or has caused the child pain.
Dolls are also useful as "action agents in play therapy". Given enough time, a child may actually act out a situation with the dolls that he or she could never describe to the interviewer. The evaluator must pay a great deal of attention to the child's play—in Oaklander's (1978) words, "watching the body postures, gestures, expressions and breathing" of the child and "determining patterns in the process that I see unfolding before my eyes." While the child plays with the dolls, the evaluator can say, "Show me what happens next," instead of "Tell me." "Show me" is one very possible way to get around the threats of violence or prohibitions children experience in regard to not ever telling the secret. When the evaluator is not clear about what the child is trying to communicate, the dolls can make it possible for the child to demonstrate positions or types of contact that the child does not have words to describe. A child may demonstrate sexual behavior, such as oral genital contact, suddenly without any preliminaries. If the evaluator asks the child about what the dolls are doing, the child may reply, "They're playing the wiener game," which is the opening the evaluator has been waiting for. Small doll families can be used to obtain a child's version of his or her daily routine. Learning that "Uncle Charlie always makes us girls take a bath when he babysits for us" may be important.
Anatomical dolls are useful, but some children do not like hard body dolls, and the soft body types may not have all the openings necessary for children to demonstrate genital, anal, and oral contacts with adults. A small set of baby twins has been very useful in learning from children about their perceptions of the differences between boys and girls. The baby twins are a natural approach to this area, since even little children know about changing diapers. Another type of doll that has been very helpful is a "Sascha" doll. This little girl doll has very long, lifelike hair. Children like to brush the doll's hair; the act of brushing the doll's hair seems to have a smoothing effect on them, and they seem more willing to talk while engaged in this manner. (see INFORMATION GATHERING PRIOR TO EVALUATION OF THE CHILD PART III)
About The Author
David Crawford is the CEO and owner of a Male Enhancement Products company known as Male Enhancement Group which is dedicated to researching and comparing male enhancement products in order to determine which male enhancement product is safer and more effective than other products on the market. Copyright 2011 David Crawford of Male Enhancement Products This article may be freely distributed if this resource box stays attached.
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