Is it too early to send my 3-year-old son for a psychological assessment?

12 11 2009

Hi Charis and Yvonne,

I have a son who is turning to 3 years by 25/11/2009. He is an active boy and with superb memory. He recognizes a-z, 1-20 when he was at age 11/2 and now he can read simple story books like Peter and Jane etc and write simple word on whiteboard. He went to kindergarten when he was in age 1 1/2 till now. When he was about 6 months in kindergarten, the teacher informed me that she found my son is quite weak in socialization, daily living skills, analyzing skills etc. Moreover, I notice his hand is shaking when he is focusing and concentrating in doing something.

He is a strong-willed child, he would go for what he wanted to do/have and never give up, no matter how i persuade him or threaten to spank him.  For example, if he wishes to walk alone himself or run around in public, and I tell him to hold my hand or to stop running around, he would just ignore my command and do his own way.  Even if he is in an unfamiliar place or with unfamiliar people, he is not afraid walking alone by himself.

I wish to bring him to seek for professional advise and assessment. But would it be too young for his age to do such test? should i wait till he is at the age of 4 or 5?

Thanks and regards,


November 6, 2009
Dear Tina,

I’m glad to hear that your son’s teacher has taken time to observe your son and to provide you with you feedback on his behavior in school.  Also, you have seriously considered what his teacher has said and compared this with how your son behaves when he is with you, as well as with strange people.

Age 3 is usually the stage when a child is experiencing an increasing awareness of his environment and is venturing out more from the safety of his primary caregiver and learning to respond to his or her environment.  So it is not surprising that you are learning more about your son social, cognitive and physical development.

Different disorders are usually evident at different developmental ages.  For example, mental retardation and pervasive developmental disorders are usually evident in the first years of life.  For attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, most children are diagnosed only after the symptoms have been present for a number of years, although some hyperactive-impulsive or inattention symptoms that cause impairment must have been present before age 7 years.

In your son’s situation, I do not think that it is too early for you to bring your child in for a psychological assessment.  The clinician may not want to make a determining diagnosis, since your son is still young, but a provisional diagnosis can be made, with a follow-up assessment to monitor your son’s progress.  A provisional diagnosis essentially means that this disorder may be a possibility, but it is still early to be conclusive, or we need more time to monitor and see if symptoms persist.  A psychological assessment at this stage would at least give you a better idea about your son’s situation and enable you to discuss about treatment interventions with the clinician.

Before seeing a psychologist for testing, I would strongly recommend that you take your son to a pediatrician for a full medical check up.  You may also want to discuss with the pediatrician about referring your son to a neurologist who has experience with assessing children.  Do bring these medical reports from these medical specialists to the psychologist, if possible.

The type of assessment tools and tests used in the psychological assessment will vary depending on who you go to.  However, the psychological assessment should include a detailed biopsychosocial interview, a cognitive assessment, behavior/symptom checklist, neuropsychological testing (if this has not been conducted by the neurologist) and any other assessment materials.  Your son’s teacher is an important source of knowledge as well, so the psychologist should include the teacher’s input in the psychological assessment.

I do not know where you are residing.  If you live in the KL/PJ area, there are many places where you can bring your son to for a psychological assessment.  Please visit our “Where to find services” page on our “For the public” section.  Penang also has some psychologists who may be able to assist you.

I hope that this helps, Tina.  Do keep us updated.





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