Try to identify or eliminate any possible physical or medical causes of the behaviour of concern, by arranging for assessment by health professionals such as your doctor or dentist.

When making a referral, describe the behaviour of concern in detail.  This will allow the psychologist to determine the staff member who is most suited to taking on the referral, and will allow the psychologist to have an idea of the work involved and enable them to quote accurately.

Provide names and contact information of all individuals and organisations who support the individual, e.g., family, school, health and educational professionals.

Record and encourage others to record the following information about the individual:

  • Developmental milestones (e.g., pregnancy and birth details, when first crawled, walked, first words and sentences, diagnoses, etc).
  • Key life events (e.g., illnesses, moving house or school, bereavements, etc).
  • Descriptions of the problem behaviour, in enough detail that someone could visualise it happening.  Alternatively, video the behaviour.
  • The strategies that have been used to manage the behaviour and how effective the strategies were.
  • How often the behaviour occurs.  You could mark this in a diary or on a calendar.

Gather historical reports, letters and documents that may be useful, for example, psychologists, doctors, school, preschool, support agencies, etc.

Be willing to make changes.  Prepare the family and support people for the likelihood of therapy or an intervention, as it may be that their behaviour, routines and environments have to change in order to best help the individual.

Expect a thorough assessment that involves interviews with or observations of the individual, interviews with significant others, review of historical information, behavioural recording, etc.

Be open and honest so that the psychologist can develop an accurate understanding of the problem behaviour.

If you have any questions, ask.

Don’t expect to get immediate feedback – a good psychologist will take some time to integrate all of the assessment findings, and determine the underlying cause of the problem behaviour so it can be treated effectively.

Don’t expect the problem to be solved overnight – if you are enlisting the help of a psychologist, it is likely that the problem has a significant impact on your life and the life of the individual.  It will take time for the psychologist to understand the problem, to develop an intervention, and then to manage the problem, especially if the problem has been ongoing.

Accept feedback on the problem.

Request copies of assessment reports, interventions, treatment handouts, and progress reports.

Question the rationale and supporting data for interventions, especially if the interventions do not appear to be making any positive progress.

Follow all of the steps in an intervention, and complete all homework tasks – the success of any intervention largely depends on effective implementation by significant others.