Psychological and Developmental Assessment: Children With Disabilities and Chronic Conditions. Rune J. Simeonsson and Susan L. Rosenthal (Editors). New York: Guilford Press, 2001.
A number of years ago, I served as psychological consultant to the preschool program of a large public school district. My job, along with committee members from a number of disciplines, was to assist and advise the district on questions of eligibility and program planning for children with a wide range of disabilities. The task would have been less daunting if this book had been available then.
Simeonsson and Rosenthal have assembled a wide range of specialists (35 in all) to prepare chapters on general assessment issues; broad assessment strategies; specific assessment approaches for particular groups; and ethical and legal issues attending assessment of children. This volume goes well beyond the scope of intellectual disabilities, including material on assessment approaches for individuals with a variety of representative chronic illnesses and physical challenges. It is not just another book on testing; in fact, the real strength of this volume lies in the ability of the authors to see beyond traditional psychometric assessment and use a much broader, more flexible approach to assessment concepts. It is refreshing, for example, to see discussion of Barker's (1965) ecological psychology as a backdrop for natural-setting observation of children, along with qualitative and family-oriented approaches. At the same time, appropriate (and sometimes creative) uses of traditional tests are also described.
This volume will make a strong textbook and resource for graduate students and professionals in a number of psychological specialties, including school, child clinical, and pediatric, and it would be a good reference for special educators and program administrators. Although the chapters are generally child- and family-friendly, I found myself wishing that at least one chapter had been written by a family member—perhaps providing a perspective that would offset, at least to some extent, the somewhat pedantic style of some of the material in the book. Some effort is made in this direction by starting each chapter with one or two case descriptions, giving a personal perspective and orientation to the material to follow. This strategy achieves variable success; in some chapters the authors use it to good effect, making repeated reference to a case to illustrate points, whereas in other chapters there is scant reference to the cases. Having said all this, I want to emphasize that this collection of material succeeds both in assembling a tremendous amount of information and providing practical advice and direction for its use. Further, I was never left with the feeling that the individual sensitivities of children were forgotten by the authors; in fact, the authors regularly advise readers in techniques intended to put children at ease, or to maximize their performance.
Most of the chapters provide thoughtful discussion of the purposes and uses of assessment in the lives of children, and ethical considerations are a recurring theme throughout as well as in a well-organized concluding chapter. I was especially pleased to see the care taken in discussion of the rights and viewpoints of children and their families. The authors tackle tough issues— including assessment of victims of trauma and maltreatment—and the chapters on specific illnesses and conditions present excellent introductions to those conditions before moving on to discussion of assessment strategies. These chapters will serve as an excellent source of information about a variety of chronic problems, and their inclusion serves to extend the purview of the study of “disabilities” well beyond mental retardation. As I read, I found myself thinking about how I might use some of this material in my own teaching in other courses not directly related to assessment.
Simeonsson and Rosenthal have assembled a volume that will contribute substantially to the work on assessment of children. It is authoritative, with strong reliance on a large body of research:, it sheds new light on some old approaches, and it points the way to combining some of those old approaches with new techniques and strategies. It should be on the shelf of any professional engaged in conducting or using assessments of children. Above all, it has potential for making the lives of children better.