The Children's Trauma Assessment Center provides comprehensive neurodevelopmental trauma assessments for children three months to 17 years old. The clinical team is made up of professionals from social work, occupational therapy, speech language pathology and medicine. As a learning clinic connected to the College of Health and Human Services at Western Michigan University, graduate-level student interns also participate on the team as part of the assessment process.
Exposure to potentially traumatic events can affect a child’s functioning within the cognitive, affective, behavioral and physiological domains. Many symptoms can subsequently be manifested, including hyper-vigilance, withdrawal, sleeping difficulties, depression and significant mood swings. Early detection of the impact of childhood trauma can minimize psychological and physiological risk to children.
Roughly 90% of the children seen at CTAC are children who are involved with the child welfare system either in out-of-home placement (such as foster care or living at a residential facility), at risk of out-of-home placement, or recently returned to the care of their biological parents. Children may also have been adopted domestically or internationally, involved in the juvenile justice system, or living with their biological families with no involvement in the child welfare system. All children seen at CTAC have either confirmed or suspected exposure to at least one potentially traumatic experience, which could also include potential prenatal exposure to alcohol or other drugs.
Trauma assessments take place at CTAC’s clinical office, located at the Unified Clinics on the campus of Western Michigan University on Fridays. Approximately 4-6 assessments are completed each week. The typical time a child is at CTAC for the assessment is from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., with an hour break for lunch.
CTAC’s neurodevelopmental trauma assessment includes:
- Ethnographic interview with the child’s current caseworker and caregivers
- Review of documents submitted by the referral source, including service, treatment and educational plans and previous psychological evaluations
- Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) screen
- Standardized assessments of cognitive and developmental functioning, including testing in learning potential (IQ testing), executive functioning, expressive and receptive language, fine and gross motor, visual processing, memory, attention and social communication
- Standardized caregiver and child self-reports of behavioral and affective functioning
- Standardized reports of trauma symptomology and resilience
- Psychosocial interview with the child
- Interviews are conducted with the child’s biological parents when possible
- A structured observation of the child and his/her current caregivers and/or biological parents (using the Marschak Interaction Method) can also be completed as part of the assessment (upon request and at an additional cost)
After the assessment is completed
CTAC’s clinical team completes an assessment report, which outlines testing results and provides conclusions and recommendations for trauma treatment and interventions. Recommendations can include suggestions regarding academic or school supports, social emotional and behavioral support services, therapeutic approaches and placement or permanency recommendations.
The report is provided to the referral source who can then distribute it to interested parties, including caregivers and other service providers. A report review can be scheduled with the lead clinical staff from CTAC who worked with the child and wrote the report. CTAC’s clinical team is also available to provide trauma-informed consultation at service planning meetings for the child (such as school education plans) and testimony in child welfare cases as needed. A medical consultation with CTAC's behavioral pediatrician can also be scheduled at an additional cost.
Caregivers, transporters or case managers must remain at the clinic throughout the assessment in case of medical emergency. Review the Western Michigan University Legal Affairs: Minors on Campus Policies, Requirements, and Other Information Related to Programs and Activities Involving Minors for more information.