Presenting Whole Child Assessment
(WCA): A Unique Way of Understanding your Child
minute children are born, we are assessing them based on a whole range
of physical and developmental milestones. Remember the Apgar score and
your relief when your baby was pronounced “healthy and normal.” As your
child grew and developed, other quantitative assessments, such as IQ and
achievement tests, provided raw scores and percentiles to help schools
understand how your child compared with others his or her age.
However, anyone who understands statistics knows that numbers don’t tell
the whole story; when learning challenges or language difficulties
inhibit success, IQ and achievement tests can miss important
information. Also, other factors, such as attention, behavior, health,
emotions and lack of rapport with the tester, can undermine the outcome
of these tests. Schools also provide achievement test scores as a way of
marketing the competitive education their school is providing. Often
these scores are more indicative of the school population than of its
skill at teaching to the needs of a particular student. We know it is
unlikely a child will achieve an erroneously high score, but, there are
many reasons children could have scored lower than their knowledge and
skills would predict.
For the gifted, the simple fact that tests have ceilings can mean the
test hasn’t revealed the full potential of the child. While these
quantitative assessments can provide important information for parents
and educators, they do not address other aspects of the child’s
emotional and cognitive development. Parents and educators also need a
way of evaluating non-quantitative factors, which can be critically
significant to a child’s educational outcomes and successful life
adjustments. What exactly are these other assessment options and how
effective are they?
The Qualitative Assessment Approach
Qualitative methods of assessment have been used to assess products,
programs, performance, proposals, research, organizations, and people,
for a variety of purposes. Any method of evaluation that does not
quantify, or measure, something can be considered qualitative. As the
root of the term implies, it is an evaluation of the quality (or
qualities) of something, usually taking into account its particular
context and implications.
Qualitative assessments of children use in-depth, but unstructured,
interviews, history, observation and interaction with your particular
child to paint a picture of his or her needs. These assessments are
usually performed by professional therapists, psychologists, or learning
specialists with a background in educational environments. The
particular approach used will depend upon the purpose of the evaluation
and also the particular orientation of the assessor. For example, an
educator may primarily look for information related to the child’s
ability to learn and function at school; someone trained in identifying
learning disabilities may be especially alert for hidden problems that
could stem from learning disabilities; a behavior specialist may be
watching for potential ways to reinforce or extinguish behaviors. The
usefulness of these qualitative assessment techniques is very dependent
on the skill, judgment, experience and insight of the individual
professional performing the evaluation, not to mention the nature of the
findings and recommendations that accompany these observations.
Roots of Whole Child Assessment
Whole Child Assessment is the result of a lifetime of studying and
working with children who had challenges, as well as special gifts. I
began my education in this area as the older sibling of a
developmentally delayed sister and a brother who was treated for severe
AD/HD from the age of two.
While a student in a program for gifted children, I met Dr. Linda
Silverman, then a teacher and Ph.D. candidate in Special Education and Educational Psychology.
She has been my mentor and dear friend ever since, always encouraging me
and expanding my knowledge and experience in working with gifted
Throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, I earned degrees in Psychology, Art,
Education and Marriage and Family Therapy. I have taught children of all
ages how to optimize their gifts, teachers how to inspire their charges,
and parents ways to nurture and guide their children.
After raising three gifted children, I earned my License as a Marriage
and Family Therapist from Phillips Graduate Institute (formerly the
California Family Study Center); I have devoted my professional
counseling life to helping families better understand each other so they
can live together with loving, nurturing, and mutually satisfying
After years of counseling and coaching families and individuals, I
decided to use my observations and experience to develop a tool that
could provide parents with relevant and critical information about their
children and family systems. WCA represents a synthesis of the models,
techniques and philosophies of many giants in the world of psychology,
education and philosophy—including Virginia Satir, Carl Jung, Jean
Piaget, Kazimierz Dabrowski, Martin Buber, Maria Montessori, Linda
Silverman, and, particularly, Annemarie Roeper, who originated the
productive three-session format for use with the Annemarie Roeper Method
of Qualitative Assessment.
Whole Child Assessment
Whole Child Assessment (WCA) is a type of qualitative assessment
that allows me to better understand a child, based upon the qualities
that make him, or her, a unique human being. When parental history,
interviews, play therapy, other types of unstructured but strategic
interactions, and in-depth observation are used, children can unveil
themselves in ways that quantitative methods miss. WCA is not a
substitute for quantitative tests; it complements standardized testing
by collecting information about personality, learning style, emotional,
spiritual and temperamental processes. All of these factors provide
clues that allow a fuller understanding of a child’s unique approach to
WCA is used in conjunction with quantitative measures of the child’s
intellectual potential and achievement and is not a substitute for such
testing. But, through the WCA process, parents gain better awareness for
what environments and parenting styles have a high probability of
helping their child achieve a happy and fulfilling life experience. WCA
focuses on “who” the child is, rather than “what” he, or she, is capable
of doing (although generally it also results in revealing the child’s
strengths and potentials).
Usually, the results of the WCA process will reinforce some of what
parents already suspect. But, WCA also illuminates aspects, both
positive and negative, that might have gone unnoticed; this might
include hidden learning challenges such as auditory or visual processing
difficulties, or, conversely, spiritually evolved gifts, such as ethical
concerns or an unusual capacity for empathy and compassion. In addition
to personality type, learning style, temperament and interests, I will
help parents learn best practices for parenting this particular child,
with his or her specific needs. All this information is important and
relevant to fully understand and fulfill the needs of your child.
Process of Whole Child Assessment
WCA involves three sessions. The first session is an interview with you
and your spouse for approximately one hour. Prior to session one, you
each will be asked to complete informational forms that include a
developmental history, releases and informed consent regarding the legal
limits of confidentiality and parents’ rights.
The most important pre-meeting document is the Anecdotal History. In
this history, each of you writes a narrative description of your child.
The first session is a time to elaborate upon these written thoughts,
stories and concerns. This document should be viewed as an opportunity
to illustrate all the ways your child is special and individual. Most
parents view it as an opportunity to relive and codify benchmark events
and prominent memories. It is one of the few times in life that you are
required to brag about how wonderful your child can be.
Your child is the star of the second session of WCA; it can last up to
one and a half hours, depending upon his or her age and attention span.
During this session, children get the chance to unfold who they are.
After meeting me, and experiencing my home, children are usually
delighted to be able to explore the toy room, revealing themselves to me
through what they say, and what they choose to do. They are in control
of this time as we go through the necessary stages of trust-building,
play, exploration, and sometimes boundary testing. Children are asked,
in advance, to bring something they would like to share about themselves
or their interests; this session involves mostly conversation, play, and
observation. It allows the child to bask in the reflection of positive
regard. I am fully present, accepting and attentive; because of this,
children usually feel safe enough to reveal many of their hidden
feelings and beliefs about themselves and the world. It is through this
complex interaction that I come to understand your child’s motivations,
challenges, and core values.
About a week later, I will meet with you again to explain my
observations (with implications), and to make recommendations for future
plans. At this time, you can address specific concerns around education,
socialization, remediation, and general parenting etc. You will also
receive a short summary of my thoughts generated from the first two
If you are interested in a more detailed report, please request it prior
to the second session, and there will be an extra charge of $150/hour
for preparation (it takes approximately two hours to prepare.) Often
parents or families will opt to continue our counseling relationship
after the formal WCA is complete. This can be accomplished through
subsequent individual or family work contracted on an hourly basis as
View a sample Whole Child
Assessment Report >>
View the WCA Presentation from the Second National Symposium on
Assessing Gifted Learners, March 27, 2009, Van Nuys, CA.
WCA Presentation (Microsoft PowerPoint)
Linda Powers Leviton M.A., M.F.T. is the Director of the West Coast
office of the Gifted Development Center and a licensed Marriage, Family
and Child Therapist. I have 35 years of experience working with
children, parents, administrators and teachers to help individuals fully
understand the people in their lives. I specialize in working with the
gifted population, particularly twice exceptional children and their
All three sessions of WCA will be in my home office in Granada Hills.
Children are more comfortable in the home environment, and just as I am
observing them, they appraise me for trustworthiness by being welcomed
into my home space. Parents can wait in other parts of the house during
session two, or can go for a walk. Several shops and restaurants are
within a few blocks of my home.
At the final session, you will receive a brief written report of my
observations and general recommendations. Prior to session 2, you may
request a more detailed report, prepared at my hourly rate ($150/hr).
You may record the first and third sessions, if desired. Parents are
responsible for bringing the necessary equipment and tape. Children tend
to be more candid during the second session if they know it is
relatively confidential, so taping of this session is discouraged.
$750, payable in three payments: $150
at the time the appointment is made, $300 at the end of Session I,
and $300 at the end of Session III. I accept Cash, Check, Credit
Card or PayPal. Checks should be made payable to Linda
Call me at (818) 203-5987 to start the process with forms and
appointments for the three sessions.
Each parent should write his or her own anecdotal history about the
child: include pleasant, as well as worrisome stories; describe examples
of strengths, as well as weaknesses.
Write as much as you like, but email or post it to me at least a week
before the first session is scheduled. The best email address is:
firstname.lastname@example.org. My mailing address is: P.O. Box 33993,
Granada Hills, CA 91344.
Please include a list of concerns you might want me to address as part
of the WCA .
Powers Leviton M.A., M.F.T.
Director, Gifted Development Center- West
33993 Granada Hills, CA 91394
Bus. Cell: (818) 203-5987
DISCLAIMER: At the
Gifted Development Center, we are skilled at working with the entire
range of giftedness, including profoundly gifted, and with children from
3 1/2 through adolescence. We also work with gifted adults. We have
expertise in diagnosing learning disabilities. However, we do NOT have
expertise with severe attentional deficits, autism, Asperger's Syndrome,
Pervasive Developmental Delay, or severe emotional problems, such as
manic depression, schizophrenia, etc. Specialists in these areas should
be sought, if applicable.