Erikson Institute

The Art and Science of Evaluating Very Young Children in a Relational Context

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Recent research has provided evidence that trauma during the critical period of development from ages 0-5 years-old derails the course of normative development. Very young children count on their primary caregivers to establish healthy regulatory processes, a positive sense of self and modulation of emotion leading to the ability to explore the environment and learn. When young children are unable to develop the appropriate expectation that that their parent will protect them from harm their developmental processes are disrupted due to the interplay of the parental mistrust and the young child’s traumatic responses. Very young children’s responses to early traumatic experiences need to be understood as the early expression of the long-term risks to the child’s unfolding development. It is important to understand the child’s current state of development through assessment strategies equipped to understand the child’s responses through both a developmental and relational framework. This enables the creation of the right treatment and goals to help support recovery.


The comprehensive assessment of children 0-5 years involves a unique skill set that is often taught only in specialized settings or with specialized training.  Our very youngest children require different instruments to accurately understand their dynamics as well as assessment in the context of their most important relationships. This presentation will cover specific assessment techniques that infant and early childhood mental health clinicians can utilize to accurately assess children ages 0-5 years old.  These techniques can be used to assist in making recommendation for home-based or center-based dyadic treatment, custody evaluations, and work with children in the child welfare system; preventative service or foster care, etc.  The instructors will teach and explain how to utilize several different evaluation tools and techniques for assessing children 0-5 years of age including instruments such as the Still-Face Paradigm and modified Crowell Procedure. In addition they will identify and describe interviews with the caregivers that provide a fuller picture of the attachment and family dynamics impacting the youngchild. Participants will leave with understanding of how to use data collected, interpret and make recommendations. 


Amy B. Dickson, Psy.D. (1998, Clinical Psychology, Nova Southeastern University; 1998-1999, Postdoctoral Fellow in Infant Mental Health and Trauma work, Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center): Dr. Dickson is an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at LSUHSC and is the Psychology Section Deputy Chief and the Child Coordinator of the Psychology Internship Training Program. She co-directs the Harris Infant Mental Health training with Dr. Joy Osofsky and Dr. Kristin Callahan, is a Child-Parent Psychotherapy trainer, and is the Director of the Orleans Parish Infant Team as well as on the Northshore, which treats children ages 0-5 years in the foster care system. She is part of a Baby Court and trains around the country on infant mental health and court team work. Dr. Dickson consults to local child protection agencies, and sees clients at the Behavioral Sciences Center. Dr. Dickson specializes in trauma.

Early Registration Fees Before July 17th- $99.
July 17th and after- $115


Participants will be able to:


  1. Identify age-appropriate tools, including the Still Face paradigm and modified Crowell Tool Task, for use in relationship-based assessment and describe how to administer each assessment.
  2. Describe caregiver and child behaviors observed during the Still Face paradigm and Modified Crowell Tool Task that indicate adaptive and maladaptive relational patterns
  3. Identify and describe interviews with the caregivers that provide a fuller picture of the attachment and family dynamics impacting the young child.

Who Should Attend?

The emotional and behavioral challenges seen as children grow older are often related to gaps and lapses in the foundation of their development. These gaps can derail basic capacities to relate and communicate, share attention and self-regulate. Developmental disturbance can disrupt the formation of empathy and comprehension of the world around and the capacity to communicate thoughts and feelings with words, play and other symbols. These disruptions in development can have life-long consequences without intervention.

The focus of this series i.e., understanding the foundations of development and early experiences, make sense for any clinician who is interested in training that will support and enhance their work with families and children of all ages such as Social Workers, Developmental Therapists, Pediatricians, Psychiatrists, Neonatologists, Nurse Practitioners, Midwives , Speech Pathologists, Psychologists, Early Care and Education providers and teachers, Obstetricians, Family Therapists, Professional Counselors, Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, and others whose work impacts the lives of infants, young children and families.

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