Reiss Scales for Children's Dual Diagnosis

Ages: 4 - 21
Time: 10 minutes

  • Quick and accurate analysis of dual diagnosis
  • Uses teacher and parent ratings of behavior and symptoms

The Reiss Scales assesses mental health problems of children and adolescents with intellectual disabilities, or what is commonly called "dual diagnosis." The test has ten empirically-derived scales evaluating the probability that the youngster has anger/self-control problems, anxiety disorder, attention-deficit disorder, autism/pervasive developmental disorder, conduct disorder, depression, poor self-esteem, psychosis, somatoform behavior, and withdrawn-isolated behavior. The instrument also evaluates the probability that the youngster has crying spells, enuresis/encopresis, hallucinations, involuntary movements, pica, and sexual problems - or that he/she lies, sets fires, or is verbally abusive.

The Reiss Scales is completed by teachers, parents, or caregivers who know the youngster well enough to rate whether each of 60 symptoms of psychiatric disorder is no problem, a problem, or a major problem in the person's life. Each item is defined in nontechnical language and includes concrete examples. The test is normed for individuals ages 4 - 21 with all levels of severity of intellectual disability. Administration time is about 10 minutes per rater.

The test screens for psychiatric disorder in three different ways: severity of challenging behavior, psychiatric diagnosis, and rare but significant symptoms such as fire setting. A positive result on two or more of the ten psychometric scales indicates that the individual should be referred for further professional evaluation. The total score, a measure of severity of disorder, is well suited to assess progress over time.

The total score is a valid indicator of whether or not a person with an intellectual disability also has a mental health problem, with a full standard deviation separating the criterion groups. Nine of the ten psychometric scales significantly discriminate between children with and without a dual diagnosis. Moreover, psychometric scale scores were found to be associated with psychiatric diagnoses in two ways: Subjects with a dual diagnosis scored higher on all scales than subjects in the No Diagnosis group, and scale scores varied across diagnostic groups in ways that matched psychiatric diagnoses.

Steven Reiss, Ph.D. is Emeritus Professor of Psychology at The Ohio State University where he was director of the Nisonger Center. Denise Valenti-Hein, Ph.D. is Supervising Psychologist in the Mental Health Division of the Outagamie County Health and Human Services Department, Appleton, Wisconsin.

Denmark, J. et al. (2003). Behavioural relationship between autism and fragile X syndrome. American Journal of Mental Retardation, 108, 314-326.

Feldman, M.A. et al. (2000). Behavior problems in young children with or at risk for developmental delay. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 9, 247-261.

Reiss, S., & Valenti-Hein, D., (1990). Development of a psychopathology rating scale for children with mental retardation. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 62, 28-33.

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