Typically, before a child receives a psychological assessment, ongoing problems have been occurring at school. Perhaps the child is combative and doesn’t get along with others, or maybe he is aloof and alone most of the day. Maybe her school work is consistently incomplete, or maybe she is acting out in some other way. Usually, many attempts have been made to assist the child which have not been successful. Perhaps his seat was moved, or he was sent to a counselor’s office to discuss his behavior. Parents have likely been notified about recurring problems. The request for a psychological assessment is not usually a surprise to the child or parents. If your child is referred for a psychological assessment, you will have to give your written consent before it can be conducted.
What will happen during the assessment?
1. Standardized Tests – Your child will likely be given one or more standardized tests to determine his intellectual ability compared with other children his age. There is an important reason for this. If your child has an IQ that is consistent with her peers, yet her performance in school is significantly worse, the psychologist will know to investigate other emotional causes. If a learning disability is uncovered, then your child can receive additional tutoring or specialized instruction.
2. Psychological Tests – Depending on the problems your child is experiencing, several psychological tests may be conducted. Your child may be asked to describe the feelings he associates with objects, pictures, or events. He may be asked to draw pictures or discuss his feelings while he participates in a game or activity.
3. Additional Information – The psychologist may spend a day or several days observing your child in the classroom, at recess, or in other settings. Also, as the parent, you may be asked, in a private meeting with the psychologist, to describe the child’s behaviors in various settings. Your child’s teacher may also be asked for input.
What if my child is frightened or intimidated?
The psychologist is well aware that your child might be apprehensive at first. A good psychologist will at first engage your child in a rapport-building activity. Your child might be asked about his favorite television shows, hobbies, or sports. She might be asked to play a game or draw a picture, while the psychologist builds an atmosphere of trust.
Can I attend the assessment with my child?
I would strongly encourage you not to. Your child is severely limited in his ability to provide honest answers and to perform well on tests when you are sitting in the room. When a parent is present, most children feel anxiety and added pressure. It is very unlikely, no matter how positive your personal relationship with your child, that your presence will be helpful. Your child receives non-verbal signals from you when he or she answers questions incorrectly. You might inadvertently guide your child to answer in ways you hope she will. Skewed test results are certainly not going to help your child to ultimately receive the help she needs.
Can I meet with the Psychologist beforehand?
Yes, and I would encourage you to do that. Schedule a meeting in advance and ask the psychologist what tests will be used and why. Find out where the exams will be given and let the psychologist know if your child might be distracted or afraid in certain situations. Find out about the psychologist’s experience and what her strategy is for helping your child.
And the results?
When all the data is compiled, you should be called in to meet with the psychologist to discuss the results, what they mean for your child, and what approach should be taken to give your child the best opportunity for success. You have the right to ask questions, request explanations, and to get a second opinion from another psychologist. Your child’s pediatrician can provide a recommendation.