Preparing Your Child For a Psycho-Educational Assessment
What Is Psycho-educational Assessment?
As part of the evaluation, your child may undergo a psycho-education assessment. Psychology is the study of mental processes and behaviour. Psycho-educational assessment refers to the psychological tests used to analyze the mental processes underlying your child’s educational performance. The assessment is a piece of the evaluation process and should provide answers as to why your child is experiencing difficulties, how best your child learns and what can be done to help.
Preparing Your Child for Testing It’s important for your child to be as comfortable as possible with this process. The assessment is usually conducted over several days as it can be tiring for the child and should be conducted in the child’s first language, in a setting that he finds comfortable. (If they are conducted at school, he may not feel quite so nervous.)
The assessment will likely include:
- an initial interview with you (with or without your child) to gather birth history, early childhood experiences, and general information on his difficulties. This is a good opportunity to ask questions about what tests will be done and why. Bring your questions written down so that you won’t forget something really important. Invite the child to voice his questions too.
- an interview with the child’s teacher. The assessor may observe the child in the classroom and in the playground.
- a review of your child’s academic records to get a framework for academic performance prior to testing.
- a battery of tests.
Preparing your child for psycho-educational assessment can reduce anxiety and encourage cooperation through the upcoming battery of tests. One practice is to introduce the discussion by the number of days as the child is old; if the child is eight years old, discuss the evaluation at least eight days in advance of the testing. Reassure your child that the reason for testing is to understand why school is a struggle despite hard work and attempts to do well. Explain that the tests will contain a variety of questions, puzzles, drawings, stories, and games; and that the tests are neither painful nor about whether the child is stupid. Most importantly, offer the child hope in that the evaluation should show adults how best to help. Be open and honest as much as possible.
The psychologist doing the testing should have been trained in managing children with a history of academic failure. Test administrators try to make children comfortable. Do not expect your child to be aware of his or her actual test performance; correct answers are not supposed to be given out in order to maintain the professional integrity of the test. What really matters is whether the child is putting his or her best effort into each test administered.
- Schedule the test sessions (there will be many) during the time of day when your child usually functions best. Try to retain your child’s favorite classes or activities so that testing will not be a negative experience. Ensure that the child is well rested and not hungry. Take something along to do while you wait; stay in the area during the testing. My son felt better knowing that someone familiar was nearby whenever he was being tested even if he was familiar with the proceedings.
- Your child will want to know about what will happen. Students should understand the roles of the professionals conducting the testing and the reason(s) for the assessment. If possible, visit the test site with your child before the first day of testing. When scheduling the assessment, you should be able to find out about the expected types of questions, testing methods, and the length of each session. The test administrator should explain all that the child needs to know in order to do the test. Your role is to get the child to the test site on time and in a condition to do the best work possible.
- For many tests, observations of the student’s behaviors are important. The test administrator will note the situations causing fatigue, inattention, frustration, or delayed responses. This is all part of the diagnostic process. Tell the child to do his or her best and not to be discouraged. The child should remain calm and collected during testing. The test administrator should permit breaks as needed.
Waiting for the Assessment
One of your greatest stressors during this period is dealing with your child who is discouraged about school or perhaps even unable to attend. If possible, have him explain his fears about school. Seek help from professionals who have credentials for dealing with the child who is school-phobic or depressed (e.g., child psychiatrist, pediatrician, family doctor, social worker).
Make an even greater effort to catch him doing smart things around the house, no matter how small they seem (e.g., You were right about what Daddy wanted for his birthday. He just loves that T-shirt! The baby always eats his dinner when you feed him. What’s your secret?) Let him overhear you telling a friend how great you think he is (e.g., I’m having the best day. John helped me unload the groceries and now he’s making a card for Grandma’s birthday). Tell him you love him and that he makes you happy. Assure him that you are working with him to get him the help he needs.
Likely you will experience a wide range of emotions as you begin the process of having your child assessed in order to develop his academic and/or psychological profile. For example, some parents report feeling relieved that at long last their child is “in the system”, others say they are fearful of the results of the assessment and the impact an assessment will have on their family. What if the assessment shows that their child has one or more learning disabilities? What if he is in the wrong program? What if the tests show he has psychological problems? What do these outcomes say about me as a parent and how will I handle the diagnosis?
During the period while you are waiting for the assessment, find out all you can about the process and what the expected outcomes may mean. Talk to other parents; visit the public library; contact your local Learning Disabilities Association (LDA) chapter or provincial/territorial office.