To Assess or not to Assess

Surprisingly, or perhaps not, a significant amount of time is spent responding to initial parent questions about pursuing an assessment. Questions relate to a detailed description of what I do, what children are asked to do, what the results mean, how do the results impact the child, who will see the report, what long term effects will the assessment have, and so on. 

The information that follows is a simple rule of thumb for parents and is presented in list form, both the pros and potential concerns, beginning with the pros:

PROS:

1. All  participants complete standardized tests related to  abilities - - verbal/language, visual, memory, speed, general ability - - and school attainment - - reading, writing, and maths.  The tests are the most widely used by educational psychologists. Ability and attainment are the backbone of educational progress and, in my opinion, every student should have an assessment to individual the curriculum accordingly. 

2. All participants have relative and/or normative strengths and these strengths will be shared with the student and parent. Pointing out strengths increases self - esteem and self - awareness. Many times students suffer in school and then generalize this suffering to global self evaluations - - “I’m stupid.” In fact, nothing could be further from the truth and therein lies one of the main benefits of an assessment.

3. If there are weaknesses, and these weaknesses are “significant,” then there are a number of potentially invaluable school and home based interventions. I cannot elaborate in this blog what these interventions are, but if you doubt me, ask a parent who has had a child assessed what the benefits may be. 

POTENTIAL CONCERNS - - AND RESPONSE:

1. If parents desire a private assessment, there is a fee. The fees need to be understood in terms of direct contact time and report writing time, as well as ancillary costs. Relative to other services/goods, the fee is realistic. 

2. Parents must travel to the Psychologists’ office; again, this is standard. 

3. There seems to be stigma about “labels” resulting from an assessment (e.g. dyslexia, AD/HD, etc.). If the data clearly support a high or low incidence disability, are you not better off knowing what the problem is relative to burying ones head in the sand? Denial leads to more negative long term consequences then you can possibly imagine. 

4. Assessments are “time limited.”  Sometimes parents feel short changed that the parent meeting does not last longer. I typically devote 60 to 90 minutes to the parent meeting and try to balance a number of topics - - the results of tests/rating scales, details from parents, and suggested recommendations/interventions. These are very complex topics and one could spend several days if one was to thoroughly explain and elaborate all the details. Inevitably, this may lead to brief coverage. The ensuing report should provide all the necessary points to parents.  Follow - up contact is always possible to clarify any areas of uncertainty.   

My general advice is follow your “intuition.”  Other people will weigh in with opinions, and some of these will be teachers. In the end, trust your instinct.