What to say to your child before an Educational Psychologist Assessment

One of the most often asked questions is “What do I tell my son/daughter?”  The question is more relevant to younger  children (e.g. 6 to 12), as older students usually know something specific about why he/she is attending for assessment  (e.g. concentration, reading, spelling, etc.). 

For younger children, parents come up with a variety of explanations. One of the more creative ones - - “You were one of the lucky children in the school to be picked to do educational games.”  Alternatively, a parent might say that a person is going to help find the best way to improve a certain area - - reading, math, concentration, etc.  Sometimes parents relate  the assessment activities to their son/daughter - - “this person will do some school activities with you like reading, writing, and math. You will also get to do some puzzles and make designs with blocks.” 

Normally, these explanations will suffice and the individual will attend knowing that an assessment is “like school but with no other students in the room.”

All of the above parent to child communications are validated at the beginning of an assessment.  I  typically overview the types of tasks the child will complete, such as showing sample of reading material. I might also show some of the picture - type tests. Within a few minutes children realize it is lot “like school,” and any fears or concerns evaporate. 

Again, a primary role of the psychologist is to emphasize the positive, such as correctly reading a relatively difficult word, or noting a quality answer to a question.

One vital role of the assessing Psychologist is to help the child feel comfortable and reasonably relaxed. This usually happens through brief and informal conversation about school, sports, pets, recent news, etc. This is part of the rapport building process that briefly occurs before commencing the standardized testing sequence. At this time, children may still feel naturally uneasy, especially given that they are aware of specific difficulties with some of the tasks they will be expected to complete. Again, a primary role of the psychologist is to emphasize the positive, such as correctly reading a relatively difficult word, or noting a quality answer to a question. The assessing Psychologist is aware that to encourage the most optimal performance, it is critical to highlight any accurate responses and to de-emphasize difficulties. When this happens, the child will gain confidence and be more likely to respond when uncertain, which is an important factor in overall outcomes. 

When the testing sequence is over, the child is praised for completing all of the tasks and usually feels delighted with an positive feedback he/she obtained during the meeting. When all of these steps are included in the assessment process, the appointment inevitable proceeds smoothly and in a rewarding manner for all participants.