A psychological assessment is a process of discovery that is used to answer questions you have about your child. Parents may have questions such as . . .
  • Why is my child having such a hard time learning to read?
  • Why does my child have a hard time with transitions and changes in routine?
  • How can I help my child feel less anxious?
  • Does my child have ADHD (or autism, a learning disability, depression, anxiety, etc.)?
  • What supports will help my child be more successful at school?

Assessments can also be helpful for guiding treatment. If your child is participating in therapy or psychiatric treatment, an assessment can help their providers better understand what interventions or strategies are most likely to be successful.

What does a psychological assessment involve?

A psychological assessment, sometimes referred to as “testing” or an “evaluation,” uses a variety of tools to gather information about your child’s strengths and weaknesses across different domains. At my practice, we use a collaborative assessment approach which engages parents and children in the assessment process from the outset. We collaborate with parents, clients, and providers to identify “assessment questions,” and these questions guide the assessment process. For more information on collaborative assessment, see the Collaborative Psych Assessment Model.

Because there is often overlap between psychological assessment and other testing (e.g., special education testing, speech therapy evaluations), it is important for us to review previous assessment reports. In addition, depending on the presenting concerns, this step may also involve speaking with your child’s therapist or other providers (e.g., speech therapist, psychiatrist, neurologist).

In my practice, parents participate in a 90-minute initial interview that allows them to share more detailed information about their child’s history and current concerns, as well as identify assessment questions. As is appropriate, given their age/developmental level, your child may also participate in the initial interview.

Psychological assessment typically involves some standardized measures, which are individually administered to your child following an established set of rules, as well as questionnaires or rating scales and informal measures (e.g., observations of your child during play, interviews). In a psychological assessment, your child will participate in tasks that allow the assessor to better understand your child’s cognitive or intellectual abilities, academic skills, self-help skills, oral language, executive functioning, emotions, behaviors, and socialization. The specific tools that are used depend on your questions about your child, as well as your child’s developmental level.

Sessions are structured to allow your child to engage fully in the process—including identifying their own assessment questions—and to experience success. As needed, we break up testing into shorter segments, provide lots of positive reinforcement, and give children and adolescents choices.

Once all of the assessment measures are completed, we score, analyze, and interpret assessment data. We integrate results of psychological assessment with information collected from parents, teachers, and other professionals to arrive at a holistic understanding of your child. This process allows us to answer your assessment questions and provide guidance for next steps. Parents are the primary audience for our reports, which means they are relatively brief and written in plain language. Reports summarize the assessment results, provide written answers to each of the assessment questions, and include individualized recommendations for your child and family. We also include all the assessment data in an addendum for easy access by parents or professionals.

Continuing our collaborative approach to assessment, feedback meetings with parents are conversations between the parent and psychologist—rather than a presentation of findings. As the feedback process unfolds, psychologists refine their understanding of the child based on input from the family. As appropriate, children and adolescents also participate in the feedback process. For older children and adolescents, this can be an individual feedback session that focuses on describing strengths, answering assessment questions, and enhancing motivation for next steps. Younger children often respond better to feedback provided in the form of individualized stories that are based on assessment findings and tailored to your child.