One or both parents usually accompany children/young people to the appointment. We spend the first 15 minutes chatting and getting to know each other. Sometimes I have follow up questions from the written questionnaires which we can cover at this time. Parents then leave and I will work 1-1 with your child.
Usually we start with a cognitive assessment which will provide information about how your child thinks compared to other children of the same age. If you are booked for a formal assessment you might tell them that once they are comfortable with me, you will leave us alone and that we will be working through a range of different activities together. I often use the word activity rather than test as it can have quite negative overtones. The activities are often very short lasting only a few minutes and are different from the kinds of assessments or activities undertaken in school.
Once we complete the cognitive assessment, we take a short break for a snack and a walk around to get some fresh air. My office is based on a school campus which means there is equipment to play on and plenty of space to move around during our break. After this break we usually complete the achievement assessment which will provide information about how your child is learning at school when compared to other children of the same age. These are a series of short activities which while more like school activities or assessments are different than what your child usually encounters.
At some point during the appointment I usually try to encourage the child/young person to share with me their thoughts on the situation. I usually bring some simple games with me like tic tac toe which allow us to chat whilst doing an activity. I also have some strengths-based cards which are helpful to encourage discussion. At the end of the assessment session you will pick your child up. They may be tired as the sessions are intense but usually, they can return to school with no difficulty in the afternoon.
When will we find out the results of the assessment?
I don’t usually provide any feedback about the assessment on the same day as the assessment. This is because I like to take my time and consider what I saw and what the results are telling me. The assessments themselves are quite complex and require more than a superficial calculating of numbers in order to interpret the results. I also like to take my time to write a report that is clear, easy to read and contains useful suggestions for support. This can take me a week to 10 days to complete. As soon as I’ve finished writing the report, I send it out and make the offer to schedule a feedback meeting face to face.
What should I bring with us to an assessment?
Thinking uses up energy so ensure your child has something to snack on when we take a break. A water bottle is also a good idea. Bring any further information that you think may help me to understand the situation, this could be school reports or reports from other professionals.
Robyn Stead, Child Psychologist and Educator, lives and works in central Auckland.