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Preparing Your Child for Psychological Assessments

Undergoing a psychological assessment can be stressful for children and their parents. We have compiled to guide to help you and your child prepare for a psychological assessment.


What is a psychological assessment?

Psychological assessments are used to determine a child’s cognitive, adaptive, academic, or social-emotional skills. Psychological assessments can range from gathering information through observations, completing questionnaires with stakeholders, and consulting with other professionals. The “testing” component of a psychological assessment includes the administration of specific tasks, as well as the scoring and evaluation of results. After the assessment process is completed, a report is compiled that encapsulates the findings of the assessment and the psychologist’s interpretation of these results and makes recommendations for supports or treatments.  


  • Ensure that your child has enough energy for the day.

A well-rested mind and body will allow your child to participate at their best. This could mean reducing screen time the day before and trying to keep to your child’s regular routine in terms of bedtime and waking up in the morning as much as possible.


On the morning of the session, ensure a nutritious breakfast is provided to increase your child’s energy throughout the assessment.


Unless otherwise advised by the psychologist, it is important for your child to take all prescribed medication (including ADHD medication) as per usual.


  • Introduce your child to the psychologist conducting the assessment

Provide the name of the psychologist and if possible, a photo, so the child knows who they will be working with (photos of all our psychologists can be found here).


  • Set expectations for the assessment

Explain that a psychologist is someone who can help them learn about their brains, including how they feel and act. When describing the assessment process to your child, avoid using terms such as “test” as this might induce anxiety. Also avoid the word “games” as this may set unrealistic expectations and distract them from the assessment. Consider using the word “activities”.


  • Managing anxiety

If your child is feeling nervous about the assessment and declines coming to the session, it may be helpful to explain why they are coming for the assessment. 


For example:

Your child: “I’m not going, I hate math.”

You: “I have noticed that math is hard for you, and I am not sure why that is. I think that if we knew more about how to help you, your teachers and I could do a better job in helping you. That’s why we are going to meet with this [psychologist’s name] who can help us figure out how to make math easier for you and what we can do differently.


  • What to bring to the assessment

If your child wears hearing aids or glasses, ensure they have them with them for the assessment. You are welcome to bring a snack and water bottle to the session as your psychologist will offer your child regular breaks, especially for longer (more than 2 hour) assessment sessions. If your child takes a second dose of medication during the time allocated for the assessment, please bring this with you.  

  • Skip the preparation

Some psychological assessments such as cognitive or IQ tests evaluate knowledge that your child has accumulated throughout their life, therefore, making it impossible to “study” and achieve higher results. There is no need for them to study for the assessment.


Specific tips for Younger Children (Under 12 years old)

  • Provide choice and comfort before the session

Depending on your child’s needs, it may be helpful to have them dressed in comfortable clothing and bring a favoured toy (preferably one that is not distracting or overstimulating). Assure your child that you will be outside the room and that you will be available if they need a break.


For very young children (below age 5) and children who experience significant anxiety, you may discuss the possibility of remaining in the assessment room with the psychologist completing the assessment during the intake session.


  • Share the plan of the day with them.

Provide a plan of what will happen on the day as much as possible. Include instances of transitions (e.g., from school to the clinic) and if you have plans after the assessment, ensure your child is on the same page.


Here is an example script:

“This Wednesday, we are going to go together to [psychologist’s name] office between 9 am and 12 pm. [Psychologist name] understands how students learn, and, with your help, he/she will guide you in exploring your brain and discovering ways to help you learn at school. When you are in the session, he/she might ask questions, do puzzles with you, or do activities on an iPad. It’s normal to feel nervous. After the assessment, we'll grab lunch, and I'll get you back to school.”


Specific tips for Adolescents (Over 13 years old)

  • Share what you know

As young people transition into adolescence, they begin to think at a deeper level as they begin to explore their identity and ask questions about their world. Explain that the assessment may help them find solutions for things they may find difficult (e.g., reading or completing assignments on time). Encourage your child to ask questions that they can ask the psychologist when it comes to assessment time.


  • Talk about how they are feeling.

Encourage your child to share how they are feeling whether it be fear, frustration, or excitement. Explain that these feelings are valid and that you will be there to support them throughout the process.


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