You have made the decision to have your child evaluated.
Maybe your child has a learning style difference, which includes being a gifted learner; maybe a learning disability is suspected; perhaps your child has attention difficulties; concerns around adaptive behavioral problems, including autism, may be the issue, or maybe your child is struggling with a neurological handicapping condition.
Whatever the case may be, evaluations are a great way to get the full picture of how your child’s brain works. It will show your child’s strengths as well as any challenges, and provide a pathway for educators and parents to create individualized instruction plans to best help your child learn.
While this is an exciting time because the evaluation will help you figure out how your child learns best, it can also be very overwhelming, especially for your child. Here are a few thoughts on how you can prepare your child before evaluation day so that everyone involved has a good experience:
Leading up to the Evaluation
- • Prepare your child for the appointment to help reduce stress and anxiety, as well as increase cooperation. You can do this by talking with your child beforehand so he or she knows what to expect. Your child is most likely aware of his or her difficulties and if you explain that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses it may help your child feel relieved.
- • Avoid calling the evaluation “testing,” as this could increase anxiety in children. Instead, try using words such as “session,” “meeting” or “appointment.”
- • Schedule the evaluation when your child is not distracted by other stressors at school or home (math quiz, sports try-outs, auditions, etc).
- • Meet with the evaluator, in person or by phone, to discuss reasons for the evaluation as well as expectations. Additionally, it is important for the parents to complete and return any paperwork requested by the evaluator in a timely manner. Be honest and complete with your answers as this helps the evaluator get a thorough understanding of your child.
- • Reassure your child that the reason the evaluation is happening is to help understand why some things are a challenge, despite the effort the child puts in. Everybody learns differently and this process will help parents and teachers understand how the child learns best.
- • Explain to your child that there will be questions, puzzles, drawings and stories and there is no way to “fail.” Simply encourage him or her to do their best. It is important to validate their feelings and make sure they know it is normal to feel frustrated or upset.
- • Encourage your child to let the evaluator know if he or she needs a break or is feeling fatigued.
Day of Evaluation
- • Follow your daily routine as you normally would.
- • Make sure your child is not tired, hungry or sick, as these could impact the child’s thinking and emotions.
- • If your child is having an “off” day, please let the evaluator know when you arrive.
- • Arrive at your appointment several minutes early to allow your child to become familiar with the room and the evaluator, as well as have time to ask any questions. Parents of young children should remain in the waiting room or be reachable by phone in case of illness or other difficulties.
- • Send your child with plenty of healthy snacks as he or she will be permitted to have breaks to avoid fatigue. Children also may wish to talk with their parents during breaks and/or lunch.
After the evaluation is complete, check in with your child to see how he or she is feeling. Talking with your child about his or her feelings and listening, both before and after the evaluation, is the best thing you can do as a parent. Don’t forget to praise them for a job well-done!