Parents frequently ask about how to prepare their children for learning disability testing or ADHD testing, and what to expect as far as the format of the evaluation. Here is a helpful guide for what to expect! Every clinic in Charlotte probably has a slightly different process, but most probably follow some variation of the steps you will read about next. Frequently, this testing is for evaluation for gifted programs, ADHD, learning disability, intellectual disability, or neurologic condition such as concussion.
The initial phase of an evaluation requires information gathering. I meet with parent(s) for a clinical interview alone, during which parents are asked to share a child’s developmental history from pregnancy through current behaviors and any concerns. Parents are requested to bring copies of relevant medical reports, previous evaluations (e.g., speech and language, occupational therapy, any testing done at school or by another psychologist), recent report cards, work samples and/or progress notes that reflect a child’s academic and behavior history. I will then begin to formulate the testing plan based upon parents’ expressed concerns or goals. The above interview can take place in the evening or on a Saturday.
The second phase of the process is test administration. Testing is conducted by myself, the neuropsychologist (in my practice) but may also be conducted by a trained assistant (these are frequently known as psychometrists). Comprehensive batteries for school-aged children typically require a school-length day but this can be broken up into multiple occasions. Gifted and ADHD testing is often briefer.
Parents are not in the testing room with the child, because the tests have been shown to be most accurate in academic-like one-on-one testing conditions, and to be proven predictors of cognitive functioning particularly when the examiner and the child are in the same room. In my practice, parents are encouraged to provide snacks and a beverage for the child for during breaks. Children will resume testing after a mid-morning break and work until lunchtime. During the lunch break parents are encouraged to take their child out of the office for approximately 45 minutes. Testing typically resumes after lunch, depending upon the type of battery administered and age of the child.
At the end of the testing session, testing protocols are scored, interpreted, and a report is written after any parent and teacher behavior rating scales (which parents give to a teacher) are returned to the office. Upon report completion, a feedback session is scheduled with parents to review test results, diagnostic impressions, and recommendations for supportive services. The appointment is for parents only. If an additional feedback session with the child is desired, it is to be scheduled at a separate time. The completed report is typically given to parents at the conclusion of the feedback meeting. Reports are not given to additional parties unless parents provide written consent following rules of confidentiality as specified in the patient intake packet and may incur additional charges. Reports are NOT written for children as the intended readers. Content is written with an adult, parent and professional audience in mind. Parents may discuss appropriate ways to verbally share relevant parts of the report with their child during the feedback session.
How to Prepare for the Testing Day (General Guidelines):
DO tell your child that he/she will not go to school as typically planned. Instead, he/she will spend the day at the office similar to the way he/she spends the day at school. Explain that he/she will be asked to complete puzzles, look at pictures, answer questions and complete schoolwork. Testing is not intended to be stressful, and there will be breaks! Inform your child that he/she will sit at a desk with Dr. Messler and have periodic breaks for snacks (provided by parent), stretching, relaxation, and restroom use. Parents are encouraged to assist the child in getting a good night’s sleep the night before the testing day.
Please avoid telling a young child that he/she is coming to the office to play. This may set up unrealistic expectations and ultimately disappointment on the behalf of the child. Avoid worrying your child with the “importance” of the testing or overuse of the words “testing” and “graded”. Instead, explain to your child that he/she is meeting with a professional to do “work” and “activities”. Encourage your child to do the best job he/she can. If asked, you may also want to explain to your child that Dr. Messler will use the information from the day to help parents and teachers improve his/her experiences at school or otherwise.
Feed your child a healthy breakfast and administer medications as prescribed by your physician, unless otherwise instructed by your physician. Your child should get a good night’s sleep the night before.
What TO bring:
~ Sweater or long-sleeved sweatshirt, water, and a healthy snack.
What NOT to bring:
~ Toys, electronic devices
It is important to try to dial down the pressure that the child may feel in anticipating the day. Some children actually find the testing interesting or fun, and it does involve one on one attention from the examiner. It is also a good idea to read about pediatric neuropsychology, the field associated with this testing, so that you understand the purpose of the testing. I like this brochure for parents on pediatric neuropsychology, produced by the American Psychological Association: http://www.div40.org/pdf/PedNeuropscyhBroch3.pdf
Do not hesitate to ask questions about what the tests mean and the format when you schedule the appointment. As neuropsychologists we love answering these types of questions! You can never ask too many questions!
For more information about assessment of learning disability, please see the Learning Disabilities Association of America website, at http://ldaamerica.org/!