So, you’ve scheduled an evaluation to get some clarity about what is going on with your child…now what? How do you get your child ready?
There are two layers to ensure your child is well prepared for an evaluation. The first is emotionally preparing your child. Talk to your child about their evaluation ahead of time. Children do better and are less anxious when they know what to expect. Let them know you noticed they are struggling despite their hard work and they are going to come see someone to help figure out what they are really good at, what they need some help with, how the adults around them can best give them the support they need to do and feel their best, and ultimately make their life easier. A psychological evaluation is nothing to fear, nor is it something your child needs to study or practice for. This process should give them hope, not make them feel badly because they are struggling. Do not use the word “test” when talking to your child about the evaluation as this can create anxiety. Similarly, the word “game” can minimize the importance of the evaluation. For an educational evaluation you may want to use the word “activities” as it most accurately describes what your child will be doing. For a psychological evaluation you can explain the child will share information about their thoughts and feelings, both verbally and by filling out some surveys. If your child has questions about the evaluation you are unable to answer, help them write them down so they can ask the evaluator when they come to the appointment. Another important piece to remember is that children pick up on emotional cues from the adults around them… if you remain calm, they will be more at ease with this process. So, relax and just encourage your child to be honest and do their best!
The second layer is making sure your child is logistically prepared. Appointments are typically scheduled for early in the day, as we all fatigue some in the afternoon. This is the time most children are in school and they tend to function optimally during this time. Try to keep your child’s schedule as close to normal as possible on the day of their evaluation. Ensure they get a good night’s sleep, eat a healthy (non-sugary) breakfast, and are ready to go. Leave more than enough time to find the office so neither you, nor your child, feel anxious and rushed. Bring healthy snacks and drinks to keep energy up during the evaluation. If your child wears glasses or hearing aids, make sure they have them for the evaluation. Another common question is about medication on the day of the evaluation, particularly AD/HD medication. If your child is being assessed for AD/HD, they should not take their AD/HD medication on the day of the evaluation (so the evaluator can get a good read of their functioning without medication). If the AD/HD diagnosis is well-established and they are being assessed for another concern, they should take their medication as they normally would. If you have further questions about medication on the day of the evaluation, talk directly to your evaluator in advance.
Overall, your role is to get your child to the appointment on time, in the best possible state of mind, to do their best work.