Psychological Testing and Assessment
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is Psychological Testing?
In many ways, psychological testing and assessment are similar to medical tests. If a patient has physical symptoms, a primary care provider may order X-rays or blood tests to understand what's causing those symptoms. A psychological assessment evaluates thinking, learning and behavior. The assessment may include interviews, observation, testing and consultation with other professionals involved in the child or individual’s care. Testing includes pencil and paper tasks, puzzles, drawing, and games. The assessment covers many skill areas, such as general intellectual level, language, memory and learning, problem solving, planning and organization, fine motor skills, visual spatial skills, and academic skills (reading, math, spelling and writing). It also includes an examination of behavior and emotions.
Why Use Psychological Testing?
A psychologist determines what information to use based on the specific questions being asked. Psychologists administer tests and assessments for a wide variety of reasons. Children who are experiencing difficulty in school, for example, may undergo aptitude testing or tests for learning disabilities. Tests for skills such as concentration, memory, organization and language skills can help pinpoint areas of focus to help your child to stay on track.
A psychologist may also look into issues with anger management or interpersonal skills, or certain personality traits that contribute to a problem. Other tests evaluate whether clients are experiencing emotional concerns like anxiety or depression. The underlying cause of a person's problems isn't always clear. For example, if a child is disruptive or withdrawn in school, does he or she have a reading problem such as dyslexia? An attention problem such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? Difficulty with impulse control? Anxiety related to performance? Psychological tests and assessments allow a psychologist to understand the nature of the problem and to figure out the best way to go about addressing it.
The results of the tests will help inform a treatment plan. A psychological assessment is helpful in identifying your child’s or an individual’s strengths and weaknesses and can lead to recommendations for both academic and behavioral intervention. By detecting problems, an assessment can be used to assist in planning a school program, to identify needs for services in school, and to help you access resources in your community.
Psychological assessment can also provide accurate and objective information to help answer questions posed by other health professionals and educators. Psychological assessment may also shorten treatment and reduce its cost when compared to treatment based solely on a clinical interview.
Additional Purposes of Testing:
- Clarify the goals and focus of treatment
- Give the parents and client information to enable
more confident and active participation in treatment decisions, which increases
the client's sense of independence and satisfaction
- Guide the selection of appropriate treatment
methods, particularly for clients who have not sufficiently benefited from
previous treatment or whose treatment needs are complex
- Highlight potential obstacles in treatment and
- Identify client's strengths that can be used to
facilitate and speed treatment
- Provide a baseline to measure the progress of
treatment and to evaluate the effects of treatment
central information needed early in treatment
Common Conditions Evaluated with Testing Are
Deficit Disorder (with or without Hyperactivity)
- Learning disabilities
- Learning/processing problems
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Emotional disturbances (depression, anxiety, mood disorders)
- Psychological factors associated with medical conditions
- Disruptive behavior
- Parent-Child relational problems
- Social problems
How should I prepare my child for an assessment?
It is important to talk to children about what will happen before any procedure. Children feel less anxious when they know what to expect.
Be sure your child knows that there will be no physical exam, so no needles or medicine. For younger children, you may wish to emphasize the play aspect, focusing on the puzzles and games. For older children, it is often helpful to describe both games and school-type work, but there are no marks or grades given.
What should I bring on the day of the assessment?
If your child wears glasses or a hearing aid, please make sure to bring these to the assessment. If possible, bring copies of recent report cards and any reports of previous assessments of any kind (e.g. psychological, psychiatric, speech and language, OT). If your child has an IEP (Individual Education Plan), please bring a copy of this as well.
What can be expected at the time of testing?
Psychological testing isn't like taking a multiple-choice exam that you either pass or fail. Psychologists use information from the various tests and assessments to reach a specific diagnosis and develop a treatment plan. Some people are tempted to peek at the tests ahead of time. If they suspect they may have a particular problem, they may look online for a practice test of that problem. That's a bad idea, experts say. In fact, practicing ahead of time usually backfires — when you try to take the test in a certain way, the answers may be inconsistent and make you appear to have more problems than you actually do. Remember, psychological testing and assessment is nothing to fear. It's not something you need to study for. Rather, it's an opportunity for psychologists to determine the best way to help the individual.
What can I expect after testing is completed?
The psychologist will meet with you for feedback to discuss your child’s results. Sometimes feedback is offered on the same day as the assessment. Sometimes it takes place at a later date. In most cases with younger children the feedback sessions involve parents only, but if your child is older, you may wish to include your child. On some occasions, feedback can also be given over the phone. A written report will be completed, outlining the results of the assessment and the recommendations for intervention. You will receive a copy of this report. With your written permission, copies of the report can be sent to professionals involved with your child such as other physicians, therapists, or your child’s school. If an SERC (Special Education Review Committee) meeting is recommended for your child, we can, with your permission, provide copies of test scores to the psychologist associated with your child’s school.
Have a question that isn’t answered above? Our team is always available to you for questions, concerns and appointment setting purposes. Contact us today for more information.