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  • Writer's pictureLinden Global Learning

How Parents Can Talk to Children about Psychoeducational Assessments


Help your child wipe away worries about testing

By International School Psychologist, Mary Fusco





Talking to your child about assessments is one of the most important aspects of the process, yet it can feel tricky, especially for families approaching the process for the first time. Fortunately, you can rely on professional guidance to prepare your child for an assessment, navigate sensitive information contained in the report, and celebrate your child’s progress over time. Here are 10 tips to support you and your child to feel empowered at every step of the way. 


TIP#1 Help your child develop self-awareness Regularly check-in with your child about what’s going well and what they are finding difficult at school or other areas of life. Some engaging conversation starters include sharing a “peak and valley,” a “rose and thorn,” or giving a “weather forecast” on their mood. For example, “My weather forecast is sunny and warm because I feel happy today.” Or, “I feel like a thunderstorm because today was challenging.” If your child is more of a visual person, you can show a scale from 1-10, and ask them to rate a class, for example, from 1-easiest to 10-most difficult. Follow up by asking how they can move their rating just 1-point over, such as by asking for help, making a homework schedule, or working with a friend, to make the class feel a bit easier.


TIP#2 Model a growth mindset at home Share stories of perseverance and learning from mistakes, emphasizing that challenges are opportunities for growth. For instance, recount a time when you faced a difficult task but kept trying until you succeeded. Explain that just like how muscles grow stronger with exercise, our brains grow stronger when we overcome challenges. This way of thinking can help your child feel more at ease for learning about their current abilities from an assessment and be encouraged to keep growing. 


TIP#3 Introduce the assessment to your child Initiate an open, warm, and supportive conversation about what an assessment is and how it can help your child. Reference certain strong and low points that your child tends to express about school. Encourage your child to share any questions or concerns with you, as well as with the adult (school psychologist) who they will meet for the assessment and assure them the process is meant to support them. Below are more conversation tips depending on your child’s age and development:


Conversation Tips for Younger children Describe the assessment as a fun opportunity to meet with a special adult who works with kids to help them do their best in school. Mention that they will get to play games, solve puzzles, and other activities like they do in class. Emphasize that the goal is to discover their unique superpowers and to make sure that they feel happy and successful at school. 

Conversation Tips for Older children Begin by acknowledging that everyone learns differently and has their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Recall certain areas your child thrives in and also what you noticed has been challenging for them. Explain that the assessment will help them understand how they learn best, identify their strengths, and uncover reasons behind any challenges they might be facing in certain areas. Reassure them that the assessment isn't about receiving a grade but rather about gathering information to understand their unique learning profile and support their success in school. Stress that the results are private and won't change who they are or how others perceive them. Emphasize that the assessment is just a snapshot of certain skills at this point in time and can help them understand themselves and get what they need to be successful at school.

TIP#4 Preview the sessions It is best to preview the assessment schedule in advance with your child so they can anticipate it. If you use a calendar at home, noting it there can also be helpful for a child who benefits from visual reminders. Describe how the assessment sessions will be conducted in a supportive 1:1 setting where breaks are offered. Encourage your child to also ask for breaks if they feel overwhelmed. Remind them of the privacy of their results, which will only be shared with you and their closest teachers. Remind your child that they do not get graded; instead, it is meant for them to learn more about themselves or for adults to understand them better. Remind them to try their best, and express your love and pride in them to reduce any extra worries. 


TIP#5 Monitor rest, nutrition, and mindfulness Explain to your child how they can do their best by taking care of their body and mind before the assessment. Monitor that your child gets a good night of sleep before sessions, eats a nutritious breakfast, and brings a snack for energy during the sessions. Suggest bringing a fidget or comfort item that they can keep with them to help them feel calm and focused. If your child seems nervous or stressed, you could even guide them through a quick mindfulness exercise beforehand, such as the 5-4-3-2-1 technique or taking a few deep breaths. 


TIP#6 Sharing results with your child after the assessment Plan a time to sit down with your child and discuss the results together in a supportive way. Set up a judgment-free zone by talking about it during an activity that your child feels rewarded by, like going out for ice cream. Start by focusing on their strongpoints, and celebrate specific things that are doing well. To nurture a growth mindset, emphasize things like their effort, time commitment, or self advocacy (as opposed to results, grades, or just being smart, which is a factor that they might feel less control over). You might find it helpful to discuss challenges as “construction zones” that they will continue building over time. Emphasize that the assessment is just one tool to help them on their journey of self-discovery and learning.


TIP#7 Discussing a diagnosis with your child The specialist who conducted the assessment should be available to provide further support and resources to help you find the best way to discuss this with your child. When the time is right, approach the conversation with honesty, empathy, and tailored information to your child’s age and maturity level: 


For younger children, keep it simple. Use easy language and relate it to their daily experiences. For example, if diagnosed with ADHD, explain it as a superhero power for particular skills, like doing amazing at things they are interested in, while it also makes it harder to sit still sometimes. Consider reading helpful books with your child related to their challenges. 

With older children, offer more details about the diagnosis. Discuss how it helps understand their challenges and strengths. Encourage open communication about their feelings, whether it's confusion, frustration, or relief. Validate these feelings by assuring them whatever they are feeling is normal. Remind your child of their strengths and talents and emphasize that a diagnosis does not change or define them. Identify successful role models with the same diagnosis who your child can relate to and feel empowered by. Check-in at later times to support your child as they continue to process this information. 

TIP#8 Introducing Learning Support or other services at school If the assessment identifies a need for additional support, discuss these services with your child in a positive and encouraging light. Explain that students get extra support for all different reasons, and just like in the regular classroom, every child is different; some might be working on similar things, while others might need different kinds of help. Describe any schedule changes that will take place in advance. If your child is slow to warm up, consider meeting the new teacher or specialist together with your child for the first time. Emphasize that the learning support teacher or other specialists are there to support them and talk about the specific things that your child can work on there. 


TIP#9 Monitoring your child’s progress If learning support or other services are being provided, your child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP) (sometimes referred to as other names) will include goals that are regularly monitored and updated by the learning specialist or another specialist at school who works closely with your child. Celebrate their achievements and growth, no matter how small, and encourage them to keep striving for their goals. Remind your child that progress is more important than perfection.


Bonus tip Your child can benefit from gentle reminders that the world needs all kinds of personalities, interests, and strengths. The assessment is one stop along their journey into self-discovery about their strengths and challenges, and helps them get the support they need to reach their true potential. Your child is lucky to have you as their very best advocate!



 

Find out more about our psychoeducational assessments or meet the international team of school psychologists at Linden.



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