Tips for taking the scaries out of talking about testing
By School Psychologist, Mary Fusco
Navigating discussions with parents about psychoeducational assessments can be delicate yet crucial for supporting struggling students to reach their full potential. Here is a guide for school teams working in the international context to facilitate supportive and solutions-based conversations with parents.
TIP #1 BUILD RAPPORT AND TRUST
By creating a trusting school-parent relationship, parents can feel more comfortable about opening up about their concerns and entrust school with supporting their child. Start off by communicating to parents about their child’s strengths. Be gentle yet honest and direct about the presenting challenges. Remain grounded in the fact that you are an educator who sees the absolute best in their child.
A good report should be “strengths-based” by emphasizing what the child CAN DO, as well as areas where they may need support.
TIP #2 DESCRIBE THE CONTEXT
Remind parents that you are part of a small confidential team, a Student Support Team, whose main goal is to support struggling students as early as possible to have the best outcome for their child’s success. Revisit any screeners or interventions that have been implemented and indicate the progress that their child did make. Explain how you believe their child can make even more progress if you have a better understanding of their child’s development and learning style.
TIP #3 NORMALIZE SUPPORT AND REDUCE POSSIBLE STIGMAS
Explain that many students have differences in the way they learn or the way they interact with the school environment, therefore requiring more individualized or customized strategies to access their true potential. Note that the level or type of support can change over time as their child continues to grow and make progress.
TIP #4 INTRODUCE PSYCHOEDUCATIONAL ASSESSMENTS
Ask the family if they have ever heard of a psychoeducational assessment and meet the parents where they are at with their level of understanding. Describe that the main goals of this type of assessment are to understand their child’s development and learning style, to identify any underlying challenges, and to provide both parents and teachers with recommendations with evidence-based strategies specific to their child.
TIP #5 EXPLAIN THE ASSESSMENT PROCESS
Describe the assessment process step-by-step, including the types of tests involved, the specialist who conducts them, and where the assessment can take place. Address any questions or concerns the parents may have about the process. Learn more from your trusted school psychologists at Linden about their expertise conducting assessments that are both sensitive to, and also highlight, a student’s multilingual, multicultural, and/or international background.
TIP #6 ADDRESS CONFIDENTIALITY & DIAGNOSES
Assure parents of the confidentiality of the assessment results and who the information will be shared with. Explain that assessments may or may not include diagnoses, and diagnoses will not label, change, or limit their child. A good educational diagnosis can provide context or information and open paths for new strategies to understand and support their child in a more meaningful way.
TIP #7 PROVIDE RESOURCES AND SUPPORT
Offer resources in the family’s preferred language to assist them in navigating the assessment process. Make sure parents know who they can reach out to at the school and locally for more information. Invite parents to express questions or concerns, and share your gratitude for their trust and partnership with the school to support their child.
TIP #8 EMPOWER PARENTS WITH INFORMATION AND QUESTION
Identify a list of providers that you can recommend to families. Parents should feel equipped to do their research to ensure they are getting a quality assessment for their child. Some questions parents might ask the provider include:
What is your philosophy behind your assessments?
What experience do you have with children in international schools?
How do you assess multilingual learners?
How will you help my child feel comfortable?
What is the time frame for the sessions and getting the report?
What kind of report can I expect to get after?
What kind of follow up support do you offer?
TIP #9 PREVIEW WHAT A GOOD REPORT SHOULD INCLUDE
Share best practices that parents should expect from the provider they choose. A good report should be “strengths-based” by emphasizing what the child CAN DO, as well as areas where they may need support. A snapshot of the “whole child” should be captured by including information from parents and teachers, as well as the student’s voice, and not just the numbers. There should be careful consideration of the child’s linguistic, cultural, and schooling backgrounds, which can impact their interaction with standardized assessments. The report should validate and explain the “why” behind presenting challenges. Recommendations should be tailored to the child’s specific results and international school curriculum. Above all, the assessment should help the child discover their own unique strengths and superpowers!
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