The Initial Contact. Usually a family will call my office or contact me via email. I like to speak to parents over the phone for a bit in order to learn why they are seeking an assessment. It may also be the case that a family has called seeking treatment services, but after some discussion, we decide to begin with an initial consultation or to conduct assessment first. I also commonly receive calls from family who have been referred by their school district seeking an Independent Educational Evaluation.
Observation vs. Office Visit. If assessment is for a child, I will almost always wish to proceed with a school-based observation. This is my one opportunity to see and observe the child before he or she knows who I am. Of course, it is imperative that parents do not tell their child I am coming to observe (you would think this isn't necessary to state, but experience in a few cases suggests otherwise). Sometimes the parents will come in for an initial consultation so I better determine and define their current needs. If it involves an adult, typically we proceed straight to the office visit.
Formalized Testing. There are literally thousands of tests available to assess areas of suspected challenges. How do clinicians determine which ones to use? Fortunately, there are a variety of bonafide, impartial sources that provide guidance. These include several journals published by the American Psychological Association, Buros Mental Measurements, published standards for tests. plus professional practice guidelines. The most important element is that the proper tests are selected based upon the specific referral questions to be answered. Testing sessions may last anywhere from an hour with necessary short breaks for an extremely hyperactive or very young child, to a few hours, with interspersed breaks for individuals who can sit and attend for longer periods. It is critical that I be able to establish rapport with my client so I can encourage him or her to "try your best." Parents often ask me what to say to their child. My advice, is typically "the less said the better." Most parents do not have a firm grasp of what actually goes on during a testing session and will sometimes give their child information that is counter-productive. I usually advise they make it clear this is something they want to see occur, then say they do not know much about what will happen and encourage their child to ask questions during the first appointment.
Informal Assessment. This may consist of having conversations, going for a walk, grabbing a snack, or other activities. The purpose is to interact and observe clients in a more naturalistic settings. It may involve a walk next door to the market or a nearby business, depending upon what I determine the needs of the situation and what I wish to learn.
To learn more about School-Based Assessments, click here.