When parents or professionals have questions they cannot answer about a child, including diagnosis and treatment recommendations, an assessment is often recommended. Common questions that may prompt an assessment include:
• Why is my child having trouble with school?
• Does my child have ADHD?
• Does my child have an autism-spectrum disorder?
• How can I best help my child?
• Why is my child angry or sad so much of the time?
Assessment can also be particularly useful for understanding the impact of trauma on a child or adolescent. As a trauma-informed care center, our assessment team is sensitive to the impact of trauma on children’s functioning and is well-equipped to consider how trauma may impact behavior, learning, emotional regulation, and development. In addition to helping parents and professionals better understand a child or adolescent, psychological assessments are used to diagnose ADHD, learning disabilities, autism-spectrum disorders, depression, anxiety, and other emotional and behavioral difficulties.
Psychological assessment is a process of discovery that uses various strategies for collecting information, including testing with your child and information gathering from parents and teachers. Assessments are used to uncover answers to questions you have about your child. Most assessments include a parent interview and 1 – 2 testing sessions with the child. The assessment process includes a feedback meeting with parents, which is typically scheduled 2 – 3 weeks after the final assessment session, and a comprehensive written report to share results and recommendations. Psychological assessment services are also available in Spanish for bilingual or Spanish-speaking families.
At ACGC, we provide assessment services for children and adolescents up to age 17. Parents may refer their child for an assessment by calling ACGC at (512) 451-2242, completing a brief intake session via phone, then submitting required referral paperwork. The fee for psychological assessments is $125/hour of the psychologist’s time. A sliding fee scale is available with reduced rates based on family size and income. Selected insurance plans are also accepted.
Frequently asked questions (FAQ's) about psychological assessments
What is a psychological assessment?
A psychological assessment, sometimes referred to as “testing,” is a process for answering questions about a child’s behavior or functioning in a number of domains including cognitive, academic, self-help skills, oral language, executive functioning, and socialization. A psychological assessment typically involves some formal measures (i.e., “tests”), which are individually administered to a child following an established set of rules; and informal measures, such as observations of your child during play; and information you and your child’s teachers share with the psychologist.
What will this involve for my child?
Your child will be asked to perform tasks that allow the psychologist to learn more about his or her abilities and functioning in cognitive, self-help, oral language, academic/pre-academic, behavioral, and social-emotional domains. He or she may be asked to point to a picture in response to a question, to answer questions orally, to complete patterns, or to put blocks together to form a design. The specific tasks are chosen based on what questions the assessment is intending to answer and are tailored to the developmental level of your child. Oftentimes, with young children, the psychologist may try one or more tasks before finding the best way to approach testing. Your child will be given breaks, as necessary, and provided with positive feedback on his/her performance.
What are the requirements for me?
Before the assessment can be scheduled, you will be asked to complete a developmental questionnaire to help the psychologist learn more about your child and your family and to begin to plan for the assessment. You will be asked to attend an initial parent interview, usually scheduled the week prior to the assessment, then to remain at the center during the entire assessment appointment. It is required that you bring any documentation of previous testing or evaluations to the appointment. The psychologist will ask you many questions about your child’s development, current behaviors, and what you would like to find out through the assessment. You may also be asked to complete a written behavior rating scale about your child and to distribute rating scales to your child’s teacher. You will be asked to return in 2 – 3 weeks for a feedback conference with the psychologist. For the feedback conference, you are welcome to bring along individuals who provide you with support (e.g., family members, friends) or other individuals important to your child’s life.
How long will it take?
The length of the assessment ranges widely depending on referral concerns and the age of the child. It is not uncommon for young children to need to take frequent breaks or even end testing and come back on another day. The psychologist should be able to provide you with a rough estimate of the time needed to complete the assessment after the initial parent interview. In general, the length of the assessment ranges from 2 hours, with very young children, to 6 hours, with older children. Occasionally, additional hours of testing are needed, and in those situations, a second testing session will be scheduled.
How long will it be before I get the results?
Barring any missing information (e.g., teacher rating scales not returned), feedback typically takes place 2 – 3 weeks following the completion of testing.
What can I tell my child about this appointment?
Lots of kids worry if they are told that they have a doctor’s appointment. They may associate seeing a “doctor” with getting a shot or other unpleasant procedures. For younger children, it is important to emphasize that they will spend time with a psychologist doing a variety of tasks in order to learn what they child is good at and what may be difficult for them. This information can help parents and teachers have better ideas of how to help the child. It may also be helpful to give the child examples of what he or she may do during testing:
• answer questions about yourself
• point to pictures
• say the names of pictures
• play with toys
• complete patterns
• show what you’re learning at school (for older children, this will typically involve academic tasks such as reading, writing, and mathematics)
It can be misleading to tell children they are going to play games, and they often end up disappointed as the assessment progresses. Most children find some aspects of the assessment to be enjoyable and others to be less so. Your child will not be asked to do anything that is extremely distressing or harmful to him or her.