Many parents are unsure about psychological testing. Parents often have realized that their child is under achieving, but often wait too long to take action. Getting a quality assessment is the first step. As soon as you notice that your child is not doing as well as he could, is unusually unhappy, or starting to dread school, it is essential to seek professional advice. The longer parents wait, the harder (and more expensive) it is to correct problems like reading disorders, organizational problems, school anxiety, and other common issues that keep children from achieving their potential. Many parents wonder if private testing is worth the investment of time and resources. Parents who have had their child tested by an exceptional assessor will tell you—its worth finding the best for your child!
Testing is all about getting information you can trust. Once you have that information, you are ready to tackle the problem and advocate for your child. Psychologists use high-quality, empirically validated tests to determine the underlying source of a child’s difficulties. Many learning problems can look the same to a parent or teacher. For example, a child with a reading disorder, attention disorder, giftedness, or anxiety can all present with the same constellation of difficulties at school. Through testing, the psychologist can determine not only what the source of problems is, he or she can recommend the interventions that will be most likely to help your child. A customized action plan is the key to determining which interventions have actually been proven to help children with your child’s needs. Skilled psychologists who assess children spend considerable time researching evidence based interventions. There’s no sense wasting precious time or resources when everyone is just guessing about what to do to help a child. A quality assessment comes with a personalized action plan to designed around your child’s individual strengths, weaknesses, temperament, and goals.
Psychologists in private practice typically have more time and extensive resources to give your child. As a result, they are often able to learn much more about what your child needs than someone who is constrained by the regulations of the public school system. This is especially important for bright children, whose disabilities may not be evident during a school eligibility screening assessment. At Mindwell, our psychologists can also do important tasks such as inform independent school placement decisions, conduct observations, help your child qualify for ‘high stakes testing’ accommodations, write effective behavior intervention plans, or help you advocate for an IEP/504 plan. A skilled psychologist can make all the difference in turning things around for your child.
So here is a quick ‘how to’ guide to finding an exceptional psychologist for your child:
1. Invest in Quality: When it comes to assessment, you often get what you pay for. Just as you wouldn’t skimp on an attorney, architect, or surgeon, do not settle. It is important to select the psychologist for his or her skills, and not based on the lowest price quote.
2. Check Credentials. Make sure the psychologist is independently licensed, and has the training and experience needed to answer your questions. It is also wise to select someone with an education background, so your psychologist can collaborate with teachers and administrators at your child’s school.
3. Ask, “Who Will Actually Do my Child’s Testing?” Is it a grad student? Tech? A trainee? An associate or resident? Will the same person work with my child the whole time, or will he or she be passed around from person to person? Some practices cut corners by having trainees do the work. Find out before making a commitment.
4. Ask about Time Frame. Make sure to ask not only when you can be seen, but how long you will have to wait to receive your report (not just when you will have your feedback session!). The practice should have a policy about timelines. Check that the psychologist will spend enough time with you and your child to fully understand your case.
5. Ask “How Long is My Report likely to Be?” You can learn a lot about a practice just by asking this question!
6. Ask about Experience. If you have a specific goal in mind, (e.g. getting SAT accommodations, appealing a DDA ruling, or diagnosing dyslexia), ask the psychologist about his or her experience in this area. For children and adolescents, make sure the diagnostician can accommodate any special needs or preferences. For example, for a very anxious child, could the psychologist do the testing over several days? Or if your child has a speech delay, does the diagnostician have nonverbal assessment tools?
7. Check the Psychologist’s Reputation. Ask people who regularly read psychological test reports (attorneys, physicians, teachers, tutors, school admissions directors, your school guidance counselor/principal). These professionals have seen many reports, and know who does quality work. It can also be informative to check online review sites like DC Urban Moms, Angie’s list, or your community list serv. Remember that just because some person out there liked a particular psychologist, or heard at the playgroup that a certain doctor is good, it does not necessarily mean that the family received quality care, or that the psychologist has the right skill set for your child’s concerns. Make sure to check with your child’s professional team before making a commitment.
Questions? Contact us at MindWell today. We can help.