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  • Writer's pictureAnna Gorbatski

7 Tips To Prepare Myself Or My Child For A Psychological Assessment

Updated: Apr 2

At Centre for Neuropsychology and Emotional Wellness, we conduct a variety of psychological evaluations to address our clients’ concerns.


7 Tips To Prepare Myself Or My Child For A Psychological Assessment

These include Psychodiagnostic, Psycho-educational, Neuropsychological and Gifted Assessments, as well as other individual assessments which are custom-tailored to the individual needs of each client.


A common question that is asked when booking a session with us is – how do I properly prepare myself or my child?

These 7 tips will help to ensure a smooth, comfortable and successful assessment that will yield accurate and optimal results:


1. Manage your expectations.

If you or your child is scheduled to participate in a psychological assessment, feel free to ask us questions about what to expect from this process. You may already have an idea of what you are looking for and what knowledge you would like to gain, including the areas of concern you would like us to address, but if you do not – we are here to discuss it with you. Once a customized protocol has been created for you – we can inform you ahead of time how long the assessment will take, how many sessions are needed and what each session will look like, so that you can plan accordingly. If your child is undergoing an assessment – inform your child what he or she can expect as well as the purpose of this procedure and the importance of effort and cooperation.


You can present an accurate description to your child without going into detail, which will decrease anxiety as well as create realistic expectations.

It is best to avoid the word “test” and instead explain that your child will be completing a series of exercises to measure his or her skills in different areas, some of which may be quite fun, while others may be more challenging. The main objective is to put forth their best effort in order to complete each exercise to the best of their ability. If possible, use positive reinforcement techniques, such as a rewards system, for participating in this process which many children may find demanding and intense. Ensure that the child is rewarded regardless of how well they perform, as you are rewarding effort and not their level of achievement.


2. The Less You Know.

While most people naturally like to prepare before an important test, this is a counterproductive strategy when it comes to psychological assessments. The goal of standardized testing is to obtain an accurate and representative snapshot of your current level of cognitive functioning, academic standing, emotional well-being, etc., which does not require any level of prior preparation, practice or study. The exercises that you will be required to perform are ideally intended to be seen for the first time during the assessment in order to eliminate any learning effects or prior knowledge, which can spoil the accuracy of the results. Furthermore, any prior preparation is not only unlikely to help, it may create unnecessary pressure on your child to perform above and beyond their level of ability. Much like you would not be advised to suddenly begin taking new supplements in the days leading up to your blood test – preparation for a psychological assessment is equally unnecessary and potentially detrimental.


3. Best performed one-on-one.

Many parents are understandably concerned and can’t help but wonder whether they should be present in the room with their child during an assessment. Unlike a medical appointment where parental comfort is beneficial to ensuring a smooth exam, a cognitive assessment is best performed in a controlled environment, one-on-one with the evaluator, without any other adults present. Having a parent in the room is not only distracting, it has been shown that performance anxiety a child may experience when a parent is observing may actually hinder results. Furthermore, the same way that children often behave differently with teachers in the classroom versus at home, they are likely to be more cooperative and compliant, as well as take the procedure more seriously, when a parent isn’t present. There are exceptional cases, of course, when very young children with separation anxiety need a parent to be present initially to ensure a smooth transition from the first meet-and-greet with the evaluator, into the testing process. However, even in those rare cases, the vast majority of children become comfortable and relaxed within the first 30 minutes of testing, at which point the parent can safely step out of the room. If a parent’s presence is initially required to provide comfort – we suggest that he or she is seated outside of the child’s view and does not assist the evaluator unless specifically requested.


Please remember that the best thing you can do for your child is to manage your own anxiety. We are highly trained professionals who work with children of all ages every single day – you can place your trust in us to provide the most conducive environment for assessing your child.


4. Follow your routines.

In the days leading up to your assessment, it is best that you do not implement any drastic changes in your routines – including your typical lifestyle choices. Continue with your usual nutrition, exercise and rest schedule, and take all your medications, especially those meant to regulate your mental health, as advised by your healthcare practitioner.


5. Timing is everything.

When scheduling your appointment – we advise that you book your sessions first thing in the morning, if at all possible. Cognitive testing requires you to be alert, attentive, and focused, so that you are able to concentrate for prolonged periods of time and perform to the best of your ability. If a session can only be scheduled in the afternoon – please ensure that ample time has passed between your morning activities and the testing procedure, to ensure that you are rested and no longer mentally occupied with prior engagements.


6. Don’t come in on an empty stomach.

Make sure that you or your child is well hydrated and had proper breakfast or lunch, if the session can only be scheduled in the afternoon. While you will be given plenty of opportunities to take breaks throughout the assessment, it is preferable that you do not send your child in with snacks, as this often provides a source of distraction from the testing procedure. Please inform your child that he or she will be given breaks to have a snack, if necessary. A water bottle, however, is permitted and encouraged.


7. Relax and get enough sleep.

While this may seem obvious, it is not unusual to feel anxious in anticipation the night before an important test. So the best thing you can do to ensure that you or your child perform at an optimal level is to get enough rest. Go to bed early so that you are alert and rested the following day. Fatigue is the enemy of performance so ideally, we would like to eliminate this factor from interfering with your ability to do your very best.


We, at Centre for Neuropsychology and Emotional Wellness, are well aware that whether you are an adult or a child, having to undergo a psychological assessment can feel nerve wracking and daunting. Which is why we are here every step of the way to ensure that your experience with us is as pleasant, efficient, and productive as possible.


To learn more about the psychological assessments we offer for adults and children in the Markham, Stouffville and Richmond Hill area, please contact us at 905.686.8110 or info@cnew.ca

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