Frequently Asked Questions
An assessment is completed to obtain information regarding an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, and can help the student and their teachers or instructors understand why the student may be struggling academically and/or behaviourally.
Your child’s teacher may recommend an assessment because your child is struggling at school. Perhaps they are having difficulty learning to read, or to grasp math concepts. Some children who are strong verbally may nevertheless have great difficulty putting their ideas into writing. Other children are underperforming because they have difficulty sustaining their attention and focus. Some children have memory weaknesses or struggle to connect concepts. Problems with organization or social interactions may also prompt a teacher to recommend an assessment.
Sometimes parents notice a problem before the teacher. They may see the difficulties their child experiences while doing homework or staying focused on tasks that are not of high interest. Parents often observe that a child cannot retain a series of instructions, or becomes overwhelmed when too much information or material is presented.
We understand that when you make the decision to have yourself or your child assessed, you are eager to have it happen as soon as possible. There are times of the year when our wait time can be extended for a several months. We do everything we can to keep the wait time as short as possible, but our services are in high demand. We can assure you of a highly professional service when your appointment time arrives.
Through the use of standardized instruments, a psychoeducational assessment tells you how a student takes in information and learns, and the reasons for their difficulties at school. This knowledge can lead to improved teaching strategies for the student's teacher(s) or tutor.
The assessment gives you an understanding of the reasons for the difficulties the student is experiencing at school or when doing homework. Many parents report that they have more patience when working with their child when they understand the nature of the difficulties.
Occasionally, teachers and parents feel that a child is ‘lazy,’ but this is seldom the case; rather, children often appear to be ‘lazy’ when they are overwhelmed.
An assessment measures a student’s overall intellectual ability, as well as their ability to use oral and written language, their ability to reason logically and abstractly, and their ability to analyze and work with information that is presented in a visual format. Auditory and visual memory skills are measured, as well as the ability to hold information in memory while working with it (an important skill in math and writing). Additional measures may include an evaluation of organizational skills and planning ability (i.e., executive functions), the ease and speed with which simple writing tasks are performed (i.e., graphomotor skills), and phonological processing (i.e., the ability to work with the sounds in oral language). At times, the focus of the assessment may be the student’s emotional functioning and their ability to pay attention (i.e., avoid distractions or manage impulses).
In addition to the above-mentioned cognitive and general functioning skills, an assessment measures academic functioning, such as reading (including basic decoding and reading comprehension), writing, spelling, and math (computation, fluency, and problem-solving). The assessment indicates the strengths and weaknesses in these areas and provides the grade-level at which the student is working in each area.
An assessment provides an understanding of a student’s weaknesses, strategies to ameliorate these, and, when appropriate, the information the school requires to identify the student as an “exceptional” learner. The assessment team may, when appropriate, diagnosis a learning disability, attentional disorder or emotional impairment.
The testing process is usually scheduled over one or two half-days; however, there is some variability.
At the outset of the assessment, the assessor will usually spend 45 minutes to an hour meeting on-line (or in person) with the client or parents to obtain background information. In some cases, adolescents may be present during this information-gathering session. The assessor will ask a series of questions to clarify major concerns and obtain information regarding relevant developmental, medical, academic, and social history.
Clients are requested to arrive 10 to 15 minutes before the scheduled appointment time to ensure all necessary paperwork is completed. If the assessment is for a child, this time will also allow the child to become accustomed to the new environment. Arriving on time is essential because a specific window of time is scheduled for each assessment.
The assessment then proceeds, with the assessor working interactively with the client for two to three hours to administer various assessment tools. The tasks are varied and not too extended, to allow for maximum attention and performance. Some seem like games, and the one-on-one interaction with the assessor is usually enjoyable for the client. Short breaks are taken as needed, during which time the client may be offered a drink or snack. Please notify us of any allergies, or if you prefer that we not offer anything. If the assessment has been scheduled for an entire day, a one-hour lunch break will take place at the time indicated by the assessor; parents are requested to take their child out for lunch, as there are no cafeteria facilities at Chisholm. A second day of testing is required for many of our assessments, during which the assessor will work with the client for two to three more hours to complete the assessment.
Once testing is finished, the assessor meets with the client and/or parents to provide some preliminary feedback regarding the assessment results. This may take place soon after the completion of testing, or in some circumstances, the feedback session may be scheduled for another day. The feedback meeting can last from 30 to 60 minutes. The assessor will discuss the major findings of the assessment and provide some recommendations. After our psychologists have thoroughly reviewed the assessment, a full written report containing specific recommendations is provided.
The report is sent directly to the client and/or parents within 4-6 weeks, and to other professionals (if consent was obtained). While 4-6 weeks may appear to be a lengthy waiting period, hours of time are required to score, write, review and process your report to ensure accuracy. Verbal feedback can also be provided to another professional shortly after the assessment, once again, at the request of the client/parents. The formal report will contain the assessment results (including a diagnosis, if applicable), a description of the tests and actual scores, and a summary section that will provide a list of recommendations and strategies to address areas of weakness. If a diagnosis is appropriate (e.g., learning disability or attentional disorder) and was not made during the preliminary feedback, parents (or adult client) will receive a call so that this may be explained and discussed.
Your child should be informed about the assessment at least a few days before the actual date (preferably not the morning of the assessment itself). The assessment should be framed as a positive experience. It might be described to your child as a look at their learning style, to find out all about their strengths and figure out ways to help them do better at school and at tasks they find difficult.
Your child may be told that they could be asked to answer different types of questions, solve different types of problems, do some pencil-and-paper tasks, or engage in other types of activities which many children find quite enjoyable. Avoid using the word ‘test’ because it often elicits unnecessary anxiety. Conversely, do not mislead your child by telling them they will spend a day doing only games and puzzles, as this can result in an abrupt loss of rapport with the assessor when they are presented with some of the more academically-oriented tasks.
A child who has received enough sleep the night before the assessment, and has eaten breakfast that morning, will be more alert. This will have a positive impact on test performance.
Clients and/or parents are asked to bring the following information with them to the assessment:
- Any form and rating scales (e.g., Conners) that were sent for them to complete prior to the assessment (unless these were completed online).
- Copies of report cards, including the most recent report card and, if available, report cards from the primary/junior grades (i.e., grades K to 6). This is extremely important, as it is often necessary to establish a history of a problem before a diagnosis is made.
- For younger children, a favourite toy or book to keep them occupied while they are waiting. There are some videos and toys on site, but a favourite toy can be comforting for some children.
- Any copies of previous assessment reports, including psychoeducational assessments, academic screenings, speech-language assessments, etc. This is particularly important because some of the specific tests that are often utilized may not be repeated within a certain time frame.
- Further, it will be crucial for the assessor to know if the client has had prior exposure to any tests, to avoid invalidating Chisholm test results.
- A sampling of recent schoolwork can be helpful, but is not necessary, as the assessor will obtain samples of work during the evaluation.
We prefer that both parents attend the background and feedback sessions to ensure that information is communicated directly to both caregivers. This will ensure that each parent has the opportunity to voice their own concerns regarding their child. As the background and feedback sessions are often held on-line, parents may attend from different venues, and if necessary, these sessions can be scheduled on a different date than the assessment sessions. Please note that if a parent cannot attend both sessions, we strongly recommend that efforts be made to attend the feedback session. When both parents attend, there is also greater flexibility to bill your insurance carrier.
Although parents are generally not allowed in the testing office itself during testing, they are welcome to remain in the waiting area within the building, or they may choose to leave the building to conduct their daily business and return to pick up their child at the designated time. The administered tests are standardized, which means that strict guidelines must be adhered to in order to ensure that a valid assessment takes place. Having a parent present poses the risk of invalidating these guidelines, and can often be distracting for the student being assessed. Some children may be too self-conscious with a parent present, and may not take risks on more challenging tasks for fear of making errors, which may result in an underestimation of a student’s actual potential.
Preliminary feedback typically consists of a discussion of the client’s areas of strength and weakness, as determined by the tests, and some scores may be provided. However, if feedback takes place on the same day, all tests may not have been scored by the time the feedback session happens. In addition to the general results, your assessor will highlight some of the most beneficial recommendations and next-steps. The final report will address all areas of concern cited by the client or their parents, and will include a discussion of all of the test results. Further, the assessment will provide several recommendations that may be implemented at school or at home.
All information obtained through the assessment is held in strict confidence. Clients and/or parents receive a copy of the final assessment report; however, absolutely no information is conveyed to any third parties (including the client’s school or doctor) unless written consent is formally obtained from the client (if of age) or parents. This is the case even if the assessment was recommended by the school or doctor. Of course, it is usually to the client’s advantage to share the assessment findings with other professionals (e.g., school, physician, etc.), as this may enable additional supports to be put in place. Furthermore, if you are claiming this assessment as a medical expense, it is helpful if our records show that we have sent a copy to your physician. Lastly, all files are reviewed by our senior psychologists, and assessment results are often reviewed with our team to ensure the most comprehensive service. The assessor would be pleased to address any questions regarding the release of the assessment findings to outside parties, and will review information on the limits of confidentiality during the initial meeting.
Chisholm’s assessment reports are very comprehensive, and are highly regarded within the school systems in the area. There may be some variability regarding the actual implementation of recommendations, which may depend on the resources available at the child’s school. When a diagnosis is made by Chisholm, the school boards accept our findings and will begin the IEP (Individual Education Plan) process.
All students who struggle are ‘labelled’ by teachers and other students. They may be seen as ‘lazy,’ lacking in intelligence, or trouble-makers. These labels are usually incorrect and mask the real difficulties a student is experiencing. If a student is labelled, an assessment will ensure that they are given the correct label, one that leads to solutions. Sometimes a child may meet the criteria to be diagnosed with a learning disability or attentional disorder. At other times, a child’s profile may indicate some weaknesses in academics or processing. Our assessments also outline the strengths of a student. When the label (diagnosis) is made by a psychologist, it opens the door to additional services available at school and/or in the community.
The assessor or the supervising psychologist would be happy to address any questions you have after the assessment is completed. Parents are often surprised by the volume of information they learn about their child, and it can sometimes be difficult to process all at once. Do not worry if you find some of the information confusing or overwhelming. We will do our best to help you understand the information you have been provided.
Withholding a prescription from a child who is usually medicated at school may produce scores that underestimate the student’s potential, particularly on tasks that are more dependent on attention and concentration. As a rule of thumb, the assessment should endeavour to represent the student’s “typical” performance. If the child is typically taking medication at school, then you may wish to continue his or her regular dosage on the day of the assessment, since you would be likely to obtain a more accurate sampling of their current classroom behaviour and skill levels. However, if you anticipate either a change or discontinuation of the medication in the imminent future, it may be beneficial not to administer the medication. Please call for further assistance with this issue.
Depending on the nature of the illness, it may be wise/required to reschedule the appointment, as illness can negatively affect testing results. While every effort will be made to reschedule the appointments as expeditiously as possible, please be aware that there may be a delay before alternative appointments are available. If you have doubts, please contact us swiftly to discuss the various options.
Once the feedback session has been completed, our staff will provide you with an invoice (which also serves as an insurance form). Payment may take place by cheque, debit or credit card. Although the services of a psychologist are not covered by OHIP, most employers have major medical insurance plans covering the services of a registered psychologist and, therefore, all or part of the assessment cost may be covered. Some Employee Assistance Programs offered through your employer may also defray the cost of our services. The services of a psychologist may also be claimed as an income tax deduction.
Post-secondary students receiving OSAP loans should also inquire about the availability of a bursary to cover all or part of the cost of the assessment. There may also be federal funding for students with a disability. Since Chisholm is part of the Regional Assessment Team at Queen’s University, many students are covered through alternate funds. The Student Services department of your college or university can assist with these financial questions.
Let's Talk About Your Concerns
Book Your Appointment Today
Below is a list of issues that may affect a student’s ability to be successful in school:
Learning Disabilities and Learning Disorders (e.g., Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and Dyscalculia), Language Disorders, Phonological Processing, Graphomotor Functioning, Memory, Executive Functioning, Developmental Delays, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Intellectual Developmental Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Anxiety Disorders (e.g., Generalized Anxiety, Social Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Selective Mutism, Separation Anxiety, School Refusal), Mood Disorders (Depression), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Tic Disorders.
Chisholm Psychology Centre is the practice of Dr. Emily Bryntwick, Ph.D., C.Psych. and Ms. Sonia Khan, M.A., C.Psych., Psychologists