A comprehensive psychological assessment is about finding out what is happening in a particular situation. The goal of an assessment is a better understanding, not a diagnosis. A good assessment results in a plan forward for individuals, parents, and others to help address needs or questions regarding everyday functioning.
Assessments are tailored to your questions. Assessments for learning disabilities involve one-on-one testing of mental processes related to learning and academic skills such as reading, writing, and math. Assessment is often done over several appointments and may include requesting samples of your child's work (including math and writing). Communication with the school (except for post-secondary students) is usually needed. Assessments for ADHD in children usually include an assessment for learning problems as the two often go together. Adult (beyond post-secondary) assessments for ADHD usually do not require a learning assessment.
Assessments with children always involve time with parents. There will be an intake interview to determine how you see the challenges impact your child. Parents and teachers are asked to complete multiple checklists, and sometimes other family members and the child are asked to complete them as well. Depending on the complexity of the child's needs, how quickly information can be gathered, and scheduling appointments, an assessment can take four to six weeks from the initial appointment.
The right time of receiving assessments depends on the concerns you have for your child's development.
A learning assessment should be considered when your child is experiencing a lot of difficult keeping up with classmates. These difficulties are often apparent by Grade 2 after the school has provided direct intervention specific for your child. For children in French immersion programs difficulties with learning in English become more apparent in Grades 4 or 5.
Assessment for difficulties with attention and/or hyperactivity should be considered when these challenges become a problem in the classroom, at home, or in community activities such as sports or cultural events. If interventions at home or school aren’t showing improvements by age 7 it is worthwhile to have an assessment.