Has your child’s teacher suggested that they need a psycho-educational assessment? This often comes as a rather nasty surprise to most parents.  It’s what economists call a grudge purchase.  Not something you get because you really want it but because you feel you have to.  Here are some tips to help you get the most out of this kind of assessment:

Where do I even start?

Ask your child’s teacher or other parents who’ve been through this process to refer you to someone they trust.  In general, Educational Psychologists are trained and qualified to do these assessments. Counselling and Clinical psychologists will also sometimes do these assessments, but if you decide to go through one of these professionals be sure to ask how much experience they have in the realm of Education as a certain amount of educational  insight is needed in interpreting test scores. Psychometrists are qualified to administer the tests, but need to be supervised by a psychologist when interpreting the test results.

Don’t hesitate to ask about a professional’s qualifications and practice number as well as whether they are registered with the Health Professional’s Council to administer, score and interpret the tests.


Ask: What will be assessed?

A thorough investigation into underachievement at school should at least include an aptitude assessment, a scholastic component, a perceptual investigation and an emotional screening as difficulties in any one of these areas could affect performance.

Ask about the fees beforehand.  

These assessments can be very expensive.  Find out whether the practitioner can claim directly from your medical aid or whether you’ll have to pay upfront and then claim the amount back from your medical aid.  Contact your medical aid to find out whether you are indeed covered for this procedure (you’ll probably have to get the relevant tariff codes from the practitioner first) and whether there are sufficient funds available. Don’t hesitate to ask your medical aid / another medical aid what a reasonable price for such an assessment would be.  Some professionals charge astronomically high prices, which the medical aids will then refuse to pay as it is higher than the scheme rate.

Ask about the report:

Ascertain beforehand whether a report is included as part of the feedback and whether you will have to pay extra for this.  Some practitioners include the report free of charge, whereas others will only compile a report if requested beforehand and will then charge for this while yet others simply do not even offer the report as an option.


Prepare your child for the assessment.

I would suggest telling them that they are going to spend the morning with someone to do some work and play some games.  That the purpose of the assessment is purely to see what they’re good at and what they’re not so good at and then to device a plan on how best to help them in those areas where they struggle.  Tell them just to do their best and try not to put any unnecessary pressure on them. Remind them at what time you will fetch them, for instance: Mommy will fetch you after lunch.  Never, ever say (as I’ve often heard children repeat:) “If you get even one questions wrong you’re going to be in so much trouble / fail this year / etc. Ensure that your child gets to bed early on the night before the assessment to avoid under performance  on the day due to tiredness.

  • If your home language differs from your child’s language of learning very careful consideration needs to be given to the language of assessment. In most cases where a child is struggling at school and the assessment is done to investigate possible reasons for the difficulty or to screen for a learning disorder it is advisable to do the assessment in the language of learning (language spoken at school), but where the main focus of the assessment is to get a clear indication of the child’s aptitude it may be better to assess the child in his or her home language, this is particularly relevant in the case of very young children.
  • Book a morning assessment.  In the afternoon, children are generally tired and chances are that they won’t give of their best.

On the morning:

Be sure to bring important documents such as school reports, other assessment reports, relevant medical reports and relevant legal documents to the background session or to attach these to the background questionnaire.  In the case of long assessments, be sure to pack a healthy lunch for your child to enjoy during breaks to ensure that he or she maintains sufficient energy levels.  Arrive on time. Being late for the session will not only increase your child’s anxiety levels but will also put her under time pressure to complete the assessment, this could mean shorter breaks and more rushed activities which will not give a clear indication of your child’s true abilities.


Give the psychologist feedback.

We want to know how your child is progressing and also need to get feedback, whether positive or negative, on our own findings and recommendations so that we can sharpen our skills.

For more information or to book a psycho-educational assessment, contact Anel at anel@childpsych.co.za

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