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Do I Test?

Ask yourself: Is my child showing signs of being gifted? Do we have battles over homework? Does my child take things literally and miss the humor in a situation?

If so, you might consider scheduling a psychological test for your child. Many people believe something has to be “wrong” with their child to benefit from a comprehensive evaluation. Others believe testing only identifies a child as gifted or as having ADHD. These are valid reasons — but not the only ones.

With testing and evaluation by a psychologist, people can learn about their strengths. They gain a renewed sense of their own abilities and an increased motivation to succeed. Others finally understand why some classes and teaching styles are, or are not, a good fit. Once they know that it’s not their fault, but simply the way their brain learns, effective strategies can be found to ease their way. Others find they learn just fine, but anxiety or negative thinking gets in the way. Once they deal with that, their learning world opens up.

Some schools do permit a child to be evaluated by a school psychologist, but these evaluations are often narrow in scope (through no fault of the school psychologist) and can miss underlying causes. In these cases, approaching a private psychologist can prove to be a fruitful option.

So what is the difference between the types of testing offered privately by psychologists and the testing performed in the schools?

Quality Testing and Assessment by a Private Psychologist:

• Takes a Comprehensive Approach with a thorough background and developmental interview. Our assessments begin by looking at a broad set of thinking and processing skills and then narrow focus based on the results and the individual. School assessments may be limited to a specific problem and can miss the underlying issues. For example, if the problem is reading the assessment, a school assessment might only look at reading and miss aspects of memory, attention or social thinking that affect performance.

• Identifies Strengths and Weaknesses. The best learning takes place when we focus on an individual’s strengths and allow them to learn about things they enjoy, excel at and find interesting. Identifying weaknesses lets us intervene early to remediate, support or design “work-around” strategies.

• Explains results so that you can use them! Psychologists are ethically bound to provide results of testing and explain them in everyday language that kids and adults can understand. Everyone walks away empowered! Results of an evaluation should be provided in a way that “demystifies” the findings.

Who should have individualized testing with a psychologist?

Anyone who wants to know how they learn, why they struggle, and what their personal strengths and weaknesses are in the areas of academics, memory, processing, attention and social relationships. Assessments can also point to specific conditions, which, once identified, can pave the way for evidence-based interventions.
Most psychologists offer testing in a private office. Some also offer in-home testing. This is in contrast to taking a test with 25 other students at school or being pulled from class for testing. At school, kids typically don’t know in advance that they will be tested. Sometimes they’re taken from a favorite class or at a less than ideal time of the day.

Private assessments help keep anxiety to a minimum and allow children to have a parent or guardian nearby to do whatever might be helpful to ensure the most accurate assessment of your child. Families are always given the opportunity to get to know the psychologist and feel comfortable before beginning. All testing is done individually with your child sitting at a table answering questions orally, solving interesting puzzles, playing memory games, listening to stories and retelling them, and solving riddles.

When is the right time?

Summer works well because schedules are lighter. It’s a great time to get set up for a successful year ahead by establishing benchmarks and direction for kicking the school year off in the right direction. But really, any time is the right time. Try and schedule sessions in the early part of the day when attention and energy are at their best.

Why would you choose to do testing?

You might opt to have your child assessed because you want to support their educational journey and ensure you have all of the information to do so. Much like an eye exam, the results can provide your child with clearer vision, and you would never purchase eye glasses without a full exam and a prescription for the proper lenses. In the same way, we wouldn’t want to treat a problem with reading by teaching phonics if the actual problem was hearing, attention or memory. And we would not want to mistake ADHD for anxiety or vice-versa.

Testing does not mean something is wrong with your child. In fact, testing may show your child is gifted and needs to be challenged further in order to eliminate boredom and restlessness in school. Testing may also reveal challenges your children are facing such as a learning disability, ADHD or anxiety, and identify ways to support them in school.

When you have private testing done, you’re working in partnership with your doctor. This means you have a high level of access to, and understanding of, what is going on with your child.

How should you proceed if you want to test your child?

Licensed psychologists in the Tampa Bay area offer this type of testing. You can ask your pediatrician for a referral. School guidance counselors and other administrators may also be familiar with trusted professionals. You can also reach out to our office at www.testingyourkids.com to schedule a consultation to discuss testing for your child

Kids already face enough pressure at school. If you’re unaware that your child requires additional support, school is going to be much more difficult than it needs to be. A comprehensive assessment can provide you with critical information to help your child succeed in life and in school.

Dr. Wendy B. Rice is a licensed psychologist and founder of Rice Psychology Group, which is headquartered in Carrollwood and also has offices in South Tampa.

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