How to Talk to Your
Child about Testing
Starting the Conversation
Some children may worry that they have done something wrong, or that there is something wrong with them. For this reason, it is recommended that you talk to your child in a place where it is obvious that nothing is wrong and that he/she is not in trouble. Examples include talking while going to get a favorite treat, taking the dog for a walk, or playing a game. This will help the conversation feel less "serious." Then, help them understand the purpose of testing.

The purpose of an assessment is to "learn about how you learn" so that:

  • Teachers know how to teach you
  • Parents know how to support you
  • You know how to advocate for yourself

It may sound something like this:

"I've noticed you're working really hard at _______________ this year, but it still seems pretty tough, and I'm not sure why. I've been thinking that if we knew more about how you learn best, your teachers and I could do a better job teaching you. Recently, we met with a doctor who can help us find a way to make school easier for you and figure out what we can do differently."
Describing the Process
When your child participates in testing, he/she will do different activities to help the evaluator better understand how he/she processes different types of information. These activities may include puzzles, word games, chatting about what he/she likes to do, and trying to figure out what things feel difficult to do. Remind kids that they are seeing a doctor to learn about their brain, not because they are sick or have anything wrong with them. Older kids may also need a reminder that the process is confidential, and the results are intended to facilitate support, not bring about consequences.

It may sound something like this:
"The doctor will do different types of activities with you to figure out how you learn best, where your strengths are, and why some things are hard right now. Some will be fun, some will be easy, and some will challenge you. Your job is to do your best, and if something feels difficult, let the doctor know so you can work together to figure out why."
Getting Their Input
It is helpful for both the evaluator and the child to have his/her input about the assessment. It ensures that your child is invested in the process and will be more likely to participate with full effort.

It may sound something like this:
"There are a few things I'd like to know to help me support you better, but I'm wondering what you'd like to know about how you learn, or why certain things are easy and other are hard. If you can't think of anything right now, that's okay. I'll ask you again tomorrow and we can try to write down a list together. That will make sure that the work you do with the doctor is as helpful as possible."
Other Helpful Tips
If you are worried your child will resist coming in for an assessment, you are not alone! The following tips may help you set up the evaluation for success:

Use his/her own words to describe the problem. Many children resist testing because it feels like adults don't get it. For this reason, it can be helpful to think about how your child is describing the problem. By using his/her language, you are assuring your child that we will help solve his/her problem, not ours.

This might sound like:

"I've noticed that you really don't like your math teacher this year. I'm wondering if there's a way we could make that class better for you."

"I've noticed that we are in a bad nagging cycle around homework. I know you don't like it and I don't like it either. I wonder if there's a way we can break out of it."

"I've noticed you're getting in trouble a lot this year and it doesn't seem to make sense. I wonder if there's a way we can figure it out together."

"I hear you say that you hate school, and I can totally see why! Let's see if there's a way to change that."

Let him/her know that it's not mandatory. If your child is having a really hard time, see if you can work with his/her doctor to figure out a solution. The evaluator can often get a lot of information about what might help your child from other sources (e.g., parent and teacher report, rating scales, school observations). In addition, if your child is resistant and not putting forth full effort, the results of testing will likely be invalid or unable to be interpreted.

Give choices and reward compliance. Giving kids choices actually makes them more likely to participate because it shows them respect, establishes trust, gives them a sense of a control over the situation, gives space for them to voice questions or concerns, and allows adults a way to address these concerns.

This may sound like:
"It makes sense that you do not want to do the testing. I can imagine I would be skeptical as well. I will respect your decision if you decide you really do not want to do it. At the same time, I want to make sure you have all the information before you make your final decision. Would you be willing to meet with the doctor just to see what it's all about? You can decide when we schedule the appointment and can even pick something special to do afterwards."
In person testing services are available at both the Mind Health Institute, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach locations.

For more information, or to schedule an initial consultation, please contact us directly at (949) 891-0307.
Tips for parents