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What is an Assessment?

Psychological testing may sound intimidating, but it’s not, it is designed to help you. Psychologists use tests and other assessment tools to help understand the uniqueness of an individual compared to their peers in the general population. It is about identifying, measuring, and determining what might be needed to help individuals reach their potential. Assessment is as much about strengths as weaknesses. So, it can take time to really know you. Once identified, action plans and interventions can be put into place to assist in reaching that potential.

The underlying cause of a person’s problems isn’t always clear. For example, if a child is having trouble in school, do they have a reading problem such as dyslexia? difficulty with impulse control or an attention problem such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? Psychological tests and assessments allow a psychologist to understand the nature of the problem, and to figure out the best way to go about addressing it.

Some common neurodevelopmental needs are addressed by national guidelines for assessment and support such as ADHD and autism. Up to 80% of children who have one neurodevelopmental diagnosis will have multiple conditions requiring support. These children are also at a higher risk of other medical issues. The proportion of adults with neurodevelopmental delays is only now becoming understood.

Psychological tests are not one-size-fits-all. Psychologists pick and choose a specific set of assessments and tests for each individual. And not just anyone can perform a psychological assessment. A psychologist must be registered with the Australian Health Practitioners Registration Authority and be trained to administer assessments and tests and interpret the results.

How to prepare for an assessment

The more information a clinician has the better the assessment outcome will be. Gather and bring school reports, any previous therapists reports, or doctor referrals to help understand the circumstances better.

Caregivers know their children best and Carer input during the assessment is crucial.

An assessment commences with one or two initial sessions to discuss the needs. This allows the psychologist to come up with the most appropriate assessment plan.

In the days before assessment, you may be requested to complete questionnaires. Making sure these are back to the psychologist as requested is important.

Understanding what will happen in the assessment also helps, so it is OK to ask questions about what will happen and what to expect.

On the day, let us know if things are very different to usual, or stress about any recent social or family changes are influencing current behaviour.

Let us know if there is anything that will help the person being assessed feel more comfortable.

Remember on the day that you just have to be you. Assessments are not like exams; they are not a test. There is no pass or fail. Assessments are just a structured way of gathering information so the information can be compared to the peer group’s information in a meaningful way.

Once the assessment is complete, you will be given a clinical report of outcomes. It is important that the reports are understood, and questions are always welcome in the feedback session when the report is discussed.

The report will focus on the referral question and cannot cover every aspect of a person’s development or needs. There may be recommendations for follow up assessment or referral to other clinicians.

How to get the most out of an assessment

  • Discuss your support needs with us.

  • Give us as much information as possible, including previous reports.

  • Complete questionnaires and be on time.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions as better understanding will increase the benefit gained from the assessment.

  • Ask if a repeat assessment is required and when.

  • Communicate reports to any other key professionals involved in care.

The disconnect between assessment and support

A frequent frustration is the disjointed relationship between assessment and support. After an assessment, people are often left waiting for services to support the needs identified.

Advocacy is an essential component of post-assessment support. If you are having trouble getting the supports or referrals recommended, always let the clinician who completed the assessment know.


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