What to expect at a diagnostic psychological evaluation

Your appointment day has finally arrived!  You will finally be getting to meet a professional, or team of professionals, who can help with a diagnostic psychological evaluation.  What can you expect, and how can you prepare?  Here are some ideas to ponder before that first appointment:

  • Who is evaluating your child? Will you be meeting with a team of people (as is popular at Children’s Hospitals) or a solo practitioner?  You may wish to mentally prepare to meet with 1-5 people at a time.
    • Different disciplines may ask variations of the same questions about behaviors, eating and sleeping habits, sensory concerns, interpersonal styles, moods, anxiety, and so forth. The questions may feel repetitive, but each discipline is looking for something slightly different.
  • How long is that first appointment?
    • The initial appointment could be as short as an hour, and serve as an opportunity to complete paperwork, orient the family to the evaluation process, and clarify the referral questions.  If you have multiple appointments, you get to ask questions as they arise (and they will).
    • Other appointments are a day-long affair, and may be your only point of contact with the evaluator. If you have one loooong appointment, you want to have a list of questions ready!
  • Should you bring your child to that first appointment? Evaluation styles differ.
    • Some evaluators have the entire family arrive for the first appointment, and the child is soon whisked off to an office for a 1:1 evaluation.
    • Other providers meet with the parents, and then schedule a school observation (before the child meets the evaluator) to get a behavioral sample. The child is then scheduled for an office visit after the school observation is complete.
  • What documents should you bring? Any “relevant” documents should be brought to the evaluation.  Relevant is the key word here, and definitions vary.
    • Some evaluators want pediatrician notes, reports from other evaluations, school report cards, baby books, and the like. Other evaluators will give you a list of documents they are willing to review.
    • Ask about documents when you schedule your evaluation.
  • When and how do you receive feedback?
    • Most evaluators want some time to analyze the data and talk to the important people (docs, teachers, other therapists) in your child’s life before offering a diagnosis. This process can take anywhere from a week to a month.  Ask about timelines and expectations.
    • Some evaluators offer a written report by mail, with no in-person contact. Other evaluators review the information verbally, then write the report later.  Still others review a written report, in person, with the family.  Ask about the means of feedback, and a timeline for a written report.  You should receive a written report, the question is when.

An evaluation is a big deal, and you want to be prepared.  An evaluation is also one part of an important series of questions: what is going on for your child, and what are the next steps?  The evaluation can provide guidance, but is not a magic wand that will bring 100% resolution.  Be prepared, see an evaluation as a tool, and help your child find success!

Share this...