Opening the conversation:
The purpose of a psycho-educational assessment is to figure out how someone learns and what their unique learning profile entails. Now that the process has wrapped up and findings are documented in a report, this information can be useful for:
- Educational planning purposes (i.e., the IEP process)
- Accessing resources
- Parents understanding how to best support their child
- Students learning their strengths and having their challenges validated
Explaining the results:
The psychoeducation assessment report is dense with information and can be difficult to navigate and comprehend. Take your time reading the document. It is the parents decision if they want their child to read it; however, the content can be confusing even for adults so for many children it will beyond their scope of understanding. Summarizing key information is best.
Always start with the positives:
Naturally when you assess for so many things (psycho-educational assessments are very comprehensive!) every child will always have strengths. Working from a strengths-based approach is always recommended. Not only can this help with self-esteem, but it also makes sense. For example if a student has a stronger visual memory but a weaker auditory memory, study strategies that are more visual in nature would likely be more successful.
To disclose a diagnosis or to withhold?
We recommend avoid telling children under 12 diagnostic labels. The same information can be expressed in a more functional manner (i.e., your brain works in a different way, and you experience challenges with reading vs. you have dyslexia). However, as children progress in school they become more involved in the IEP process and being informed of diagnoses is of more use to them. Further, it is best for children to learn their diagnosis from a parent or doctor first before hearing it from a teacher or school professional.
Key takeaways from a report:
Many psycho-educational reports are around 12-20 pages in length. So how do you decide what is important and worth explaining to your child? Remember the acronym BRAVE(S).
- Be a cheerleader and praise their strengths (e.g., strong vocabulary, pattern finding skills, memory, math skills etc. etc.). Every student no matter how severe their challenges are will have strengths.
- Remind them of their intelligence, and that challenges with learning/attention do not make them “dumb.” Intelligence is more than just academic success!
- Accentuate that they experience true challenges and that “their brain works in a different way” and that this is okay and can be a positive thing. Because of these differences they might get special help in school and that this is nothing to be ashamed or embarrassed about.
- Validate that they experience real attentional challenges (if they do) and that staying attentive and focused is difficult for them. If medication is being considered, express to the child that because they struggle with their attention you are going to talk to their doctor/pediatrician about possible options.
- Express empathy towards your child regarding mental health challenges. Open up a conversation about speaking with a counsellor to address concerns, learn coping strategies, and build hope for the future.
- Specific diagnosis (if over 12). Inform your older child/teen of what their diagnoses mean and how they can help access supports, find resources, and work towards mitigating challenges (i.e., tutoring, counselling, medication, etc.).