Setting Your Child Up for Success When they need an Assessment

By Dr. Mary Rooney, Ph.D.

In my last post I discussed talking to your child about ADHD in a way that is supportive and helpful. But what happens when your child needs an assessment for academic challenges or ADHD symptoms? Many parents worry that their child will find the evaluation process intimidating, or wonder if their child will think they are being tested because there is something “wrong” with them. Other parents have concerns about how their overly active, distractible, or anxious child will tolerate the testing – especially if their child struggles to stay on task under normal circumstances. The good news is that the psychologists and educators who conduct these assessments have a great deal of experience working with kids who have academic and attention problems. They typically love working with kids like yours! The positive one-on-one attention that your child receives during the evaluation process will help make it go smoothly – and maybe even be fun for your child! And as a parent there are some things that you can do to set your child up for assessment success:

  1. Work with a professional who you like and respect. If you respect and enjoy the psychologist or educator who is conducting the evaluation, then there’s a good chance that you child will too! Kids and adolescents pick up on social cues from their parents, and if you seem to be at ease with the process your child will feel much more relaxed themselves.
  2. Discuss your concerns with the professional. Share your concerns with the professional who is conducting the evaluation. Ask them what types of strategies they use to help kids like yours have a positive evaluation experience. If you have suggestions for what might help your child, let the professional know. They might be able to use some of these same strategies during their testing sessions.
  3. Create positive expectations for your child. Have your child start off on the right foot by letting them know that you’ve met with the doctor (or educator), and you really enjoyed meeting with them. Tell your child that you think they’ll like the doctor/educator too, and that you think they’ll have fun during the appointments.
  4. Focus on learning styles. When talking to your child about the evaluation it can be very helpful to describe it as a process that will help you and your child figure out how they learn best. Let them know that everyone learns differently. For example, some kids learn best by watching a demonstration of how something is done, other kids learn best by reading about things, while others learn best in a hands-on way – by doing things. In addition, let your child know that it will help everyone understand which subjects are harder and easier for your child, and how they can help your child be successful in the areas that are more challenging.
  5. Even resistant kids can enjoy the process. If you have a child who is resistant to going to an evaluation appointment, try not to worry too much. Just because your child might not want to go doesn’t mean that they’ll have a bad experience once they’re there. I’ve had plenty of kids and teens come into my office feeling reluctant or even upset about having to attend the appointment (especially when it’s on a Saturday). But once things get started and we get to know each other, the kids settle in and forget that they didn’t want to come in the first place. Usually they are even happy to come back for a follow-up appointment. After all, it’s not often that kids get so much uninterrupted time from an adult who is so interested in what they have to say!

Assessments can be powerful tools for learning about your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and the things you can do to help them succeed academically. Proactive and positive communication before and after the assessment are key to helping your child feel comfortable so you can both get the most out of the evaluation process.



Mary Rooney, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California San Francisco. Dr Rooney is a researcher and clinician specializing in the evaluation and treatment of ADHD and co-occurring behavioral, anxiety, and mood disorders. A strong advocate for those with attention and behavior problems, Dr. Rooney is committed to developing and providing comprehensive, cutting edge treatments tailored to meet the unique needs of each child and adolescent. Dr. Rooney's clinical interventions and research avenues emphasize working closely with parents and teachers to create supportive, structured home and school environments that enable children and adolescents to reach their full potential. In addition, Dr. Rooney serves as a consultant and ADHD expert to Huntington Learning Centers.


Huntington Learning Center is the tutoring and test prep leader. Its certified tutors provide individualized instruction in reading, phonics, writing, study skills, elementary and middle school math, Algebra through Calculus, Chemistry, and other sciences. It preps for the SAT and ACT, as well as state and standardized exams. Huntington programs develop the skills, confidence, and motivation to help students of all levels succeed and meet the needs of Common Core State Standards. Founded in 1977, Huntington's mission is to give every student the best education possible. Call us today at 1.800.CAN LEARN to discuss how Huntington can help your child. For franchise opportunities please visit

This website does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only.

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