What is an assessment?

When parents or teachers notice their child following a different learning trajectory than what is common they might seek a psycho-educational assessment. This usually involves a detailed evaluation and observation of a child’s behaviour, attention span, social-communication and cognitive skills. An evaluation helps find a child’s abilities (including giftedness) and difficulties.

Does my child need an assessment?

A child’s learning experience includes challenges. It is not uncommon for a little girl or boy to confuse ‘b’ and ‘d’ or exhibit number reversals. An elementary school student may have an aversion to multiplication tables or a high schooler may find lengthy lessons challenging. However, when the struggle is unreasonable and prolonged it calls for concern. If you feel your child will benefit from a psycho-educational evaluation contact a professional to discuss your concerns. Many parents and teachers feel it is best to follow your instincts even when there is lack of concrete proof of a child’s difficulties. An evaluation will usually provide a more clear picture.

What is the best age for an assessment?

Studies of the human brain constantly reveal its immense capacity to grow and change, especially in the first few years of a child’s life. The earlier a difficulty is detected, more the impact of an intervention program.

An educational assessment is generally meaningful after a child has completed at least 6-8 months of schooling and can be conducted at any age thereafter. However, an evaluation of child’s behaviour, attention span, social and communication skills is possible earlier. E.g., signs of Autism, a neuro-developmental disorder, can be detected in infants as young as 6 months (see reference below). Intervention programs which involve speech and occupational therapy may be started as soon as signs of an issue are detected.

What types of tools are used during an assessment?

Both standardised and informal tests are used during an assessment. A good assessment always begins with gathering detailed information from parents/guardians and teachers about the child’s developmental and academic history. The assessor may conduct an IQ test if required. The choice of tools used in an assessment is guided by the difficulties the child presents with. It is not advisable to conduct all possible tests available “just to be sure”. The child’s wellbeing is of top priority and he/she cannot be subjected to hours of testing without reason.

How long does an assessment last?

Depending on the child’s age and level of functioning, assessments can take a few hours to a few days to complete.

When is a diagnosis necessary?

A diagnosis of a ‘disability’ or ‘disorder’ can prove a boon or bane. For many parents a label provides relief as they are finally able to make sense of their child’s struggles and find suitable treatments. A diagnosis from a reputable and recognised organisation is also useful when a child requires additional resources or exemptions during examinations.

In other cases, a label may cause a child to be teased, bullied or ostracized. Also, some parents and teachers feel a child is defined by the label and is sometimes unable to grow beyond it.

Receiving a formal diagnosis or label is often essential to effective intervention. When a child’s difficulties involve just a short-term stumbling block a diagnosis of a disorder is not only unnecessary but impossible.

A diagnosis should be made after detailed observations and evaluations. The professional who is diagnosing must collate information provided from all important adults, parents and teachers interacting with the child.

Who conducts assessments?

Typically, psychologists, special educators and teachers trained and certified in psycho-educational assessments, carry out evaluations.

What follows an assessment?

After the assessment is completed a learning plan suited to the child’s needs is discussed. The child may require additional learning support and therapies. In some cases a different curriculum or school may be suggested.


Radcliffe, S. (9 September 2014). Intervention at 6 Months Old Erases Autism Symptoms by Age 3. Retrieved from