As always, the decision to complete an assessment, or have your child assessed, is a complex and personal one. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the decision becomes more complicated. Research shows that virtual assessments are not providing the same level of complexity in our understanding of a student’s strengths and challenges. The inability to complete a thorough virtual process is amplified when students are bright and/or learning challenges are subtle. For this reason, I will be completing all assessments in person. I plan to return to in-person assessments on June 29, 2020. There are many ways to make an in-person assessment process safer.
The decision to have your child assessed should balance three important factors.
The Need for An Assessment Now
If a student had a previous evaluation(s) and is receiving accommodations, but the results of the assessment are considered out-of-date, some schools and testing services are extending the deadline for an updated assessment. In addition, some colleges and universities have waived the need for SAT or ACT test scores in their admissions process. AP tests, which are administered by the College Board, were given in a modified form this year. It is unclear what AP and Subject Tests may look like going forward. Some colleges and universities have not waived the need for ACT or SAT, but they have extended the deadline for completing the test.
If someone is being assessed for the first time, this decision becomes more complicated, as the format of school in the fall is not clear now, and it may change if local outbreaks of COVID-19 occur. As always, the importance of understanding one’s learning style can be invaluable regardless of the format of learning, or the need for accommodations.
Any Health or Other Risks Factors for Your Child or Family Members
We are learning more about the risk factors related to COVID-19 every day. Although children, teens, and young adults appear to be at lower risk of serious illness, they are not totally immune to the serious effects. If they are in contact with family members or others who are at high risk you should factor that into decision-making.
The Level of Emotional Distress They are Experiencing
Some of you have lost loved ones, or experienced other stressful events associated with COVID-19. Anytime we are assessing someone, we would prefer to assess them when there is no recent significant loss or trauma. Loss and trauma affect focus, memory, and other cognitive skills.
On the other hand, if your child has not been previously assessed and is experiencing significant distress due to learning challenges, an assessment can provide significant relief from that distress.
As always, I do not turn clients away for financial reasons. I will discuss my full fee with you. However, if your family is experiencing financial challenges due to the Safer at Home measures, or for any other reason, we can explore options such as reduced fee, payment plans, or a combination of both. I ask and trust that families will only request those considerations when necessary, so families that really need that support have it available to them.
I am making significant changes to maximize social distancing and safety when completing assessments.
I will be working from my home office on Ridgeley indefinitely. My office on Corinth is a shared space. I have less control there of how many people come in and out, how many surfaces must be cleaned, and how often they are cleaned when others are in the office.
All psychotherapy clients will be seen through telehealth (phone or Zoom meetings) to minimize the number of in-person contacts.
I made significant changes to my home office space. That includes adding a ceiling fan for improved ventilation, removing the bookshelves and all unnecessary objects, and replacing the desk with a table that is wider and allows us to be a greater distance.
Surfaces are minimized and all surfaces used for assessment are hard surfaces that can, and will, be sanitized before and after every client.
All portions of the assessment that can be moved to a Zoom session will be done that way. That includes: 1) the initial session when we discuss the process, get a thorough history, and complete paperwork with adult clients or with parents, 2) if the person being assessed is a minor then we will add a session by Zoom for me to meet them, describe the process and answer any questions, which saves about 15 minutes of in-person time at the beginning of the assessment process, and 3) the meeting to discuss the results. To make the meeting to discuss the results easier, I have created a document to provide context for results in general, and an extended version of a summary of your assessment that can be reviewed before that Zoom meeting.
All paperwork will be emailed. It can either be 1) signed by electronic signature and emailed back, 2) printed, signed, scanned, and emailed back, or 3) brought to the first in-person session.
I ask that sessions be rescheduled if anyone in the family is experiencing symptoms of possible COVID-19 or is known to have been exposed to the virus. Travel, especially by plane, is discouraged for the 14 days prior to working together in person.
I will always wear a mask during in-person sessions, and I require that clients do so also. We will also disinfect hands often. This includes every time a client is required to interact with me or use materials to complete tasks such as puzzles or writing.
Each client will be given a window of time to complete the in-person sessions (2-3 weeks). During that time, you will be the only client(s) coming to my office. This minimizes the interactions that you and I have with other people, which improves safety for all of us.
After consultation with colleagues and health professionals, there is a consensus that any amount of time over 15 minutes is considered “sustained indoor contact” and increases risk to a moderate level. Obviously, given the length of time that is required to complete an assessment, 15-minute sessions are not an option. There does not appear to be any decrease in risk by shortening sessions from the typical two to three hour assessment sessions. The increased travel and frequency of contacts that would be necessary if we were to complete more frequent, but shorter, sessions are likely to outweigh any benefit. Therefore, I recommend that we complete sessions of approximately two hours. You will have access to the bathroom, which will be disinfected carefully before and after each session. We can take short breaks, and I can move away from the table, allowing for distance so a client can remove their mask and drink water or have snacks. I strongly recommend that you provide your own snacks and water.
I am happy to set up a time to talk so I can answer any questions, or help you weigh the risks and benefits as you make this decision. Please call or email me to set up a time. Be safe and be well!