When I set out to write this series, I knew the first thing I wanted to address was the anxiety involved in the evaluation journey.
Almost every resource I’ve seen advising parents on this journey acknowledges the fear and worry that they’re experiencing. The message in these resources is, “Your anxiety is normal; everyone experiences it. But getting your child evaluated is going to be the best thing for them. So move past your anxiety and just do it.”
Totally true: anxiety is a completely normal response to the thought of having your child evaluated for learning and attention issues. Every parent and caregiver feels it.
And, we’ve got to acknowledge that no one just “moves past” anxiety. You’ve got to have an effective method for managing it.
So that’s what I’m going to give you.
Let’s start with acknowledging why the evaluation process provokes anxiety for every parent and caregiver going through it.
Anxiety is your brain and body’s reaction to a perceived threat. And it’s a reaction that is intended to protect you — or help you protect your children — from harm.
In order to even think about starting the evaluation process, you have to see that your child is struggling. Seeing them struggle is perceiving that they are in a situation that threatens their well-being. Then, because you don’t know what the results of the evaluation will be, your brain can try to prepare you to respond to future threats by imagining potential harmful outcomes.
You may worry about your child being labeled or pigeonholed. Or about how other kids will treat them. Deep down you may worry about whether you’ll be able to handle what the tests say.
And then there’s the financial aspect of it all. Testing is notoriously not cheap, and the cost of supporting the learning needs that the testing uncovers can be even higher. And by the time you’re thinking of seeking an evaluation, you may have already invested a good chunk of money in tutoring or supplemental programs.
The good news is that while your anxiety response is totally natural and expected, you don’t have to be ruled by it.
One of the best things you can do to manage your anxiety about the evaluation process is to educate yourself about it. And congratulations! You’ve already started to do that by reading this guide.
To help make sure that you’re getting the information you need, and that you’re not getting overwhelmed by information on the internet (which will likely just make your anxiety worse), do this short exercise to frame your research:
Think about the thoughts, feelings, and physical experiences you have when considering the idea of having your child evaluated.
List three thoughts, statements you say in your head, that come up for you when you’re thinking about the evaluation.
Then, list three emotions that come up.
Finally, list three physical sensations that you experience while thinking about evaluation.
Next, imagine the thoughts, feelings, and physical experiences you want to have when considering whether evaluation is the right next step for your child.
List three thoughts you would like to have in your head.
List three emotions you would like to feel.
Finally, describe what physical sensations would accompany those thoughts and feelings.
Now, look at the list of your current thoughts. What specific questions do you need answers to in order to turn those thoughts into the ones you said that you want to have? Who is available to answer those questions? When can you ask them?
Write down whatever questions come to you, and make a list of resources (people, websites, books) that you will seek answers in.
Then imagine how you’ll feel when you have those answers. Is it what you said that you wanted to feel? If yes, go talk to those people, browse those websites, and read those books! If not, try to uncover what else it is that you need to be sure of. That may mean talking with someone who has already had their child evaluated, or talking to an expert to get a better idea of where to even start asking questions.
The most important thing is, take a first step, whatever it looks like. That step will help you feel more in control, and signal to your brain and body that you’re taking charge, so your anxiety doesn’t have to.
Don’t want to wait to read all three things no one is telling you about having your child evaluated for learning and attention issues? Click here to download the entire five-part series right now for free.
Founder & Principal Academic Coach
Laura Fragomeni, Ed.M.
Laura Fragomeni is a Harvard-educated master academic coach and the founder of School Without Suffering, an academic coaching practice specializing in helping struggling students around the world be happy and successful.