Therapeutic Approach

Training in several therapeutic modalities, including client-centred, solution oriented, psychodynamic, cognitive behavioral, and object relations allows Dr. O’Connor to tailor her approach to meet the individual’s unique needs. Her general style is non-judgmental, supportive, and down to earth. People are often nervous during their first session and do not know what to expect. However, once in the nonthreatening comfort of the office combined with Dr. O’Connor’s warm and open style, anxiety soon disappears. 

Please refer to the top of the home page for more detailed information on therapy services, Dr. O’Connor’s qualifications, rates, and office location. 

Psychoeducational Assessments

When a child has been referred for a psychoeducational assessment, parents often have questions about the process and the potential value of an assessment. Below are some of the more common questions about the assessment, and answers:

Why is my child being assessed?

There are several possible reasons for an assessment. The most common reason is that the student is struggling in one or more academic areas in school. The primary goal of an assessment is to uncover reasons for the difficulty and use this information to help the student maximize their learning potential. 

What information will a psychological assessment give me about my child?

The purpose of an assessment is to identify any existing learning problems and their severity. All tests scores that your child obtains are compared to a very large number of scores from Canadian students the same age. In this way you will learn how well your child is performing in various areas compared to other students his or her age. The pattern of scores is analyzed to identify your child’s particular strengths and weaknesses. Recommendations are offered which aim to enhance your child’s strengths and perhaps use these strengths to assist or overcome any identified weaknesses.

How will an assessment help my child?

One of the primary goals of the assessment is to determine whether your child qualifies for any particular “Designation” (for example, a Learning Disability) based on Ministry of Education criteria. If a student has a specific pattern of test results that qualifies him/her for a Designation, an “Individual Education Plan” (IEP) is typically developed. An additional goal of the assessment is to determine whether your child requires any particular adaptations while writing important exams (e.g., provincial exams). If indicated, adaptations (e.g., use of reading or voice recognition software) can allow a student to show his/her strengths more easily, and therefore enhance the student’s performance during an exam. 

Even if your child does not qualify for a Designation, the assessment will increase parents’ and teachers’ understanding of his or her unique learning style. This understanding can be used to maximize learning potential and success, which, in turn, should have a positive impact on self-esteem. 

What steps are involved in an assessment?

1. The student undergoes a variety of psychological tests, which typically lasts for 4 to 5 hours with rest and lunch breaks. A variety of areas will be tested, such as different kinds of memory, attention, verbal skills, academics, etc. The process involves one-on-one attention with a tester (“Psychometrist”) and there is a frequent change in activities, many of which students actually enjoy. 

2. A parent/guardian will also complete a brief form regarding background information of the student. Information collected includes medical history, birth history, etc. The form is very straightforward and the questions are typically easily answered without the need to look through old records.

3. Dr. O’Connor also interviews the student to gain an understanding of his or her school and learning experiences. One or both parents are often present for the interview. The interview will either take place on the same day as testing, or a different day when that is not possible. 

4. Once testing has been completed, a detailed user-friendly report, including graphs of test results, is written. Following this, a debriefing session is arranged so that Dr. O'Connor can review the report and test results and discuss ways to best help your child in the school setting. Recommendations are evidence-based and drawn from reputable resources. The student is typically not present for this portion of the assessment process. 

What do we need to do to prepare for the assessment?

The testing typically begins at 9:00 a.m. unless an alternative time has been arranged. There is really no need to prepare for the assessment in any way. If your child requires glasses to read, they should be brought to the appointment. You may also wish to send a snack and drink along for the mid-morning break. Most parents take their child for lunch (approximately 12:00 to 1:00). If you are unable to spend lunch with your child, please provide a bag lunch and he/she can spend lunch in the office. Otherwise, you do not need to be present for the assessment, but are welcome to stay if you wish. Dr. O’Connor usually conducts an interview with the student after lunch at 1:00, and ideally the parent is present for the interview. However, if this is not possible she can conduct the interview with your child in your absence, and do a follow-up interview with you over the phone. 

ADHD and Neuropsychological Assessments

Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) assessments are much briefer than Psychoeducational Assessments and involve computerized attention testing, an interview, report, and informing session. If a trial of medication is considered appropriate by a medical doctor and the parents, it is possible to repeat the attention testing and review symptom improvement once the medication has been started. A “Progressive Analysis” will determine whether there is a statistically significant improvement in attentional capacity while on medication versus off medication. This information can be part of the decision to help parents decide whether to keep their child on medication.

The process for Neuropsychological Assessments is similar to that for Psychoeducational Assessments. However, several more tests are included that assess neuropsychological functioning (e.g., executive functioning, more extensive memory tests, motor tests, etc.). A Neuropsychological Assessment is generally not indicated unless there is a history of neurological incident, such as seizures, head injury, hypoxia, or maternal alcohol use during pregnancy. Dr. O’Connor will be able to help you decide the best assessment route for your child.

Hours of Operation:

Therapy: Afternoon and Evening appointments on variable weekdays
Assesments: Begin at 9:00AM on variable weekdays Closed Saturdays and Sundays