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By Pam Dewey and Fraser Mental Health Professional Service Lead Amber Bloom • diagnostic assessment, testing for kids, diagnosis children, getting a child a diagnosis, getting a child services, autism evaluation, mental health evaluation, how to get a diagnosis for kids, getting children evaluated, Minnesota diagnostic assessment • December 07, 2023

As children grow, their bodies and behaviors change. Most children learn to roll over, sit up and walk and talk.

However, some children don’t reach the same developmental milestones, or at the same time. Others struggle to socialize with their peers, focus during class or control their emotions.

A child who is developing or behaving differently can be a cause for concern. As a parent, you may be unsure where to start. A good first step is to make an appointment with your child’s pediatrician. Your pediatrician may refer you for a diagnostic assessment.

Who gets a diagnostic assessment?

At Fraser, if you’re seeking services or a diagnosis, an individual must first have a diagnostic assessment, says Fraser Mental Health Professional Service Lead Amber Bloom. A diagnostic assessment can occur in person at one of our Fraser clinics or online through telehealth. These assessments are for infants through adults.

Preparing for the appointment

Before a diagnostic assessment, a parent or guardian may be asked to complete any relevant paperwork such as a consent form, a client questionnaire and releases of information from outside providers that Fraser may want to communicate or obtain records from. However, if you’re meeting over telehealth, the process will be slightly different.

Whether meeting in person or online, a Fraser diagnostic assessment is conducted by either a licensed mental health professional or a supervised clinical trainee.

“I inform families at the beginning of our diagnostic assessment that this type of appointment is not formal testing for things such as learning disabilities or intellectual disabilities,” says Bloom. “When preparing for the appointment, tell your child it isn’t a medical doctor appointment, so they don’t have to worry about getting a shot. Sometimes, children come in thinking it is a medical appointment and feel fearful it will hurt. You can tell them that during the appointment, they’ll be asked questions about themselves and get to play with toys, depending on the child's age.”

What to expect at the assessment

A diagnostic assessment is typically 1-2 hours long. For a telehealth appointment, a clinician first meets with a parent or a guardian and then has a follow-up appointment with a child. For an in-person appointment, both parent and child are present for the first appointment.

“I usually start by asking a parent or guardian their primary concerns and relevant background information,” says Bloom.

A mental health clinician will also ask questions about things like family relationships, medical history, mental health history, school information, developmental history, trauma/stressors and safety concerns.  Depending on the age of the child and their ability, the clinician will engage directly with them by asking questions or by indirectly observing them. For telehealth appointments, this might involve the parent or guardian turning the camera toward the child to film their play and watch them interact with others.

What might be diagnosed?

After an assessment, the clinician will schedule a follow-up meeting with the parent or caregiver. During this appointment, the child may receive a diagnosis. The clinician may also recommend services and other supports.

A child can be diagnosed with mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, autism spectrum disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), trauma or conduct disorders. Conditions like autism and ADHD may or may not be diagnosed during a diagnostic assessment.

“Sometimes, autism and ADHD can be diagnosed through observation and interview, but other times more in-depth testing is required,” says Bloom.

If you think your child might need a diagnostic assessment, visit to set up an appointment.