by Dr. Lauren S. Lineback
Psychoeducational testing is appropriate for individuals who want to have a more sophisticated understanding of their cognitive functioning (what is my “ability?”), their math, reading and/or writing skills, their memory skills, and whether emotional factors may be contributing to or affecting learning in school. While I assess individuals from six years old up to middle-aged adults, other psychologists specialize in developmental issues, and evaluate children between infancy and five years old. Some psychologists assess individuals in the later stages of middle-age including the geriatric population.
This article will address assessment of school-aged children and college-aged young adults. A typical referral question might be, “My second grade son is struggling with math, and despite extra help from the teacher, he continues to obtain poor grades in this subject. Is it possible that he has a learning disability?” Psychoeducational testing could help determine if the individual has a learning disability in math or any other area, and the psychologist will provide recommendations to the parents and the teacher as to how to improve the student’s ability to learn math.
Another referral question might come from a college student who recently completed their freshman year, and despite feeling that they “studied hard,” they obtained poor grades. Perhaps this individual found it difficult to concentrate during class, and is wondering if she has Attention- Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Predominantly Inattentive Type.
Some high school students who have already been identified as having a reading disability may feel they will benefit from extended time on the SAT. A psychoeducational evaluation would be appropriate for this student in order to document the need for extended time.
While a “battery” of measures within a psychoeducational evaluation may differ from psychologist to psychologist, a typical battery will often consist of a measure to assess intellectual functioning and a measure to assess achievement levels (often math, reading, and spelling and/or writing). In addition, many psychologists also include a measure to assess visual-motor functioning and a measure to assess memory skills.
In order to ensure that the evaluation is addressing the referral question, the psychologist will typically gather a great deal of background information. This information could include, but would not be limited to, the following: when developmental milestones were met, medical history, school history, and whether there is any family history of mental health issues or learning difficulties. If the parents or student perceive there to be any emotional difficulties that could be affecting learning in school, additional measures may be included. For example, behavior rating scales to be completed by the parent, the student and sometimes the teachers are often included, and at times additional assessments may also be included to learn more about the individual’s emotional functioning.
At times, the psychologist may also gather information from the examinee’s teachers, and will often wish to review recent report cards and any previous evaluations. A typical assessment session takes between four and six hours, depending on the individual. While some students prefer to complete the evaluation in one sitting, other students, particularly young children, may benefit from completing the assessment over the course of two or even three sessions.
After the assessment is complete, the psychologist writes a report which includes the scores from each measure, as well as a description of the measure and what the scores mean. The report will also answer the referral question, and many recommendations are provided. The psychologist then reviews the results of the evaluation with the family, and can answer questions about the report, as well as how to proceed.
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