What is a psycho-educational evaluation, and when is it appropriate or warranted to have one administered to a student? Students in public and private schools are routinely assessed to determine their levels of ability in reading, writing, and math, so most parents do not find it necessary to have a full psycho-educational battery assessment performed. However, if teacher feedback and/or these routine standardized tests indicated the student is at risk academically and/or emotionally, it is prudent for parents/guardians to explore the options and possibility of testing performed outside the parameters of their student’s school.
What is the primary benefit of receiving services from an outside psychologist? An outside psychologist will provide a diagnosis addressing the presenting issue/challenges; whereas, the child’s school typically will not provide a diagnosis due to the risk of being held liable for such diagnosis. Additionally, there are many children that fall between the cracks and are not eligible for testing within the school setting. For example, if your child performs in the average area on standardized tests (CRCT/ITBS), but earns a C or a D in a subject, they will likely not qualify for additional testing/services because they are not considered to be a critical need. As a result, many children who may have a learning disorder or area of weakness, but who somehow manage to get by in school, struggle continually without answers and assistance. This can cause unnecessary stress for the child and the family, and many times goes undetected for years. It is crucial to identify and then address learning challenges early in a student’s school career to insure that he or she develops a sense of self-worth and autonomy and a desire to learn.
Common questions parents and students ask are, “Is my student normal? Am I normal? Am I to blame for my student’s problems? Can the clinician help us as parents? Can he or she help my student? What is wrong? Is there a diagnosis and if so, what is it? Does my student need additional medical or psychological testing? What are the clinician’s recommendations? How can my family assist in the implementation of these recommendations? Does my student need treatment? Do I need treatment? What is the process?
What is the process? The psychologist will conduct two full clinical interviews. One interview will be conducted with the student, and the second interview will be conducted with the parents/guardian. The same questions are asked during both interviews. It is important for the psychologist to assess the student’s personal experiences and opinions as well as the parent/guardian’s personal experiences and opinions surrounding the presenting issues. During this clinical interview, a full history will be taken addressing areas such as the family and student’s medical and mental health histories, the student’s academic history, and social skills. Additional questions addressing interpersonal family dynamics, the student’s personal strengths and weaknesses, and the student’s ability to regulate emotions as well as their ability to apply coping skills to every day academic and personal stressors will be addressed as well.
Once the clinical interviews are completed, psycho-educational testing is scheduled. A psycho-educational battery is a comprehensive assessment that measures a student’s cognitive and achievement abilities. The achievement tests will measure where the student performs academically in areas such as reading, writing, and math. For example, the student may physically be in the 8th grade, but they may perform at the 5th grade 6th month level in reading, the 6th grade level in writing, and the 4th grade level in math. When a child is not performing on grade-level, they will struggle to maintain the same academic pace as their peers. Many times, emotional and behavioral issues may occur as a result. The cognitive assessments will measure a variety of cognitive functions such as the student’s intelligence level, problem solving, conceptualization, planning and organization, attention span, memory, learning style, language abilities and perceptual and motor abilities. Additional areas that are assessed include his or her learning style, emotional regulation and behavioral functions. The entire psycho-educational battery is conducted by a specially trained psychometrist and/or psychologist who are qualified to administer such tests. A psycho-educational assessment is definitely time intensive, as it involves many hours of testing and several sessions (typically a total of 4).
What happens at the final session? The psychologist will provide an extensive report and spend time going over every aspect of that report with the parents/guardian. Findings will be presented, including a diagnosis, and a discussion regarding the treatment plan and recommendations individually designed for the student and the family. In order to gain a clear picture of the many aspects of the presenting issue, the case formulation within the report describes the child's problems and explains them in terms that the parents and student can understand. All aspects of the child’s history (i.e. developmental, medical, mental, academic, interpersonal relationships, social skills, emotional regulation, personal strengths and weaknesses), in conjunction with the testing results, are combined within in the formulation. Then, the psychologist will work together with the family to help the student achieve their potential.
Are other professionals needed as well? Sometimes, it is necessary to administer further assessments or particular types of evaluations in order to delve deeper to find the best possible approaches to address the academic and learning issues present. As a result, parents may receive a recommendation from the psychologist for further testing; such as a neuropsychological battery in order to assess potential brain damage caused by a head injury (for example a concussion caused from a sports injury) and/or an organic brain injury (originating from birth), a speech and language evaluation, and/or a referral to a psychiatrist (a physician who can prescribe medication, as psychologists in Georgia do not currently prescribe medications) or a family physician to screen for a potential medical condition that may be causing the student’s learning difficulty. Only with the parent/guardians' permission will other significant people; such as the pediatrician, school teachers and counselor, and family members, be contacted to provide additional information about the student. However, student’s benefit greatly when all professionals work together in the best interest of the student and the family.
Now What? Sometimes tutorial assistance and extra encouragement is all it takes to help a child reach his or her potential. A professional tutoring company with a proven track record of success will let you know as soon as they suspect that additional support is needed. As a parent/guardian, you are your child’s best advocate. Knowledge is power. It is important for parents to be informed so they can then make sound decisions based on facts, rather than suspicion feelings.
I hope this article provides you with the knowledge and insight you need to help your child succeed. If you would like to discuss your child’s academics, ability to experience maximum success in school, and/or whether a psycho-educational battery is warranted, you may contact Carol at firstname.lastname@example.org.