This post was first published November 5, 2015.
In my last post, I discussed the fact that there are many different issues that can interfere with your child’s learning. I said that it is important to find out as much as you can about your child’s learning profile so that you can obtain the proper help. A psychoeducational evaluation is critical to understanding exactly how your child learns. Here, in a nutshell, are the pieces that make up a typical psychoeducational report:
- Developmental History and Background Information: Your evaluator will conduct a lengthy interview with you to learn as much as possible about your child before working with him or her. In addition to questions about developmental milestones, they will ask about family history of learning disabilities, ADHD, and more.
- Observations During Testing: The evaluator will share their observations about your child’s abilities to complete assigned tasks, to process verbal and written information, and to pay attention.
- Cognitive Functioning: The WISC IV or V is the most frequently used tool, but there are others that give you equally important information. Examples of these include the DAS (Differential Ability Scales), the RIAS (Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales), and the Stanford Binet. Intelligence tests typically include a measure of a child’s intellectual strengths and weaknesses, as well as a measure of a child’s cognitive potential.
- Oral Language Skills: This portion of the test addresses your child’s phonological processing, including phonological awareness (the ability to analyze sounds, segment words and blend sounds), phonological memory (the ability to hold information in short term memory), and rapid naming (the ability to efficiently retrieve phonological information from long-term memory).
- Comprehension: Tests given here are designed to assess a child’s ability to understand words, word relationships, sentences, and conversational speech (receptive language).
- Verbal Expression: These tasks are designed to assess a child’s ability to communicate feelings, perceptions, and ideas (expressive language).
- Visual Processing & Visual-Spatial-Motor Integration: Your tester uses these instruments to evaluate your child’s skills, such as visual perception, discrimination, and memory on school achievement. Difficulty with these tasks may mean that your child will struggle with letter recognition and number recognition.
- Academic Achievement Testing: The report should also contain information about your child’s level of academic achievement as measured by tests like the WIAT (Wechsler Individual Achievement Test), the KTEA (Kauffman Test of Educational Achievement), and/or the Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement. Specific testing is given to address your child’s reading and reading readiness skills. Also tested is your child’s ability to express himself or herself in writing and his or her mathematics skills. This is an important part of the assessment, because it tells you whether your child is performing academically at the level one would predict, given his or her intellectual potential. A discrepancy here is an indication that there are factors interfering with his or her ability to learn.
- Behavioral and Emotional Functioning: Instruments in this portion of the test are used to assess your child’s social and emotional skills.
- Summary: This is the portion of the test where your evaluator summarizes the findings, makes diagnoses, if any, and recommends future educational steps, as well as academic strategies and tips for educational interventions.
Once your child’s testing is completed and scored, the psychologist will sit down and review the results with you. This is your opportunity to learn just what issues are interfering with your child’s ability to learn. Your child may be diagnosed with ADHD, a receptive and/or expressive language disorder, weak processing skills, dysgraphia (difficulty with fine motor skills and handwriting), dyscalculia (difficulty with math), poor working memory, or some combination of these. Be certain to ask for details about what the diagnoses mean, and make sure that you receive information about ways to address each diagnosed learning disability. Ask about accommodations, such as extended time (if your child processes slowly or has dysgraphia which prevents them from completing work in a timely fashion), tests read aloud, seat placement at the front of the class, writing answers in the test booklet instead of bubbling in on a “scantron” form (your child may have visual tracking issues that make it hard to transition from a test booklet or chalk board to paper), having directions repeated (your child may difficulty with auditory processing), and reduced work load.
Remember, every piece of information about your child’s learning needs is important. It can be daunting to hear about all of your child’s issues, but when you are armed with this information, you can begin to find the help your child needs to be successful. If your psychologist recommends a complete speech and language evaluation or an occupational therapy evaluation, it is in your child’s best interests to follow that recommendation. I know it feels like your child has been tested beyond belief, but the answers you receive will help ensure that his or her academic future will be as productive as possible.
Finally, an evaluation usually ends with an admonition to enjoy “the whole child.” A child is so much more than a student . . . they are adored family members, friends, athletes, artists, problem-solvers, and caring, empathetic human beings. The list goes on and on. Just be sure to love them for who they are and continue to give them the all the caring and support they need.
(For more information on learning issues related to dyslexia, visit Understanding Dyslexia, by Emily Lapkin.)