Our inherent nature is always to want the best for our children – to see them making progress with each passing year. However, no matter how hard they might strive or how much we might help, there may be times that they cannot or do not meet the expectations of where we, or their teachers, may think they should be. That is the time to consider whether psychoeducational evaluations could shed some light on the subject.
In this report, we are going to answer the following questions about psychoeducational evaluations:
- What is a psychoeducational evaluation?
- When should you consider an evaluation?
- Who does these evaluations?
- Can I have the school do it, and if so, what are the pros and cons?
- How long does the psychoeducational evaluation take?
- What answers does it provide?
- What does it not provide?
- Can the school use this report against my child?
What Is a Psychoeducational Evaluation?
A psychoeducational evaluation is a series of tests used to determine if your child has some form of learning disability or issue impacting their learning ability. The purpose of the evaluation is to assess the following:
- Academic achievement levels
- Behavioral issues
- Cognitive abilities
- General emotional issues
- Information processing abilities
The psychologist will use a specialized battery of tests to evaluate your child, which may include any of the following:
To test for cognitive abilities (IQ)
- The Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC)
- The Stanford-Binet Test of Cognitive Ability
- The Full Scale IQ consists of subtests centered around four basic areas that assess the ability to reason, mentally process routine information quickly, use verbal skills, and pay attention and retain information:
- Perceptual Reasoning Index (PRI)
- Processing Speed Index (PSI)
- Visual Comprehension Index (VCI)
- Working Memory Index (WMI)
After assessing cognitive abilities, the assessment focuses on broader academic skills, including arithmetic, reading, and writing. One of the tests that may be used here is:
- The Woodcock-Johnson Test of Achievement – which checks academic levels
This area of testing aims to find if a discrepancy exists between cognitive ability and academic performance. Because many schools require a student to be more than one year under their grade level in one of the primary academic areas to receive services, that assessment can better serve them.
Areas of skill assessment include:
- Attention – assess many skills that apply to “paying attention”
- Executive functioning – ability to organize information
- Fluency – the speed of performing automatic tasks accurately
- Phonetic awareness and decoding – ability to associate a letter with its sounds
- Reading comprehension – ability to comprehend, process, and recall information that the child has read
- Working memory – ability to retain information long enough to utilize it
The doctor will also interview the child, the parents, and any other relevant people (such as teachers) who can shed additional light on the child’s abilities. A review of any pertinent records is included.
It takes a complete evaluation, not just one test, to make a diagnosis of any sort. The psychologist will look for a pattern of weaknesses and strengths that emerge from several tests.
When Should You Consider an Evaluation?
Perhaps your child’s teacher has told you that your child is having difficulty meeting goals or completing assignments. You may have an innate sense that something is not right or that your child is more intelligent than test scores are showing. There may be thoughts that your child is acting out, lazy, or not motivated. These are all signs that a psychoeducational evaluation is in order.
It is also important to note that if your child feels frustrated with their lack of progress or relays any self-blame, shame, or loathing comments, these are signs that a problem may be present. The evaluation can provide crucial information that can help bolster your child’s self-worth.
Remember, learning issues rarely come suddenly. They often impact numerous areas and documenting any concerns over time can help determine a pattern. It is also recommended to speak with your child’s teacher before proceeding with a psychoeducational evaluation, as sometimes extra help or different learning styles may solve the problems.
Here are some of the academic issues to look for when considering an evaluation:
- Poor reading comprehension
- Speech and language delays
- Memory issues with basic math facts
- Poor spelling
- Trouble translating thoughts into writing
- Lower performance in one subject or area
- Trouble remembering things studied
- Difficulty with identifying what information is important from study material
- Poor organization
- Inattention or excessive daydreaming
- Trouble completing long-term projects
- Poor follow-through
- Inability to complete work or tests in the allotted time
- Poor test performance
Who Does the Psychoeducational Evaluation?
Licensed psychologists should perform psychoeducational evaluations with specialized training in this field. Either a Ph.D. or Psy.D. can perform this testing. Programs and specialists that evaluate learning disabilities do not have the training necessary to do comprehensive psychoeducational evaluations. A psychologist should always do this particular assessment.
Can I Have the School do it, and if so, what are the Pros and Cons?
Yes, you can have the child’s school proceed with and pay for the evaluation if they deem it important. There are usually other steps that come before this to identify learning or developmental disabilities. Please know that the school may require you to sign a release of information form so that they can receive a copy.
Also, when the school performs the evaluation, it may only look at areas of their concern. You may get a more thorough assessment when going through a private psychologist that you select. School-based evaluations, especially with younger or bright students, may miss subtle learning issues.
Another con with schools is that it may take longer for the process than with an independent psychologist. That delay can further impact your child’s performance and learning. However, it may be the better option for parents who do not have the money to pay for independent testing.
Whether you have the psychoeducational evaluation done privately or through the school, you are still the owner of the report. Only you can release it (or allow the doctor to release it) to the school or anyone else.
How Long Does the Psychoeducational Evaluation Take?
A proper comprehensive psychoeducational evaluation can take anywhere from three to six hours or more. While it can be administered all in one day, it is often separated into two or more days.
The other issue to inquire about is how long it will take to receive the completed report. Will it take weeks or months? Knowing that answer going in can ease some of the concerns that something is wrong when you do not receive the report right away.
What Answers Does It Provide?
The actual information provided in the report depends on the psychologist you use for the testing. Some doctors provide in-depth information and recommendations, while others are more generalized in their answers. You may want to speak with a few doctors during an interview process to help you select the one that will be most in line with your needs. By telling the doctor what information is crucial to you, they can tailor the report based on what you require.
You can expect to learn more about your child’s strengths and weaknesses, neurological development, and if there is a learning issue of some sort. The most important thing to remember is that there is more to understanding the results than hearing a label.
The evaluation will provide information about your child’s learning style, which can help support your child in understanding that they are smart or capable but learns differently. Discuss with the evaluator what is included and stress the importance of suggestions and recommendations to help your child.
While it can be upsetting for a parent to learn about a child’s learning disorder, it can also pave the way for intervention that can benefit the child. A diagnosis ends speculation and helps you build a support network so that your child can succeed.
What Does It Not Provide?
The psychoeducational evaluation is not the same as neuropsychological evaluation, which checks for many of the same issues and looks at what may be causing problems, such as inherent brain dysfunction or brain injury.
Can the School Use This Report Against My Child?
It is possible that the school can use the information in the report against your child. Your relationship with the school is a crucial factor. If you have a private psychologist perform the evaluation, you are not required to give a copy to the school. The doctor can also give you an abridged version with only the pertinent information needed by the school to assist your child.
You may also want to discuss this topic with your child’s pediatrician, who knows your child and may be able to offer some guidance and referrals.
Providing your child with the best resources to help them succeed can make quite a difference in their life. Uncovering learning disabilities as early as possible can set them up for future success.