By Jacqueline Howe, Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist, Testing Director and Clinical Director at Soffer & Associates Comprehensive Psychological Services
A psychoeducational assessment is often performed to evaluate the underlying cognitive processes that impact your child’s functioning in academic settings. The results of this type of evaluation will provide you with information about how your child processes information, approaches problems, and responds to learning demands. There may be many reasons why your child is struggling. As such, these evaluations often also involve a comprehensive inquiry into your child’s functioning across several domains in order to understand not only the cognitive and academic factors but also the psychological, emotional, and behavioral factors that may be inhibiting a child from reaching their full potential.
Typically, a psychoeducational assessment is comprised of multiple components. First, a psychologist will conduct a background review, in which they gather information about your child’s developmental history and functioning at home, at school, and in social situations. This information is gathered through various methods; academic, medical, and mental health records, interviews with you and your child, and completion of standardized questionnaires.
Next, the psychologist conducts psychological testing, which involves the administration of standardized, validated psychological tests. The testing battery is tailored to your child’s individual needs but often includes measures of intelligence, academic skills, memory, attention, executive functioning (e.g., organization, inhibition, flexible thinking), language, and emotional/behavioral functioning. Some of these tests are paper-and-pencil measures, while others are computerized. Testing can take anywhere between 2 and 8 hours, depending on the nature of the evaluation.
The psychologist then interprets these tests and writes a report. Your child’s test performance is interpreted according to norms, or standards of performance on a particular test established through large surveys of children with similar demographic characteristics, which allows the psychologist to determine whether a child’s performance on a given measure represents a strength or a weakness. Then the child’s test performance is integrated with other information gathered through interviews, record review, and questionnaire responses to develop a comprehensive understanding of the child’s cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning. This understanding leads to a formulation about how your child’s functioning across different domains may be impacting their academic performance. This information is then documented in a detailed report that includes recommendations for interventions at school and at home. Finally, the assessment process culminates in a feedback session, during which parents are provided with a detailed explanation of the results of the assessment. At this time it is also discussed how assessment results can be utilized to inform treatment planning and service provisions.
How do I know if my child needs to be tested?
Every child’s abilities and needs are different. A few bad grades, some difficulty re-acclimating to in-person learning, or off-handed comments about having trouble paying attention in a certain subject are usually normative and probably do not warrant full-scale testing. However, some signs that your child may benefit from a psychoeducational assessment include:
Your child consistently works/studies hard, but their grades do not reflect their effort.
Your child understands the material they are studying in school but struggles to complete their homework because of poor attention, planning, or organizational skills.
Your child’s grades in a particular subject are significantly lower than their grades in other subjects.
A teacher has noticed that your child has difficulty paying attention and remaining on-task in the classroom.
Your child experiences behavioral or emotional difficulties in school or at home.
Your child consistently does not want to go to or does not like school.
If your child is showing any of these signs, you should always consult with your pediatrician first. If your pediatrician feels it is necessary, he/she will likely refer you to a psychologist or neuropsychologist who will be helpful in providing you with more information about how your child’s testing needs can best be met.
Jacqueline Howe, Ph.D. is a Licensed Psychologist and the Testing Director and Clinical Director at Soffer & Associates Comprehensive Psychological Services. DrAriellaSoffer.com