A Psychoeducational evaluation is a process of using different tests, interviews, observations, and analysis of background information and reports to determine an individual’s learning strengths and weaknesses. A Psychoeducational evaluation is often recommended when a student struggles to work up to their full potential in some aspect of learning, such as reading, writing, arithmetic, memory, attention, organizational skills, time management issues, and processing speed. The evaluation should be tailored to each individual and used to answer the unique questions about that person’s learning profile. A psychoeducational evaluation is used in the diagnosis of learning disabilities, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia, behavior problems, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression and anxiety.
Since many learning issues have complex cause and effect relationships, they can be easily misunderstood without a comprehensive evaluation. Learning differences and behavioral/emotional issues have many components that may affect a student’s learning. Knowing how an individual learns, and what his strengths and weaknesses are will help make the best choices for intervention and therapies. The results from testing can also help students, parents and educators avoid wasting time with strategies that are ineffective. In many cases, psychoeducational evaluations are a necessary step for admission to programs in schools designed to help students with academic concerns even at the college or university level. Additionally, physicians often require a complete evaluation before prescribing medications that may have a positive impact on a student’s learning. Furthermore, a psychoeducational evaluation is a necessary component to justify accommodations on standardized tests such as the SSAT, PSAT, AP exams, SAT, and ACT.
Typically a privately conducted evaluation can be completed sooner than in the public system. In many cases, public schools collect 12 weeks of data as part of the Response to Intervention process (RTI) before or while an evaluation is completed. This can mean several valuable months are lost before problems are identified and intervention provided.Private evaluations tend to be more comprehensive than those in the public system and are, therefore, often able to identify more subtle aspects of learning which can lead to more advantageous interventions. Often times, these recommendations are for services outside of what the public schools can offer or would even suggest.Information from private evaluations is confidential and does not automatically become a part of a student’s record. While it is typically useful to share information for strategies that might be helpful for a student’s academic success with those directly involved in their education, it is up to parents to decide whether to share the results with the school and others.
There are four basic components of our psychoeducational evaluations:
Intellectual – Intelligence or ability testing gives a picture of the student’s overall ability so expectations can be realistic and effective.
Academic achievement – The basics of learning: reading, writing, arithmetic and their subcomponents are thoroughly examined through individually administered academic achievement tests. For younger children it often means looking at prerequisite skills.
Information processing – This is often the most useful and informative part of the evaluation: attempting to answer why a student is having difficulty and what to do about it. Areas often covered are: visual, auditory and tactile processing, memory, attention span and executive functioning.
Social-emotional – Here the focus is on emotional issues such as depression and anxiety, as well as behavioral concerns that often co-exist in students with academic issues.The results of the individual tests are then compiled and analyzed. Recommendations and strategies are then provided in a detailed written report.
Below are the 5 main steps generally performed in a Psychoeducational evaluation.
1. Initial consultation – Parents and professionals meet to gather background and history information, address questions, and decide which tests are relevant. Rating scales are given for parents and teachers to complete.
2. Testing Sessions – Testing will generally take from two to three sessions, depending on the referral concerns and the extensiveness of the evaluation requested. Tests are administered on an individual basis, not in a group setting.
3. Test scoring and interpretation – The tests are scored and integrated with questionnaires and rating scales completed by the student, parents and teachers. Patterns and consistencies are gleaned from these multiple sources in order to develop a learning profile.
4. Feedback session – The information obtained including strengths and weaknesses will be discussed. Specific strategies that address the concerns will be given. A written report covering all results is provided within a few weeks.
5. Follow-up consultation – Follow-up meetings may be helpful. The meetings may include reviewing results with school personnel or follow-up appointments months later to evaluate progress. Meeting with older children and teenagers directly to review results can also be useful in making sure the child feels a part of the process.
Recommendations for interventions vary based on the student’s unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes, a change in school setting is suggested. Other times, the use of accommodations such as extra time to complete tests, including standardized tests, makes the most sense. Limited use of Scantron testing may also be warranted. In addition, medications may be suggested as a part of the treatment regime. Using technology to assist learning (assistive technology) may be worth consideration. Usually several recommendations are offered and are individually tailored to each person.
Once children have been diagnosed with learning issues, it is standard practice to recommend a complete re-evaluation within 3-5 years. It is helpful to see how individuals have improved with the prescribed interventions as well as to identify areas that continue to need to be addressed or any new problems that may have arisen. Often times the diagnosis does not change, but the interventions and accommodations do. Older children and teenagers may need the help of accommodations to cope with their learning concerns. Standardized tests (IOWA’s, PSAT, AP exams, ACT, SAT, GRE etc.) often require updated evaluations to justify the continuing of accommodations during test administration.Though the testing process can be confusing and overwhelming, the results are crucial to understanding a child’s learning profile. The results can then lead directly to remediation recommendations as well as accommodations. Understanding an individual’s strengths and weaknesses can help teachers, therapists and other professionals ensure that student’s success and increase their ability to live up to their potential.
I am considered an out-of-network provider. Most insurance companies do not cover psychoeducational evaluations for learning disorders. Sometimes clients use money from their FSA or HSA accounts to cover evaluation costs. Payment for psychoeducational evaluations is broken into two payments. Half is due at the first appointment and the remainder due at the time of the conference to review results. Checks and cash are accepted. Specific fee information is available upon request.