Q:How can a psycho-educational assessment be helpful? What can I learn from this type of evaluation?
A comprehensive evaluation begins with a good history, a solid understanding of the presenting questions, and valid test data. A skilled interpretation of test data provides much more than a page of numbers and scores. By comparing patterns of strengths and weaknesses across different cognitive domains, and applying this to the context of the "whole child," valuable information about learning style can be identified. This will help to guide practical interventions, and answer questions about the types of environments that fit best for a particular student.
Q: My eight-year-old son presents a confusing picture. He has always been ahead of his peers academically; he began reading early, has an expansive curiosity, focuses for very long periods on topics that interest him, and is very quick to learn new concepts. However, he is having a very difficult time at school this year. The teacher says he does not pay attention and he talks a lot. He complains of being bored, and he often fails to complete many class and homework assignments. I am not sure if he is simply not engaging in school because he needs a greater challenge to keep him interested, or if there are learning or attention issues also at play. How can an evaluation help us better understand his needs, find the right learning environment, and better advocate for him at school?
When questions about giftedness and school adaptation arise, objective testing is often a good place to start. There are many important aspects related to school performance such as drive, "emotional intelligence," and persistence over time that typical tests do not sample. However, validated, normed IQ tests, and a detailed history and interpretation, can tell a lot about learning, and the types of academic programs that fit best for a particular student.
In some cases, gifted students can present with an asynchronous profile; they may exhibit pronounced strengths in certain domains, along with significantly greater difficulty in others. While on the one hand they may negotiate complex concepts and solve advanced problems with facility, sustaining their focus and completing a simple task or worksheet can seem difficult. This can be due to motivation and interest level, or in some cases, there may be coexisting attention or executive functioning challenges. Students with this type of 'asynchronous' profile can be misunderstood in a classroom setting; their individual learning needs, as well as their strengths may be under-recognized.
A more comprehensive learning assessment may be indicated to better understand the source of these challenges: This type of assessment includes: IQ assessment of Intellectual and Cognitive functioning, Academic Testing, and Neuropsychological measures designed to look at the "building blocks" of learning. These neuropsychological measures include:
- memory (verbal and visual)
- language skills
- attention and executive functioning
- speed of processing
- visual perceptual and auditory processing
- visuo-motor coordination
- psychological and socio-emotional functioning.
Q: I am a college student and I am having significant difficulty concentrating and completing my work. I am starting to wonder if I might have an undiagnosed learning disability or an attention disorder. How will an evaluation help me understand why I am having so much difficulty and the ways I can deal with this?
This is a common question for many college-age students. There are many reasons for these types of complaints and they may not always fall into the category of a learning difference, ADHD, or disability. In some instances, a full evaluation is not necessary, and a detailed history and interview will help to identify the source of difficulties, and the appropriate resources and referrals for the student.
In other cases, there may be learning and/or attention issues for which the student may have compensated in the past; however, these issues now become more evident as demands increase at the college level. A comprehensive evaluation will help to identify the sources for these difficulties, the student’s profile of strengths and weaknesses, and the strategies and accommodations that may help the student better succeed in his/her environment.
If the student requires learning accommodations within the college or university, or for standardized entrance exams (such as the SAT, GRE, GMAT, LSAT or MCAT, DAT, or licensure tests), he/she would submit the evaluation report to the respective agencies, as part of the application process.
Q: How many sessions are scheduled, and what are they like? Are weekends available for testing?
The sessions take place in a quiet, comfortable office. Initial time is spent insuring that clients of all ages feel comfortable and informed.
- The number and length of sessions depends on the referral question, the age of the student, and other special circumstances. Generally, the "face to face" portions of the learning evaluations can run anywhere from 1-3 sessions.
- Students generally find the time moves quickly, and there are a wide variety of tasks that are introduced. Many of the activities are “hands-on”, “puzzle-like”, problem-solving tasks, while others may seem more like traditional, school-based tasks.
- Weekend appointments are an option for students who choose to minimize their hours away from school or work.