Assessments are valuable in making decisions about your child’s educational and therapeutic needs. The Southfield Center offers comprehensive psychological evaluations, as well as a range of other specialized assessments. There are many different reasons why parents may choose to have their child tested or that a school may recommend testing. An assessment is often the most expedient way to determine:
- if a child is behind grade level
- if there is a learning disability
- optimal interventions and to prioritize treatments
- what may be contributing to social, emotional, or behavioral difficulties
- progress toward a specific learning or social goal
Choosing the right psychologist or team of evaluators to administer an evaluation is often a confusing and difficult process. Getting the right “fit” for your child and your family is important. The Southfield Center believes that a child is best served when they have an expert case manager who is responsible for all aspects of the evaluation, but who has a team of over 25 other psychologists, educators, and other specialists ready to consult on your child’s strengths and needs.
To help you decide if we are the right fit, we have developed a list of questions and answers (FAQs). Click on the appropriate question below for a detailed response:
- A psychoeducational assessment is used to determine the underlying cognitive, or thinking, processes that affect a person’s educational and functional performance. Psychoeducational testing entails a full battery of tests that are designed to measure cognitive skills, the ability to process different types of sensory information, ascertain academic achievement in different areas (e.g. reading, writing, mathematics), determine language proficiency, and evaluate some nonacademic processes that are related to learning, such as the ability to copy symbols quickly or remember lists of numbers. For clients who are experiencing learning issues, Southfield’s psychologists can provide focused learning disability evaluations with recommendations that emphasize research- proven interventions for these learning disorders.
· A psychological assessment will include the above, but also provide detailed insight into a student’s social and emotional functioning to identify relevant needs.
· Conducted by a highly trained specialist in brain development, a neuropsychological assessment addresses the needs of individuals who are demonstrating neurodevelopmental delays due to birth or genetic conditions, or to address concerns about possible effects from concussion and/or traumatic brain injury.
- to determine if the child is behind grade level
- to confirm a suspicion of a learning disability
- to verify that a child has the same learning disability as his/her sibling or parent
- to determine what kind of help a child might need
- to measure progress toward a specific social or educational goal
- to determine if the child requires specialized instruction in school or requires accommodations, like extra time on tests.
Parents should ask themselves the following questions prior to testing:
- What are my concerns, and can I define them clearly?
- What questions am I trying to answer?
- What do I hope to accomplish with testing?
- What decisions am I trying to make with the results of the testing?
Parents should resist jumping into testing before they are clear about what they hope to accomplish. They should know what they are concerned about, and should develop specific questions they would like answered. Doing this will help the evaluator choose the most appropriate, specialized tests to fit the referral concern. Testing can help provide an explanation for a problem your child has. It is not always necessary for understanding what is wrong, but it can prove essential for an accurate diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan. For example, if a child is having difficulty with writing, it could be due to a number of problems, including visual-motor integration delays, problems generating ideas, organizational difficulties, or inattention. Likewise, many other problems children experience can be due to a variety of factors. With the right testing, you can uncover what the cause of the problem is, and what interventions can be put into place to help your child succeed in that specific area of difficulty.
Testing is conducted over two to four visits. A minimum of 6 hours will be spent 1:1 with your child. After data is collected, it takes about two to three weeks to score, interpret and write up the test results. We will then review results with you and discuss recommended next steps.
In terms of the testing itself, the evaluation covers four major areas:
- a cognitive (intelligence) test;
- tests of information processing;
- tests of academic achievement;
- and tests of behavioral-social- emotional functioning.
The cognitive battery is commonly administered to provide the child’s baseline level of aptitude. Cognitive batteries assess the child’s different cognitive abilities. In other words, they measure different mental processes the child uses when he/she is faced with different tasks. Cognitive batteries are also commonly called “intelligence tests,” although they can assess much more than the child’s overall intellect. These tests can help identify a child’s particular cognitive strengths and weaknesses.
Tests of the child’s ability to process visual, verbal, and other sensory stimuli are also administered. This section of testing also looks at memory abilities and the capability to focus on tasks. Additional areas of focus can be added based upon the referral questions. The third area of evaluation involves tests of academic achievement. These tests are designed to measure what a child has actually learned, usually, the child’s reading, writing, and mathematics skills. Most achievement tests focus on a particular subject and measure the child’s learning with questions of varying difficulty. The child’s score is then compared to a nationwide average of other students, either who are of the same age as your child, or who are in the same grade as your child (these are referred to as “age-based norms,” and “grade-based norms,” respectively). This area of testing can help us to determine if there is an underlying learning disability.
A final area of focus includes measures of a child’s social and emotional development. For some children, this area is not of great concern; and this portion of the testing may include some basic rating scales completed by parents and teachers in combination with observations of the child during testing. For other children, this is an area of primary concern and in addition to the above items, the child will be administered objective and projective personality tests. Projective personality techniques present the student with a vague stimulus that he/she is asked to provide his/her interpretation of the content and form of the stimulus. Objective personality techniques provide him with specific statements that he/she is asked to endorse based upon their applicability to his/her current life. Each of these tests is analyzed to provide insight into a child’s feelings and how he/she is coping with stressors in his/her life.
- Complete Background History – Here at the Southfield Center, we have a standard History Form
- Any previous testing done by another evaluator, including written reports
- Writing samples (especially first drafts, rather than final, edited versions)
- Standardized test results from school
- Medical records and information about hearing and/or vision problems
- Comments or concerns expressed by teachers or other professionals
“You will be spending some time with XXX today. You are going to be doing a bunch of different things, like playing with blocks, looking at pictures, and listening to stories. Many of these activities will seem like games, and they will indeed, be fun. Basically, XXX is going to see how you learn and solve problems, so try your best. There might be some math, reading, or writing too. Some things you do are going to be really easy, but some are going to be harder. Just try your best on all of the activities you do with XXX. XXX is really nice, and I think that you will like him/her a lot.”
For older children and adolescents, you can be more straightforward with them. For example,
you can explain testing by saying:
“You are going to be spending a few sessions with XXX. You are going to be doing a bunch of things, like working with blocks, looking at pictures, and listening to stories. You will also be doing some math, reading, and writing. Basically, XXX is going to find out how you learn best. Remember how lately, you’ve been finding math/reading/writing/class work/etc. difficult? Well, XXX is going to figure out why. After the sessions are completed, XXX is also going to give us strategies to help make learning/completing homework/paying attention in class easier.”
In sum, what you say to your child about testing depends on a couple of factors, specifically, the age of the child, and to what extent the child is knowledgeable or aware about their area of difficulty. Once the child is with the evaluator, we will spend time helping him/her to feel comfortable and will explain the reasons for different things he/she is doing.
However, it should be noted that some testing evaluations are shorter than others, depending on the referral concern. If fewer tests are administered, it usually takes less time to score, interpret, and write-up the report. In this instance, it is very possible that the clinician can review the results with you under a shorter time frame.
Reason for Referral usually includes the reason why the child was brought to be tested. It may include behaviors the child was exhibiting, or what the parent or teacher was concerned about which precipitated the assessment. Background Information usually includes the child’s psychological, educational, and medical history. The child’s interpersonal relationships are also commonly commented upon. Behavioral Observations consists of aspects of the child’s behavior that the clinician observed during the testing sessions, such as the child’s appearance, interpersonal skills, speech and language, attitude toward the testing, motor activity, motivation, emotions and mood, attention, and persistence. Tests Administered include which specific psychological, academic achievement, emotional, and/or behavioral measures that were completed during the assessment. In the Testing Results section, the evaluator will usually write a detailed description of how the child performed on each task, and what it means in layman terms. Lastly, the Summary section, as the name implies, will summarize the assessment results, and the Recommendations section will be comprised of various suggestions and strategies to help your child, which will be based on the testing findings. At Southfield, we make every effort to
provide recommendations that are actionable and based upon scientific research.
The second way in which the testing results will be provided to you is during an in-person feedback session. During this 60 – 90 minute session, the evaluator will review the evaluation results and recommendations. In rare situations, a parent cannot meet in person for the feedback session. While this is not optimal, another alternative is to mail the report to the parent and conduct the session over the phone.
The third part of the feedback is a meeting with the child. In this session, the psychologist uses developmentally appropriate language to describe the child’s strengths and any areas that should be strengthened.
If you want the results shared with others, you can take two actions. First, you can bring that person with you to the feedback session (or dial them in for a conference call over the phone). Alternatively, if the person is not able to be physically present (and the person is not available over the phone) for the feedback session, you may sign a release form. On the form, you will be asked to indicate to which specific person or organization you would like the results conveyed.
Once this form is completed and signed, only then can the results be released to that specific person or organization.
At the school meeting, make sure that the school psychologist is present at the meeting, because usually that person can help the other school staff understand the testing results. Also, it may be beneficial to have the person who tested your child to be at the meeting, although it is not imperative. This would be your personal choice as there is often an additional expense associated with a testing psychologist attending a school meeting.
At the meeting, be sure to have your child’s testing results reviewed in detail, highlighting his/her areas of weakness. If your child’s difficulty impairs his/her functioning in school, you may be able to obtain services through an intervention plan or through having your child classified as being in need of special education (in the public school system). This determination would be made by the team that reviews the test results, with you as a member of that team. Even if your child does not meet criteria for classification, you still may be able to obtain supports and services from the school. Most teachers are aware and sensitive to students’ individual needs and their unique learning styles, and therefore will be accommodating in the classroom. Many teachers will provide the beneficial services to students, even if it is not state-mandated. Either way, whether your child meets federal criteria or not, it is necessary to convey the student’s strengths and weaknesses to the school, to help ensure that the student can achieve academic, behavioral, and emotional success.
certain situations may arise which warrant testing more frequently than once every three years. For example, if a child exhibits a significant change in emotions, behaviors, or academic skills, and that change continues to manifest itself for a considerable amount of time, it may be a good idea to have your child re-tested. Something may be occurring in the student’s life which is impacting their daily functioning, and it could worsen if it is not addressed. This does not mean
that children should be tested every time they exhibit a characteristic which is not typically representative of themselves; it means that if a significant change occurs and is exhibited for a considerable amount of time, it may benefit your child to be tested in that area.