Psychological Testing

 
 

Evaluation Types

When it comes to obtaining an evaluation for your child, it can be confusing as a parent or guardian to determine what kind of evaluation is needed to assess overall abilities to guide the development of appropriate supports. A psychological assessment is helpful in identifying your child’s strengths and weaknesses and will lead to recommendations for cognitive, academic, communication, social/emotional and/or behavioral interventions. Psychological? Psychoeducational? Neuropsychological?  They may sound similar, but there are important differences between each of these evaluations.

In general, most psychological assessment is a process of testing that uses a combination of techniques to help address an individual’s needs, behavior, personality and capabilities. Various battery of tests are administered to evaluate your child’s unique functioning. The test battery varies depending upon the referral question(s), and can include a structured interview, assessment of intellectual capability, learning/processing measures, measures of attention and memory, academic achievement measures, behavior rating scales, self-report surveys, checklists, and observations.

Each evaluation uses standardized assessments and rating scales.  All of them also typically include observations of the child and interviews with the parent, child and the child’s teachers. Some evaluators are certified in multiple areas, such as both School Psychology and Neuropsychology. Regardless of which type of evaluation is conducted, when a parent is looking for guidance to develop an appropriate supports and interventions, it is important to have the child evaluated by a person who has a background working in both schools and medical settings, who will observe the child in the school setting, who will obtain input from both the child’s family and school personnel, who will review the child’s educational and medical history in detail, and who will conduct comprehensive assessments of all of the child’s areas of need.

 

Psychological Evaluation

Generally performed by clinical or licensed psychologists who work in hospitals, schools, or in private practices. Psychological Evaluations can include many of the same formal assessments as Psychoeducational and Neuropsychological Evaluations in order to examine your child’s psychological, emotional, and behavioral functioning.  However, Psychological Evaluations are typically intended to guide diagnosis and treatment from a medical perspective, not from an educational perspective.  Clinical psychologists typically do not have a background in education and therefore may not be familiar with schools or the specific accommodations or services that support your child with disabilities in school settings.

 

Psychoeducational Evaluation

Generally, Performed by school psychologists or other learning specialists who usually work directly in schools or have a background working in schools. These evaluations typically include formal assessments of a child’s intelligence and a child’s academic achievement in addition to other assessments. Psychoeducational evaluations seek to understand a child’s learning style and then guide the development of classroom accommodations and supports from an educational perspective. Psychoeducational evaluations are generally not as broad in scope as neuropsychological evaluations, and usually do not include formal assessments of the specific domains of cognitive functioning (attention, memory, executive functioning, language, etc). The testing usually does not take as long to administer as neuropsychological evaluations. Because they are more limited in scope, psychoeducational evaluations may not provide the level of data needed to fully assess, diagnose, and recommend treatment for disabilities involving language, attention, executive functioning, or other more complex social/emotional and learning-related difficulties.  They focus more on identifying the child’s difficulties in the classroom (i.e. what is happening) rather than examining the underlying brain origins and neurocognitive processes that are causing the child’s difficulties in the classroom (i.e. why it is happening).

 

Neuropsychological Evaluation

Typically performed by psychologists who specialize in Neuropsychology, which is a field that focuses on understanding brain-behavior relationships and goes beyond school psychology and clinical psychology. Neuropsychological evaluations examine how a child’s brain functions and how that functioning impacts the child’s behavior and learning. Neuropsychological evaluations are typically much broader in scope than psychological or psychoeducational evaluations, and thus usually take much longer to administer. Neuropsychological evaluations typically include assessments of intelligence and academic achievement, but also go even further to include formal assessments of the specific domains of cognitive functioning that are controlled by different regions of the brain, such as executive functioning, visual-perceptual abilities, information processing, attention and concentration, learning and memory, sensory perception, language, adaptive skills, and fine motor skills.  By examining a child’s underlying neurocognitive processes in greater detail, a neuropsychological evaluation can provide deeper insight into why your child is having certain difficulties, what their learning strengths and weaknesses are, and what interventions can be used to successfully address their difficulties both at home and school.

Each evaluation uses standardized assessments and rating scales.  All of them also typically include observations of the child and interviews with the parent, child and sometimes the child’s teachers.  Some evaluators are certified in multiple areas, such as both School Psychology and Neuropsychology.  Regardless of which type of evaluation is conducted, when a parent is looking for guidance to develop an appropriate IEP or 504 Plan for his/her child, it is important to have the child evaluated by a person who has a background working in schools, who will observe the child in the school setting, who will obtain input from both the child’s family and school personnel, who will review the child’s educational and medical history in detail, and who will conduct comprehensive assessments of all of the child’s areas of need.