What is a psychoeducational assessment?
Psychoeducational assessments measure a child's cognitive and academic strengths and weaknesses. If required, memory and attention strengths and weaknesses can also be assessed. Generally children are referred for these assessments when they are having difficulties at school, or they are doing very well at school and may be getting bored.
The aim is to provide a thorough assessment which takes into account information from a number of sources and considers different possibilities for difficulties. We aim to make recommendations that will assist children and their families to do the best they can do. We ask families and schools to give us feedback on the assessments and reports and try to use this information to improve our service.
Why might a child or adolescent require a psychoeducational assessment?
If a child is having difficulty, an assessment can identify whether this is because their cognitive or intellectual (brain) development is delayed or behind that of other children their age. Sometimes children have an uneven development of skills - for example, they may have well developed spatial skills (the sorts of skills used to put together puzzles or identify patterns that go together) but less developed verbal skills (such as giving the meaning of words). Unevenly developed skills can make learning difficult for children. Being aware of a child's strength (more developed skills) and weaknesses (less developed skills) means parents and teachers can give children information to learn at their level, and in a way they are more likely to understand.
An assessment can also identify weaknesses in memory and attention. Such problems can make learning difficult for children.
Using a memory test can give more information about the nature of the difficulty - for example, whether the problems are with visual memory (such as for faces or locations of objects) or verbal memory (words or stories) and/or with attention and concentration.
Attention and concentration problems
Problems with attention and concentration can indicate a child may have Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). This will be considered during the assessment and information considered from the testing, parents and the child's school will be used to determine if criteria for this disorder are met.
If a child does not have an intellectual problem yet is struggling to learn, consideration will be given to a diagnosis of learning disorders (sometimes called learning disability or dyslexia).
Behavioural and emotional problems
A child or adolescent's academic difficulties may be due to the behaviour - for example, they may not be motivated to complete schoolwork or may be misbehaving at school and not getting work done. This behaviour may be due to emotional problems such as anxiety and depression, and can be associated with family problems.
Superior intelligence (sometimes called gifted)
Children who perform very well on an intellectual assessment may be of superior intelligence (sometimes called gifted). Consideration is given to the need for extention in schoolwork to keep them interested and learning, as well as how they are developing socially and emotionally.
What is the process of an assessment?
- As assessment begins with a brief interview with parents to gain information about what the nature of the problem is, the child's developmental history and school history. It is useful to bring relevant school reports, from any other professionals consulted and any previous testing/assessments done.
- Testing occurs with the child alone (parents use a waiting room) and usually takes three sessions. This is best done in the morning when children tend to be more focused and breaks are scheduled depending on the needs of the child.
- In addition, parents are asked to fill out a questionnaire regarding their child and a questionnaire is provided to be given to the class teacher. Children are often also asked to fill in a questionnaire to gain their perspective. This information can then be compared to other children of the same age and can help to identify the nature of the problems.