Is a Psychoeducational Evaluation Right for Your Child?
You may have heard about psychoeducational evaluation before from an educator or another school professional. But what exactly is it and is it right for your child? Our in-depth guide will give you everything you need to know about these evaluations and if they are right for your child.
Psychoeducational Evaluation – What is it?
A psychoeducational evaluation is a standardized assessment designed to measure children’s cognitive, academic, and behavioral strengths and needs.It can help identify learning challenges and give psychologists a clear picture of the child as a learner. Often, students struggle in school, and the reason is unclear. For many students, the data that these assessments produce is critical to figuring out the basis of learning difficulties. A significant component of the psychological evaluation definition is its comprehensive nature: it unlocks how the child’s behavior and learning are connected. The goal is to use this understanding to help students succeed with their strengths.
How to Know if My Child Requires an Assessment
As a parent, you may see your child having trouble with reading, writing, math, or behaviors at home. By early elementary school, your child may begin to show signs of falling behind in class. Teachers and school professionals are often the first to notice children struggling in their learning, and they may notify you that your child is having trouble. Some of these challenges may manifest in academic discrepancies, attention deficits, and social-emotional issues. If schools see these issues, they frequently recommend a psychoeducational evaluation.
Full Psychoeducational Evaluation Components
If you or your school requests a psychoeducational assessment, a school psychologist will likely evaluate your child. A comprehensive psychoeducational evaluation measures not only academic aptitude but also behavioral and social-emotional issues that may affect a child’s learning abilities. Children are tested in reading, writing, math, communication skills, and motor skills, among others. After the assessment is completed, psychologists compile their observations and results in a detailed report. Many evaluations follow a structured format, broken down into specific components.
In this section, the psychologist obtains background from parents and the student. This information may come from checklists, interviews, and fine motor skills tests. Specialists may also review records to glean more understanding of the student.
Cognitive Skills Evaluation
Next, students are evaluated for cognitive levels and memory skills. Psychologists may use several standardized assessments, including the Woodcock-Johnson IV Test of Cognitive Abilities, Wechsler IQ tests, or the Test of Auditory Processing Skills (TAPS-3). These assessments measure aptitude in an array of cognitive areas, including verbal comprehension, short and long-term memory, working memory, perceptual reasoning, and processing abilities.
Academic Achievement Assessment
In this component, psychologists often refer to previous standardized tests that the student may have taken, or they administer their own. These tests measure ability primarily in core subjects such as math, reading, and writing. After, the test results are lined up next to the cognitive results to search for variations between the data.
Attention and Behavior
The assessor observes the student’s behaviors and attention during the evaluation. Children may exhibit specific actions while undergoing the assessment: impulsivity, attention deficits, hyperactivity, anger, depression, or social concerns. Evaluators may also access behavioral records from school for further understanding.
Another component of the psychoeducational evaluation is executive functioning. In this section, psychologists note students’ cognitive progressions as they perform activities. Some of these skills are organization, time management, and planning.
Adaptive functioning encompasses life skills, those activities that students will need to live independently. These activities include self-care, hygiene, appropriate social interactions, ability to follow the rules, and financial responsibility. Psychologists use this information to shape conclusions as far as possible learning challenges.
Emotional and Personality Evaluation
In private evaluations, children are assessed using informal techniques, such as drawing and storytelling, or through formal assessments such as Rorschach. The results inform psychologists of students’ emotional levels and whether these levels may impact learning and behavior.
As the psychoeducational evaluation progresses, the psychologist uses observation to confirm beliefs and diagnosis. If learning challenges are present in the data, behavioral observation helps to verify these issues.
In the final component of the evaluation, psychologists will include a summary of the academic and cognitive results, as well as behavioral and social-emotional observations they noticed. They also provide recommendations, diagnose learning challenges, and suggest strategies to begin to help the students achieve success.
What is Not Addressed in a Psychoeducational Evaluation Report
While a psychoeducational evaluation report is comprehensive and paints a vivid picture of a learner, some reports go more in-depth. Neuropsychological assessments, for example, go deeper by linking brain function to specific behaviors. If a child has autism, epilepsy, or bipolar disorder, for instance, a more complex assessment than a psychoeducational evaluation may be needed. In some cases, there may be a difference between school-based and private evaluations. Some reports do not address emotional or some behavioral issues the student may be experiencing, so parents should be aware of this difference ahead of time.
How Much is a Psychoeducational Evaluation?
Psychoeducational evaluation costs vary widely, depending on if you have it done privately or through the school. If the school recommends the assessment, then it is free to families. A private psychoeducational evaluation, meanwhile, can range from $2,000 to $5,000. Health insurance coverage varies by state, but many private insurance companies will cover part of the costs – but only if the assessment diagnoses psychological conditions, such as depression, ADHD, or severe anxiety. Insurance will not cover other learning challenge diagnoses.
Psychoeducational Assessment Outcomes
There is a range of standard outcomes after completing an evaluation. Often, psychologists are able to diagnose specific learning challenges, and can often connect certain behaviors to these challenges. Evaluators also provide recommendations to families on how best to accommodate the student to deal with learning disorders. Additionally, psychologists highlight student strengths and develop strategies to help students reach their full potential.
Some parents have additional concerns that may not be addressed in a psychoeducational evaluation report but are part of the outcome. Having your child diagnosed and labeled with a learning disability can be uncomfortable, and often the evaluation does not alleviate that concern. The fear of putting your child on a new medication can be unnerving, as well.
After your child undergoes a psychoeducational evaluation, it is vital to ensure you understand the results. If a child is diagnosed, many parents may feel a sense of relief once the issue is known. Parents and teachers can begin to arrange services and strategies to help the student succeed. Depending on the diagnosis, therapy is an option. Parents will want to make sure that their child receives appropriate accommodations and modifications, per an IEP or 504 plan. The goal of the psychoeducational evaluation is to identify needs and strengths, and can help create a bright future for the child.
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