Throughout the year my office completes several examinations known as Psycho-educational evaluations. The focus is to uncover the strengths and weaknesses of our children from an educational and psychological perspective. Often we are working from a point of a difficulty. Someone (such as a teacher, a Pediatrician or a parent) has noticed some area of potential deficit and our job as the psychologist is to investigate further. The time to test is often when there is a difficulty that presents itself with either behavior or with academic functioning. The one exception is to identify if your child is appropriate for advanced or gifted placements. In Broward County the school has multiple programs that are determined by the results of psychological testing.
As a psychologist I have the ability to evaluate children at any age. When dealing with social communication (Autism, Asperger’s Disorder) or developmental disorders it is recommended to evaluate as young as possible. For behavioral disruption (attention difficulties or poor behavior) it is also advisable to start young. When adding in academic difficulties, age 6 is an accurate starting point however we can evaluate younger as needed. Some of the areas that are often evaluated include IQ (intelligence quotient), learning disabilities, verbal skills, comprehension, spelling, mathematics, memory and writing skills. Attentional deficits are also frequently explored and include an area known as executive functioning. Executive functioning involves skills such as planning, organization and time management. One other major area of evaluation involves reading ability, which can be examined from several perspectives.
The final result is clarification, recommendations and diagnosis as warranted, which help the child’s entire support system work together towards improvement and advancement including potentially creating an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) or other academic assistance. My recommendations offer many areas of suggestion from homework location to reward systems to tutoring.
If your child is experiencing a difficulty, or if you are concerned that one may be coming, the best advice is to start the process to ultimately help our youth reach their full potential.
Difficulties in academic performance can be caused by a range of factors including:
- Memory problems
- Poor study skills
- Social difficulties
- Poor emotional functioning
- Low self-esteem
- Attention Disorders – ADD & AD/HD
- Gifted Placement / IQ & Achievement
- Learning Disabilities
- Psychoeducational Testing
- Behavioral Problems
- Academic Problems
- Comprehensive Evaluations
- Attachment Disorders
Testing can both uncover the area of weakness that is inhibiting the individual from succeeding and also highlight the areas of strength. Every individual needs an area in which to shine, particularly those with difficulties in school. Artistic abilities, mechanical skills, social talents, and athletic strengths should be discovered and reinforced. Testing will provide a snapshot of one’s unique abilities and intelligence’s to make sure that self-esteem, motivation, and ambition are not thwarted because of the over-emphasis in school on academic performance. Finding the “gift within” each individual is essential for confidence and success, both in school and career endeavors.
A learning disability is a neurological disorder that affects different psychological processes that are needed to effectively use our language system. It can manifest in difficulties with reading, writing, spelling, listening, speaking, thinking, or mathematics.
The various kinds of specific learning disabilities include:
- Dyslexia: problems with reading, spelling, and writing (including transposing letters and pronunciation difficulties).
- Aphasia: difficulties with processing, speaking, or understanding language.
- Dyscalculia: problems with mathematical computations and concepts.
- Dysgraphia: difficulties with handwriting, spelling, and letter spacing.
- Dyspraxia: problems with gross motor tasks (walking) or fine motor tasks
(handling a pencil for writing or drawing).
- Visual or Auditory Processing: difficulties in understanding information
presented through visual or auditory mediums; trouble with understanding
directions or following a conversation, spatial relationships, or social distances.
- Short and Long-term Memory: problems with encoding or retrieving memories.
Every individual with a learning disability is unique and shows varying combinations of weaknesses and strengths. Often there are significant discrepancies between one’s intelligence and level of achievement or performance that would be expected. Finding early and targeted interventions is essential in minimizing the effects that a learning disability may have on academic or work success, motivation, and self-esteem.
We will work hard to provide accurate assessment and appropriate treatment recommendations so that you or your child will receive the important assistance he or she needs to succeed. Psychological testing and assessment are often the beginning stages of determining what is at the core of one’s problems. The process can help expedite what have been long-term and unanswered questions and lead to productive changes.
For individuals that are students, educational testing can be a powerful mechanism to assist in leveling the playing field with certain accommodations being afforded:
- Extended time on tests (e.g., FCAT, SAT, ACT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT, etc.)
- Distraction free environment for tests
- Use of a calculator
- Use of a word processer for writing
- Substitution or waived courses