Originally published March 26 2008
Psycho-Educational Assessments Can Reveal Children's Hidden Strengths
by Barbara L. Minton
(NaturalNews) Since the No Child Left Behind Act came along, schools have been preoccupied with testing children. You may have received standardized test results for your child. You may have had some difficulty making heads and tails of these results, and if you were able to understand them, you probably realized that they didn't provide you with much information that you could use to benefit your child. However, there is one type of testing that will yield more useful information about your child than you ever thought existed. Information you can use to assure that your child learns and develops to his full potential. This testing is called a Psycho-Educational Assessment.
Unlike the type of standardized testing with which you may be familiar, psycho-educational assessment is not administered to children in groups. It involves one or several one-on-one sessions with your child and a highly trained, experienced, and certified or licensed examiner or psychologist. A psycho-educational assessment can produce extremely useful information about children ranging in ages from early childhood to post high school. If you suspect that your child has developmental delays or is extremely bright, the earlier you have this assessment done, the better. Early assessment can assure that your child's educational experience provides the right mix of challenges and successes to keep him motivated to learn.
Even if you think your child is average, there is a wealth of information psycho-educational assessment can provide to help you understand how your child learns best. This is knowledge you can use to make sure she has every opportunity to learn at that best level. Since it is only children who deviate greatly from the normal range that are referred by the school for assessment, it's up to parents to advocate for this testing which will reveal educational and psychological knowledge about their children. The results of psycho-educational assessment often indicate that the child you thought was average has significant strengths and talents that will be completely overlooked in a traditional school setting.
Many Intelligent and Capable Children Do Not Achieve at School
Failure to achieve is a highly stressful event for a child. According to leading school psychologist, Dr. Crescence Allen, "If you try to force a child's cognitive development, it's stressful to the child. You may get acting out behaviors. At the other end, if you miss that prime learning moment when the child's brain is ready, and you try to address it later, that is also stressful. Being behind is stressful, because you see the difference between yourself and others." Falling behind creates a snowballing effect. The child becomes intimidated by the demands of school and ends up like a deer in the headlights of the learning environment. As a result he continues to fall further and further behind until he reaches the point when going to school becomes an extremely unpleasant experience to be avoided if at all possible.
If your child is quite intellectually capable or has been taught at home before entering school, he may also fail to find a place for himself in the traditional educational environment. His stress will come from the boredom of having to sit for hours listening to a reiteration of what he already knows. Worse yet, he may be used to help tutor children less capable than he.
Whether your child attends public or private school, the educational experience will tend to be a fairly standardized one that involves sitting in a seat for five or more hours each day, reading from a book, listening to teachers talk, and responding by completing assignments and tests with paper and pencil. All children are expected to learn the same concepts at the same time. Although computers have made inroads into the schools, their use is mostly confined to a class in which the basics of computer operations are taught. Computers are not yet integrated into the school environment as useful tools for learning.
In other words, not much has changed since you were in school. In fact, not much has changed in education since the beginning of the industrial revolution, when the educational system geared up to stamp out standardized graduates to take their places in the standardized working environment that produced the products of industry. If your child cannot get with the program of his school, he will be offered little else.
Is your child a thinker and talker, or is he a doer? Does he like to read books or does he like to use his hands to learn and explore? Does your child have great facility with language, or does she have difficulty expressing herself? Does she have difficulty paying attention in the traditional classroom? Does your child complete her homework and then "forget" to turn it in? Does he have health issues? Can he really cut it academically, or is he always running to catch up? Does he have organizational skills? Is it likely she will complete school including college, or does she need another direction? Is she bored at school?
Is your child slated to be a scholar at an Ivy League school? Or can your child identify more with George Bernard Shaw who said, "The only time my education was interrupted was when I had to go to school"?
Your child is a unique individual, not a standardized part. As a result, these questions and more need to be answered about your child so that she can truly benefit from her educational experience.
The Psycho-Educational Assessment
The psycho-education assessment almost always includes an individually administered cognitive test, such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale, or the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales. Both tests will provide an IQ score you can use to compare your child's intellectual abilities with those of other children. And they will also provide you a wealth of information about his abilities.
You will learn about his verbal abilities including vocabulary, reasoning with words, quantitative reasoning, abstract reasoning, auditory memory, processing of information through verbal channels, and knowledge of information. You will also learn about his nonverbal abilities including reasoning with visual cues, abstract visual reasoning, visual sequencing and processing, visual motor processing and integration, and alertness to social cues and analysis.
You will also learn whether these abilities are evenly distributed within your child, or if he has significant strengths and weaknesses. And you will find out what his abilities are in tasks requiring memory and processing speed. This information is particularly important in career planning.
One of the most critical findings is whether your child has significant abilities in the nonverbal areas that exceed his abilities in verbal skills. Since it is only verbal skills that are addressed in the traditional school environment, a child with strength in the nonverbal areas will be swimming upstream at school. Think of it as a child who is born left handed but is forced to use only his right hand. Everything he does will be extra difficult and irritating because he is able to use only his weak side, while his strong side remains unused and undeveloped. A child whose strengths are in the nonverbal areas will not receive the educational challenge he needs to develop his talents and abilities in the traditional school environment.
The psycho-educational assessment will also include achievement testing in all subject areas. You will be presented with achievement scores in these areas, and also with specific strengths and weaknesses displayed by your child. These results give you the knowledge you need to remediate and strengthen her weaknesses as well as to provide her with advanced instruction and placement in her areas of strength.
A psycho-educational assessment will involve your extensive interview with a social worker or psychologist. This interview will include discussion of your child's birth issues, developmental milestones, health concerns and history, medications, injuries, vision, hearing, development of motor skills, speech and language development or problems, ability to pay attention, hyperactivity, emotional concerns, ability to listen to and follow directions, social development, and role in the family. You will be asked to reveal any traumatic events that may be impacting your child. Based on the information gathered at this interview, additional testing in several of these areas may be performed.
Following this evaluation, you will receive a written report that explains in detail the findings. This report will include classroom and instructional implications of the finding, and recommendations. You will probably meet with the psychologist who administered the evaluation as well as professionals from the other specific areas that were assessed. You will have a chance to ask questions and state your concerns. You shouldn't leave that meeting until you are satisfied that you understand what these people are telling you as well as the educational implications.
How to Get a Psycho-Educational Assessment of Your Child
There are two methods of obtaining psycho-educational assessments. You can contact any agency that provides these assessments and make an appointment. Psycho-educational assessments are done at many hospitals, particularly those that serve children. They are also done by some psychologists in private practice, or groups. The Psychology or Education departments of universities also provide this service. In this case, the people administering the evaluations are graduate students who are supervised by faculty. Graduate students usually provide complete, high quality evaluations.
If you choose this route, you will need to pay for the assessment unless you have insurance that covers it. Some insurance companies do, and some do not. The cost of a comprehensive private assessment should run around $750 to $900. An assessment performed by graduate students at a university will cost substantially less.
A psycho-educational evaluation may also be obtained through your child's school system. Most school systems have school psychologists on staff who are highly trained and experienced in the administration of psycho-educational assessments. If you choose this route, there should be no cost to you in money. However, there may be some cost to you in frustration. School systems are so poorly funded that they are unable to provide these evaluations unless a teacher requests them. They are usually done only for children with extreme learning difficulties. But be aware that it is your right as a parent to request an evaluation by your school district. And remember, when dealing with your school district, it is probably going to be the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. Keep making your request, or turn that request into a demand, and you should finally get what you want.
About the authorBarbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.
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