9 Key Things to Know About Psychoeducational Evaluations

Andy Gothard

Your child’s school or pediatrician has said your child needs to see a psychologist for either a psychoeducational or neuropsychological evaluation. Now what?

What is the Difference Between the 2 Evaluations?

A psychoeducational evaluation determines if your child has a learning disability or other issues that negatively impact his or her ability to learn. It assesses the child’s cognitive (i.e. intellectual) abilities, academic achievement levels, information processing abilities, and general emotional and behavioral issues. These evaluations usually measure emotional/behavioral functioning and their impact on the child’s academic success.

Psychoeducational Evaluation Method generally includes (but is not limited to):

  • Specialized battery of testing instruments, such as:
    • the WISC – Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (for cognitive abilities)
    • the Woodcock-Johnson Test of Achievement for (academic levels)
    • tests of information processing abilities (visual-motor integration, phonological processing, etc.)
    • tests related to general emotional and personality functioning
  • interviews with the child
  • interviews with parents and other relevant people
  • review of relevant records

A neuropsychological evaluation is requested typically when there are concerns that something more complicated than learning disabilities is negatively impacting a child’s overall functioning. Possible brain injury or inherent brain dysfunction are considered and evaluated.

Neuropsychological Evaluation Method generally includes (but is not limited to):

  • Specialized battery of testing instruments such as:
    • the WISC – Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (for cognitive abilities)
    • Children’s Memory Scales (memory testing battery)
    • Specific tests for aspects of neuropsychological functioning
    • NEPSY Developmental Neuropsychological Assessment battery (for neuropsychological functioning such as attention, language, sensory-motor, and visual-spatial functioning)
    • tests related to general emotional and personality functioning
  • interview with the child
  • interview with parents and other relevant people
  • review of relevant records

Who does these evaluations?

Psychoeducational testing or evaluations should be performed by a licensed psychologist (PhD or PsyD) who has training in and experience doing these types of specialized evaluations. While specialized programs and learning specialists can do some evaluations for learning disabilities, they are not trained to do comprehensive psycho-educational or neuropsychological evaluations.

How do I find a psychologist who does this?

You can get recommendations from your pediatrician, therapist, other parents, or even your child’s school. Usually your local or state psychological association has a list of its members and their specialties. Often, local parenting support groups and organizations, or local ADHD coaches, have a list of resources, as well.

How long will an evaluation take?

A truly comprehensive evaluation takes at least 5-6 hours, often more. It can be administered in one day, but often is separated into two or more days, depending upon the child.

Can the school demand the report?

If the school is paying for the evaluation, then it is usually with the expectation that the parent will sign a release of information form allowing the psychologist to send the school administrators a copy.

If the school pays for the report, does that mean that they “own” it?

No. A parent owns privilege to a child’s evaluation report of any kind except for “forensic” purposes (if it is related to litigation). In those situations, the court, or the attorney, “owns” privilege to the report and can decide who gets it. Otherwise, state statutes and federal HIPPA law clearly indicates that “protected health information” belongs to the client (or the parent/guardian). Only the client can release it to anyone or allow the doctor to release it.

Should you give a copy of your kid’s neuropsychological or psychoeducational report to the school?

Every circumstance is different. It depends upon why they are asking for it (to best help your child? to be punitive?). Also, are they suggesting that you get this done, or demanding it? If you get the feeling that the school is working collaboratively with you as a parent for your child’s best interest, then there usually is no harm in giving it to them. Many psychologists will provide parents with an abridged copy of the report, relevant to the child’s learning, that includes recommendations. That version of the report can be “comfortably” shared with the school.

Can the school use the report against you/your child?

That is always possible, but it depends upon the nature of the relationship that you have with the school and why they want the report. A lot of variables need to be considered, and an experienced psychologist should be able to help you to navigate that by speaking with you and relevant school officials.

Will the report assist with specific recommendations for educational or behavioral interventions?

Different psychologists have different styles. Some are more in-depth and some are more general with their recommendations. If you first speak with the doctor to make sure that you have the same expectations of how in-depth the recommendations will be, specifically letting the doctor know what your needs are and what questions you need answered, the doctor can tailor the report to meet your needs.

© Copyrighted 2013 by Andrew M. Gothard, PsyD, PC. May be reproduced only with permission from the author and clear language that “this article originally appeared on ImpactADHD.com.”

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