What is a Psychoeducational Assessment?
A psychoeducational assessment is a process that involves a psychologist collecting information about a student's functioning from a variety of sources, such as standardized tests, observations, talking with parents, and reviewing school records. The result is a formal, comprehensive report that outlines a student's unique learning profile and provides recommendations to optimize the student's success in the classroom environment.
The purpose of a psychoeducational assessment is to uncover an individual's specific intellectual, academic, behavioural, social/emotional, communicative, and adaptive functioning—typically within the context of an educational setting.
The majority of psychoeducational assessments are conducted on the kindergarten to grade 12 population; however, they are also often used to help adults in post-secondary institutions. Usually the process is guided by a specific referral question such as: Why is my child struggling with math and what interventions will help improve his math skills? Is my child struggling in school because of ADHD or a learning disorder?
Psychoeducational assessments include standardized measures of intellectual functioning, academic achievement, and social/emotional functioning. The psychologist may also administer other assessments related to memory, attention, adaptive skills, or other relevant areas of functioning.
A psychoeducational assessment (sometimes referred to as a "psych-ed assessment", "psych assessment", or "educational assessment") answers questions concerning cognitive, academic, social, emotional, and behavioural functioning. This is generally accomplished through standardized testing (e.g., intelligence and academic tests, rating scales designed to measure symptom severity and frequency), collateral interviews, questionnaires, observations, and review of previous records or reports.
Every assessment includes screening for a wide variety of related conditions, including learning disabilities (e.g., dyslexia, dyscalculia, or dysgraphia), ADHD, anxiety, depression, social skills issues, sleep problems, mood disorders, sensory issues, auditory processing, information processing, speech and language skills, fine and gross motor skills, and other concerns.
At Alberta Counselling Centre, all of our assessments are conducted by fully registered psychologists who are also either former certified teachers or schoolboard psychologists that specialize in psychoeducational assessments.
Based on data gathered from a variety of different tools and administered in a standardized method, in a one-on-one setting, your psychologist will be able to provide you with an estimation of your child's aptitudes, learning style, and academic skills. Most importantly, this information will form the basis for the recommendations that will be used to develop a plan to enhance your child's success at school and make learning easier.
For more information about our services, refer to the Child and Adolescent Psychoeducational Assessments section on our services page.
What Kinds of Tests are Used in a Psychoeducational Assessment?
There are two major sets of assessment measures used in a psychoeducational assessment. One is for measuring intelligence, otherwise known as cognitive ability or potential, and the other is for measuring academic achievement.
Tests that are commonly used to measure cognitive abilities include the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPSSI IV), the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-V), the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS-IV), the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Cognitive Abilities (WJTCA), and the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales (SB-5). This part of the assessment measures intellectual ability (commonly referred to as IQ).
Tests that are commonly used to measure academic performance may include the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT-III), the Woodcock-Johnson Tests of Achievement (WJ-IV), the Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT-4), the Kaufman Test of Educational Achievement (KTEA), or some other specific test of reading, oral reading, math skills, writing and so on. These tests measure the current academic skill level the student is able to demonstrate.
Other tests are used as needed, based upon all of the information and data that have been gathered (e.g., BASC-3, CPT-3, Conners 3, BRIEF-2, SRS-2, ADI-R, ADOS-2, ABAS-3, Vineland-3). These tests might look at things like behaviour, auditory processing, learning and memory, executive functions, social skills, or more specific academic skills.
What's Involved in creating a Psychoeducational Assessment?
The psychoeducational evaluation process includes the following five components:
- Intake Interview and Psychosocial Questionnaire. Parents and the psychologist meet to discuss current issues, review developmental and academic history, and any other pertinent sources of information, which may include: school report cards, previous psycho-educational reports, Individualized Program Plans (IPP), behaviour intervention plans and/or supports plans that may be in place at the school, and medical records.
- Formal Standardized Testing Sessions. The actual cognitive and achievement testing is usually accomplished over two sessions and includes interactive administration of various standardized tests that assess cognitive ability, academic skills, executive functioning, memory, and attention.
- Screening of Social/Emotional and Behavioral Functioning. Clinical interviews with parents and child and questionnaires and rating scales completed by parents, teachers and student (if appropriate) are used to gather pertinent information from people observing the child in different settings.
- Report and Recommendations. This is the behind-the-scenes portion of the assessment process where the psychologist scores and interprets results from the assessment measures that were administered. Based on test results, interviews, and questionnaires, the psychologist produces a comprehensive, diagnostic report summarizing and explaining the findings. In addition, the report will make meaningful recommendations to help remove barriers and make learning at school easier for your child. This report is frequently used to assist teachers in creating an Individual Program Plan (IPP), accessing extra reading and math supports, or to obtain academic accommodations.
- Feedback Conference. The purpose of the final meeting is to review the results, consider recommendations, and answer questions.
For more answers regarding assessments for children, keep reading, or... Ask us in our confidential contact form.
Signs of a Learning Disability
The following is a checklist of some potential characteristics that may signal the presence of a learning disability.
At times, many people may see one or more of these warning signs in their children. This is normal; however, if you see several of these traits, and they seem to be enduring, consider the possibility of assessing for a learning disability.
- Speaks later than most children.
- Difficult rhyming words.
- Trouble learning numbers, alphabet, days of the week, colours, shapes.
- Extremely restless and easily distracted.
- Fine motor skills slow to develop.
- Trouble interacting with peers.
- Difficulty following directions or routines.
- Pronunciation problems.
- Slow vocabulary growth, often unable to find the right word.
- Confuses basic words (run, eat, want).
- Slow to learn the connection between letters and sounds.
- Transposes number sequences and confuses math symbols.
- Poor pencil grip.
- Slow to remember facts.
- Makes consistent reading and spelling errors including letter reversals (b/d); inversions (m/w); transpositions (felt/left), and substitutions (house/home).
- Poor coordination, unaware of physical surroundings, prone to accidents.
- Slow to learn new skills, relies heavily on memorization.
- Impulsive, difficulty planning.
- Trouble learning about time.
- Avoids reading aloud.
- Reverses letter sequences (top/pot; left/felt).
- Difficulty developing math fluency.
- Slow to learn prefixes, suffixes, root words, and other spelling tricks.
- Problems decoding word problems.
- Difficulty with handwriting.
- Awkward, fist-like, or tight pencil grip.
- Avoids writing compositions.
- Slow or poor recall of facts.
- Trouble understanding body language and facial expressions.
- Significant social misinterpretation.
- Difficulty making friends.
High School and Post-Secondary
- Avoids reading and writing tasks.
- Difficulty adjusting to new settings.
- Works slowly.
- Continues to spell incorrectly, frequently spells the same word differently in a single piece of writing.
- Poor grasp of abstract concepts.
- Either pays too little attention to details or focuses on them too much.
- Misreads information.
- Trouble with open-ended questions on tests.
- Trouble summarizing.
- Weak memory skills.
You may also be interested in answering our free, online ADHD Test for children.
How to Prepare Children for Psychoeducational Testing Sessions
Answering Children's Questions
Stay relaxed and positive and keep explanations short and simple when your child asks questions about testing sessions.
Our psychologists will typically start testing sessions by informing children that we're going to do some activities that will help us understand more about how they learn and their learning strengths and challenges. This may include things like answering questions, looking at puzzles, working with blocks, and completing some academic tasks.
Once the assessment is finished, we will use the information to make a plan that will make learning things at school easier for them.
Should Children Study for Psychoeducational Testing Sessions?
Studying for testing sessions is discouraged and completely unnecessary. In fact, studying generally only puts children on edge and makes them more nervous, which can negatively affect their performance. This is especially true of the cognitive testing (IQ test).
Come prepared with important documents. If your child has had previous assessments, please bring these with you. It is also helpful if you can bring the last report card and current IPP, if they have one.
If your child wears prescription glasses, please make sure that they wear them during testing sessions.
If your child takes any prescription medication regularly, please ensure that it is taken as usual for testing sessions.
Getting a solid night's sleep is always important. The night before testing sessions, it's beneficial for children to have plenty of rest so they're alert and able to work to their full potential on the tasks that are presented to them. This ensures that the results will be accurate and a valid representation of their current abilities.
What to Wear
Children should come wearing comfortable clothing that they feel good in.
Food and Breaks
It's helpful for children to have a nutritious meal prior to the assessment sessions. In addition, you may also want to bring a drink and snack. We are able to take short breaks during the testing sessions if necessary.
We are trained to respond effectively to anxious feelings and put children at ease. In addition, rather than use pencil and paper test kits, we use the newest updated digital platform (Pearson's Q-interactive iPads) to administer standardized testing. Children seem more at ease, as they are familiar and comfortable with using this interactive digital platform.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What do I do if I think my child needs an assessment?
If you feel your child needs a psycho-educational assessment, it's likely that you notice him or her struggling.
We always suggest that your first step should be to make an appointment with your child's teacher, school counselor, or principal to see what options are available.
Unfortunately, schools are only given a limited amount of resources for psychoeducational assessments each year. However, there is no harm in asking if your child is a potential candidate to be assessed by a school psychologist. If your child receives a psychoeducational assessment through your schoolboard, this is at no cost to you.
The downside of testing through the school is that wait times can be lengthy (depending on the resources available through your school-board), and not all children who may benefit from a psychoeducational assessment can receive one. Due to limitations in funding, usually only the children who are struggling the most will have psychoeducational assessments completed by school-board psychologists.
If your child is in dire need of help, waiting can cause him/her to fall behind significantly and potentially develop low self-esteem and frustration with school.
What happens in the Psychoeducational Assessment Intake Session?
The Intake session is a 1 to 1.5 hour, semi-structured interview with a psychologist who specializes in psychoeducational assessments. This initial appointment is for parents only.
The primary focus is discussing the child's developmental history, academic history, and current concerns, as well as to answer any questions regarding the assessment process. Think of the intake session as your psychologist conducting thorough background research about the topic, your child.
Parents are encouraged to bring any previous assessments or reports they may have (e.g., previous psychoeducational assessments, speech language pathologist assessments/reports, occupational therapy reports, school support plans, Individual Program Plans (IPPs), teacher's anecdotal notes, as well as any pertinent report cards).
It's also helpful and saves time if you can bring the email addresses for any teachers who you might want your psychologist to send online rating scales to.
What are the uses and benefits of a psychoeducational assessment?
Watching children struggle to meet their potential is heart-breaking and frustrating for parents and educators.
Alberta Counselling Centre's psychologists have worked with many children who struggle with learning difficulties and related issues.
With a solid assessment, we can figure out your child's learning style, address strengths and weaknesses, develop useful strategies, and help your child function optimally.
A psychoeducational assessment will outline a child's learning profile, which is extremely helpful for teachers and parents. It offers explanations for why a child may be struggling as well as individualized recommendations to optimize learning.
If there is a diagnosis, the school will code the child in order to gain additional funding and support. A team of teachers will review the psychoeducational assessment and create an Individualized Program Plan (IPP) for your child that outlines academic and/or social/behavioural goals. This document also details potential modifications, accommodations, and/or supports your child is qualified to receive.
School staff on the IPP team will work closely with you to construct your child's IPP in a collaborative manner that includes parent input. The IPP is also reviewed with parents several times through the year and modified if necessary.
The psychoeducational assessment is the first step in making sense of a child's struggles and it will ensure that appropriate educational programming and accommodations necessary for optimal success are recommended.
What is involved in a psychoeducational assessment?
Each assessment generally involves one session for an intake interview, two individual testing sessions, and a feedback meeting.
The results of the assessment include a detailed description of current levels of functioning in the areas assessed, a diagnosis if appropriate, as well as detailed recommendations. Feedback is provided both in a face-to-face meeting and in the form of a comprehensive, written report.
Do psychologists require consent from both parents before a psychoeducational assessment?
A formal assessment of a minor never takes place without appropriate, informed consent. This means that decisions about psychological services etc. must be made by the child's legal guardian(s), who have had an opportunity to be fully informed of the assessment process, in language that they understand, and have been provided with an opportunity to ask questions. Signed consent from one parent is acceptable, if the parents are living together.
In the unfortunate event of a parental separation or divorce, in the case of joint custody, signed, informed consent MUST be obtained from BOTH parents. Both parents are invited and encouraged (as they are able) to participate in the assessment process. If one parent retains sole legal custody, this parent MUST provide legal documentation of this for an assessment to proceed.
My child takes medication for ADHD. Should my child take these medications the day of testing?
If your child is doing well with medications, follow your usual routine and give the same dosage you normally would. For more information, review Preparing Your Child for a Psychoeducational Assessment.
What is the cost of a psycho-educational assessment?
Please refer to the section How much does a Psychoeducational Assessment Cost? on our Fees page for more information.
What are my options if I can't afford to pay for the entire assessment upfront?
This isn't a problem as we don't require payment upfront or a deposit/retainer for a psychoeducational assessment. We understand that providing a large deposit or paying the total cost of the assessment upfront isn't something many families can do. We only process fees for services the day of the service. It's a simple pay as you go model that seems to have served our clients well over the years.
Can we break down the receipts using all family members' names?
Receipts will automatically be in your child's name, and any parent(s) or guardian(s) name who attended and participated in the assessment process. Please check your insurance to understand how much coverage you have per plan member for psychological services. If you have any questions, please ask reception and/or your psychologist.
Please note: once fees are processed, receipts can't be changed.
How are fees processed?
Fees are processed on the day of the service (typically, first thing in the morning), using the credit card on file in our encrypted software system. Receipts are immediately emailed to the email on file so that you may submit it to your insurance provider. We try to go easy on the environment and kill as few trees as possible! Therefore, we are a paperless office; however, if you'd prefer a paper receipt, we'll happily provide one to you upon your request.
How do I prepare my Child for the Psycho-educational Testing Process?
The most important thing is to relax; no specific preparations or studying is necessary. Ensure that your child is well rested and nourished for testing sessions. It is also helpful to bring a drink and small snack. For more information check out the section above on preparing your child for a psychoeducational testing session.
Ask us in our confidential contact form.