A psychoeducational assessment (also called a psychoeducational evaluation) is a type of psychological testing which examines both cognitive strengths and weaknesses as well as current academic skills.
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What is a psychoeducational assessment?
The cognitive functioning aspect of this evaluation assesses:
- verbal knowledge
- visual-spatial skills
- problem solving
- verbal and nonverbal reasoning
- working memory
- speed of information processing
Which academic skills are examined varies, depending on the age of the client. Usually, however, the academic portion of the assessment includes:
- basic reading skills
- reading comprehension
- compositional writing
- mathematical reasoning
- mathematical calculation
- receptive and expressive language
- speed of academic abilities
What are psychoeducational assessments used for?
A psychoeducational evaluation is commonly done when a child or adolescent is exhibiting academic problems as a result of a suspected learning disability or attentional problem (ADHD). Sometimes, adults also seek these evaluations, especially if they are struggling in a learning environment and have a history of such difficulties.
Psychoeducational evaluations can provide diagnoses or alternative explanations for academic difficulties, as well as guidance on learning styles and strategies appropriate for the child.
Results from psychoeducational testing can be used to request academic accommodations (e.g., Section 504, Individualized Education Plans (IEP), or special education services) and provide the documentation needed for extended time on standardized exams such as the SAT, GRE, or LSAT.
How long does psychoeducational testing take?
Psychoeducational evaluations begin with an intake interview which takes about one hour. During this interview, I obtain relevant background information (for instance, the child’s developmental and academic history).
For younger children, the intake interview is often conducted with only the parents. Adolescents may be included in portions of the interview, and this tends to increase their interest in and motivation for testing. I usually request teacher reports because they provide greater insight into an individual’s academic strengths and challenges in the classroom.
Adults can choose to interview alone or with significant others who have insight into their difficulties (e.g., a spouse).
The testing itself is generally conducted over two appointments of 2–3 hours each, though this can vary depending on client age and needs. I always conduct these evaluations in person at my office on Washington Street in Alexandria, VA. (Virtual testing is not an option for psychoeducational evaluations.)
Common tests used include the WISC-V, WAIS-IV, WIAT-4, IVA-2-CPT, CTOPP, and Nelson Denny, among others. These are comprised of puzzle-like and problem-solving activities, tasks requiring sustained focus and responding to target stimuli, and tests of reading, writing, and mathematics.
What is included in the report?
Clients’ responses are analyzed, producing test scores that compare their skills to others at their age or grade level. I integrate the results into a report that documents scores, summarizes their impact, and describes any diagnoses that may be present. The evaluation report also provides detailed recommendations for academics and/or treatment.
Approximately one month following the completion of psychoeducational testing, I schedule a feedback session with the client in which I explain the report and give you a chance to ask questions. Clients can forward the report to their schools for the purpose of accommodation requests or to therapists or psychiatrists to guide therapy and treatment.
Which other types of testing can be combined with psychoeducational evaluations?
Psychoeducational evaluations are often combined with social-emotional evaluations, especially when an individual is struggling with emotional concerns that may impact learning or academic performance.
When academic problems are complex, or when clients desire a more thorough understanding of the processes underlying their difficulties, psychoeducational evaluations may also be combined with a neuropsychological evaluation.
Do I need a referral?
No referrals are required for psychoeducational evaluations, though they often result from the suggestion of teachers, therapists, and/or doctors.
Is psychoeducational testing covered by insurance?
Insurance companies tend to reimburse for the cognitive testing portion of psychoeducational evaluations; but they are often more reluctant to cover academic evaluations, as they maintain that these should be conducted within the school system.
Many of my clients choose to pursue private evaluations due to dissatisfaction with the assessments and reports done by a school psychologist. Depending on the situation, some clients may be reimbursed for the cost of academic testing by the school.