Assessments for Learning and Attention Problems

Assessments for Learning and Attention Problems

Assessments for Learning and Attention Problems

If you have had questions and/or concerns about your child’s academic performance, having a psychoeducational assessment done prior to the start of a new school is wise. A psychoeducational assessment can help you understand your child’s learning style, strengths and weaknesses, as well as identify whether there may be any underlying factors that are negatively impacting your child’s ability to succeed in an academic setting. Often, when children are having difficulty in school, parents are encouraged to wait to see how their child progresses; however, this can put a child further behind if they have an underlying learning disability or attention problem, such as ADD or ADHD. Research has shown that early intervention is one of the key factors to improved outcomes in children with learning disabilities.  Therefore, if you have been wondering about your child’s academic achievement, or if a teacher has raised concerns about your child’s performance in the classroom, it may be time to consult with an educational psychologist to rule-out any specific learning challenges as well as to determine what specific intervention supports your child may need.

Below are some frequently asked questions about psychoeducational assessments:

What is a psychoeducational assessment and why is it helpful?

A psychoeducational assessment is done to determine an individuals’ strengths and weaknesses across many different domains including: their cognitive abilities (i.e., thinking and reasoning abilities), academic achievement (i.e., performance in school based tasks such as reading, writing, mathematics), information processing, language, as well as their social, emotional, and behavioural functioning. Information is gathered using a variety of methods including: parent and teacher interviews, review of report cards, questionnaires, classroom observations (in some specific cases), a battery of paper and pencil and computerized tests, as well as clinical observations of the student during testing. A psychoeducational assessment is helpful to determine a students’ learning potential, as well as areas of particular strength and weakness in order to determine the best learning environment, supports, accommodations, and academic interventions (if needed) for your child. A psychoeducational assessment can also determine if a student meets diagnostic criteria for a Learning Disorder, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or whether there are other areas of challenge that may be negatively impacting their functioning in the classroom.

What is a Learning Disability?

A learning disability is a neurodevelopmental disorder that affects the brain’s ability to perceive or process verbal or non-verbal information efficiently and accurately. A key feature of a learning disability is persistent difficulty learning academic skills in reading, writing, or mathematics. Learning disabilities are not attributable to intellectual disabilities, developmental delays, hearing or vision problems, or other neurological disorders.

What are some early warning signs that my child might have a Learning Disability?

The following list is some possible early indicators of learning disabilities in children:

  • Slow growth in your child’s vocabulary
  • You may notice that your child has difficulty finding the “right” word
  • Your child may have difficulty learning about words that rhyme
  • Your child may have difficulty learning letters, numbers, or days of the week
  • Your child may have difficulty following directions
  • You may notice your child to be easily distracted or side-tracked
  • You may notice your child having difficulty learning the connection between letters and sounds
  • You may notice your child to be slow at learning new skills

How prevalent are Learning Disabilities?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-V), the prevalence of Learning Disabilities across the academic domains of reading, writing, and mathematics is 5-15% among school-aged children (DSM-V).

What causes Learning Disabilities?

Learning disabilities are neurobiological and/or genetic in nature. Although exact causes are not known, learning disabilities typically run in families. Other factors that may lead to learning disabilities include: illness or injury during or before birth, low birth weight, lack of oxygen, drug and/or alcohol use during pregnancy, head injuries, and exposure to toxic substances.

How can I prepare my child for a psychoeducational assessment?

It is important to speak with your child about their up-coming psychoeducational assessment, as most children feel less anxious when they know what to expect. Generally speaking, it is recommended that you speak to your child about their assessment about 2-3 days prior to their appointment. Explain to your child that everyone has different areas of strengths (things they do well) and challenges (things that are harder for them) and that the purpose of this assessment is to help parents and teachers understand how they learn best. You can tell your child that the assessment includes different questions, puzzles, drawings, and stories as well as some school-like tasks like reading, spelling, math, and writing. In your explanation, try your best to avoid using the word “testing” as this may evoke unnecessary anxiety in some children. Although your child may find some things to be hard during the assessment, they will also probably find some things to be quite fun.

What does my child need to bring to the assessment?

On the day of your child’s assessment, please ensure that your child is well-rested and has eaten a good breakfast. Please feel free to send your child with some snacks that you think your child might like.  Please also make sure your child brings their eye-glasses and/or hearing aids if they have them.

How long does the assessment take?

Generally speaking, a standard psychoeducational assessment will take about 4 hours of testing time, although this can vary slightly depending on the child. It is usually recommended that a child complete the testing over two sessions on different days. If there are particular circumstances where an assessment must be completed in one day, we highly recommend a one-hour lunch break away from the office to ensure your child has some time away from the office.

What happens to the information? Does it go to my child’s school?

The information obtained from a private psychoeducational assessment is kept completely confidential and is not shared with anyone unless we have explicit written and verbal consent from the parents and/or guardians of the student to share the report with a school, professional, or other organization. Upon request, we can provide you with more than one copy of a report, if you know ahead of time that you intend to share it with your child’s school.

How long does it usually take to get the results back from my child’s assessment?

Generally speaking, we aim to have a report completed within two weeks from the last date of testing, if all other requested documentation (i.e., teacher and parent questionnaires, report cards) has been provided to us. It can take varying amounts of time for teachers to complete the school-based questionnaires, so it is recommended that parents present the forms to the school as soon as possible to allow sufficient time for teachers to finish them.

What age should I have my child assessed if I suspect learning challenges?

If you suspect learning difficulties, it is usually best to have your child evaluated as soon as possible. Research has shown that the best outcome for children with learning difficulties occurs when they have targeted academic interventions from an early age. For many children, learning difficulties may not become fully apparent until around Grade Two, when children are expected to have acquired basic reading, writing and math skills.