Frequently Asked Questions
Regarding Psychoeducational Assessments
Q. What exactly is a psychoeducational assessment?
A psychoeducational assessment is completed to obtain information regarding an individual’s learning style, and can help the student and his/her teachers or instructors understand why the student may be struggling academically and/or behaviourally. The standardized instruments used in the assessment measure the proficiency with which an individual uses language, as well as various types of reasoning skills (e.g., abstract, applied and deductive). Several aspects of memory, attention and organizational skills are also evaluated. The efficiency with which written work is completed (graphomotor skills) and the ability to interpret and analyze visually-presented material is also assessed. Reading (both decoding and comprehension), spelling, written expression and math (both computational and math reasoning) are measured. When appropriate, a diagnosis of a learning disability or attentional disorder may be made.
Q. How will the assessment proceed?
The testing process is usually scheduled over two half days. Clients are requested to arrive approximately 15 minutes before the scheduled appointment time to complete some brief forms. If the assessment is for a child, this time will also allow the child to acclimatize to the new environment.
Once the paperwork is completed, the examiner will usually spend approximately 20 to 40 minutes meeting with the client or parent(s) to obtain background information During this time, children remain in the waiting area (supplied with books, drawing paper, games, etc.). In some cases, adolescents may be present during this information gathering session. The examiner will ask a series of questions to clarify major concerns and obtain information regarding relevant developmental, medical, academic, and social history.
The assessment then proceeds, with the examiner working interactively with the child for approximately two hours to administer the first half of the various assessment tools. Short breaks are taken as needed, during which the child may be offered a drink or snack (please notify us of any allergies, or if you prefer that we not offer anything). If the assessment has been scheduled for an entire day, a one-hour lunch break will take place at the time indicated by the examiner; parents are requested to take the child out for lunch, as there are no cafeteria facilities at Chisholm. Once the afternoon session begins (or the second day of testing, for clients who book two half-days of testing), the examiner will work with the child for approximately two more hours to complete the testing.
Once testing is finished, the examiner will meet with the parent(s) a final time to provide some preliminary feedback regarding the assessment results. This usually takes place immediately after the completion of testing, but in some circumstances, the feedback session may be scheduled for another day. Since the feedback meeting can last from 30 to 60 minutes, parents are encouraged to bring a favourite toy or book to keep younger children occupied while they remain in the waiting area. The examiner will discuss the major findings of the assessment and provide some recommendations. After our psychologists have thoroughly reviewed the assessment, a full written report containing specific recommendations is provided. The report is sent directly to the client within 30 days and to other professionals, at the client’s request. Verbal feedback can also be provided shortly after the assessment to another professional at the request of the client. The formal report will contain the assessment results (including a diagnosis, if applicable), a description of the tests and actual scores, and a summary section which will provide a list of recommendations and strategies to address areas of weakness.
FAQ Assessment P. 2
Q. If a child is being assessed, may parents watch while the testing is taking place?
This is not permitted, for two reasons. First, all of the administered tests are standardized, which means that strict guidelines must be adhered to in order to ensure that a valid assessment takes place. Having a parent present poses the risk of invalidating these guidelines, and can often be distracting for the student being assessed. Second, many children may be too self-conscious with a parent present, and may not take risks on more challenging tasks for fear of making errors, which may result in an underestimation of a student’s actual potential. Although parents are generally not allowed in the testing office itself during testing, they are welcome to remain in the waiting area within the building, or they may choose to leave the building to conduct their daily business and return to pick their child up at the designated time.
Q. What information will be given to me at the end of the assessment?
Preliminary feedback typically consists of a discussion of the student’s areas of strength and weakness, as determined by the tests, and some scores may be provided. However, parents should keep in mind, that since not all of the tests will have been scored by the time the feedback session takes place, some information may not be available. Recommendations are also discussed in this meeting. The final report will address all areas of concern cited by the parents, and will include a discussion of all of the test results and provide several recommendations that may be implemented at the school or at home.
Q. Are the reports (and any diagnoses) recognized by the school boards?
Yes. Chisholm’s assessment reports are very comprehensive, and are highly regarded within the school systems in the area. However, there may be some variability regarding the actual implementation of recommendations, which may depend on the resources available at the child’s school.
Q. Is it necessary for both parents to attend?
No, although this is desirable so that information is communicated directly to both parents, and so each parent has the opportunity to voice their own concerns regarding their child. In special circumstances, the examiner may be able to provide information to an absent parent over the telephone. In addition, parents who have insurance coverage for the assessment may be able to claim a larger part of the fee if both parents are present (please consult the insurer).
Q. What happens to the information? Does it go to the school?
All information obtained through the assessment is held in strict confidence at Chisholm Centre. Parents receive a copy of the final psychoeducational report; however, absolutely no information is conveyed to any third parties (including the child’s school) unless written consent is formally obtained from the parents. This is the case even if the child’s teacher recommended the assessment. Of course, it may be to the child’s advantage for parents to share the assessment findings with other professionals (e.g., teacher, physician, etc.), as this may enable additional supports to be put in place. The examiner would be pleased to address any questions regarding the release of the assessment findings to outside individuals, and will provide information on the limits of confidentiality during the initial parent meeting.
FAQ Assessments P.3
Q. What should I bring to the assessment?
Parents are encouraged to bring the following information with them to the assessment:
- any rating scales (e.g., Conners) which were sent for them to complete prior to the assessment (unless these were completed online).
- copies of report cards, including the most recent report card and (if available) report cards from the early primary grades (i.e., grades 1 to 3)
- for younger children, a favourite toy or book to keep them occupied while they are waiting. Chisholm Centre has some videos and toys on site, but a favourite toy can be comforting for some children
- any copies of previous assessment reports, including psychoeducational assessments, academic screening, speech-language assessments, etc. This is particularly important, as some of the specific tests which are often utilized may not be repeated within a certain time frame, and it will be crucial for the examiner to be aware of any tests to which the child has had prior exposure, to avoid invalidating current results.
- a sampling of recent schoolwork can be helpful, but is not necessary as the examiner will be obtaining samples of work during the evaluation
- also, please be sure that the child has received an appropriate amount of sleep the night before the assessment, and that he/she has eaten breakfast that morning; both of these can increase alertness and have a positive impact on test performance
Q. How can I prepare my child for the assessment?
The child should be informed about the assessment at least a few days before the actual date (preferably not the morning of the assessment itself). The assessment should be framed as a positive experience, and might be described to the child as a look at their learning style, to find out all about their strengths and figure out ways to help them do better at school at things they might find more difficult. The child may be told that they might be asked to answer different types of questions, solve different types of problems, do some pencil and paper tasks, and do other types of activities which many children find quite enjoyable. Avoid using the word ‘test’ as it often elicits unnecessary anxiety; conversely, do not mislead the child by telling them they will spend a day doing only games and puzzles, as this can result in an abrupt loss of rapport with the examiner when they are presented with some of the more academically-oriented tasks.
Q. My child has been prescribed Ritalin to help him with attention and concentration. Should he take it the day of the assessment?
This is often a judgment call, as many parents wish to obtain a “true” evaluation of their child while unmedicated. However, not medicating a child who is usually medicated at school may produce scores which may underestimate the student’s potential, particularly on tasks which are more dependent on attention and concentration. As a rule of thumb, the assessment should endeavour to represent the student’s “typical” performance. If the child is typically taking Ritalin at school, then you may wish to medicate him or her the day of the assessment, as you would be more likely to obtain a more accurate sampling of their current classroom behaviour and skill levels. However, if you anticipate either a change or discontinuation of the medication in the imminent future, it may be beneficial not to administer the medication. Please call for further assistance with this issue.
Q. What if I am (or my child is) ill on the day of the assessment?
Depending on the nature of the illness, it may be wise to reschedule the appointment as illness can negatively affect testing results. If you have doubts, please contact Chisholm Centre as soon as you can to discuss the various options.
FAQ Assessments P.4
Q. What if I have questions after I receive the report?
The examiner would be happy to address any questions you have after the assessment is over. Parents are often surprised by the volume of information they learn about their child, and it can sometimes be hard to take it all in at once. Do not worry if you find some of the information confusing or overwhelming -- we will do our best to help you understand the information you have been provided.
Q. How and when do I pay?
On the final day of testing, our staff will provide you with an invoice. Payment may take place through cheque, debit, or credit card. If you require an insurance claim form, our staff will be pleased to assist you. Although the services of a psychologist are not covered by OHIP, most employers have major medical insurance plans covering the services of a registered psychologist and, therefore, all or part of the assessment cost may be covered. The services of a psychologist may also be claimed as an income tax deduction.
Students receiving OSAP loans should also inquire about the availability of a bursary to cover the cost of the assessment.