Psycho-Educational Evaluations




The parents and the teachers of children with suspected learning difficulties are often faced with the challenge of finding a qualified psychological diagnostician to help them understand their child’s or their student’s difficulties.  Their own parental or professional standards require that they make “informed decisions” (rather than guessing and experimenting) about the necessity of providing their struggling child with whatever kind of learning support this child needs to overcome his or her difficulties.  Once such a psychologist has been located, the next question is: “What kind of psychological evaluation will best provide the specific information needed to provide the most appropriate kind of support?”

Psycho-Educational Evaluation: The primary goal of a Psycho-Educational Evaluation is to establish whether or not a child is suffering from a Specific Learning Disorder, a Generalized Learning Disorder and/or an Achievement Motivation Disorder.  A secondary, but just as important goal, is to identify relative strengths and weaknesses in the child’s ability-achievement profile and his or her preferred learning style.  This knowledge can help develop an appropriate remedial plan suited to the child’s learning needs.  The psycho-educational diagnostic procedure involves gathering relevant information in the form of questionnaires and/or a biographical interview with one or both parents.  School reports are reviewed and teachers may be asked to complete one or more rating scales or to consult with the professional via telephone to clarify the reason for the referral.  Test sessions are arranged for the child.  During these test sessions, standardized intelligence tests and tests of basic academic skills (reading, spelling, mathematics) are administered and clinical observations are made about the child’s test-taking behaviour.  After the child has left the office, the data collected during the entire evaluation process is scored, interpreted, reviewed and consolidated into a detailed written report.  The written report is the most common way of communication the results of an evaluation and the diagnosis made to the parents and the referring school authorities.

A Specific Learning Disorder will be diagnosed if a statistically significant discrepancy is found between the child’s global intelligence and his or her level of reading, spelling and/or math skills.  However, this diagnostic criterion does not always apply.  In the case of a child with a very high IQ and “average” (age-appropriately developed) levels of basic academic skills, it is inappropriate to misinterpret this discrepancy as a “learning disorder”.  Similarly, if a child’s learning difficulties or low grades in any subject area can be better explained as an effect of his or her lack of understanding of the language that he or she is being educated in (i.e. a foreign student); or if the child’s learning difficulties or low grades can better be explained as an effect of inadequate learning opportunities in the specific area of basic academic skills that are causing concern (i.e. a student who did not have the opportunity to become literate in his/her “new” language of education (i.e. changing from a German elementary school to an English/French/Japanese secondary school etc.) and now makes spelling and grammar mistakes in this “new” language of education).  If both the ability profile (IQ) and the achievement profiles are low, the child may be suffering from a Generalized Learning Disorder.  If both the ability and the achievement profiles are significantly higher than the student’s present overall level of academic performance (as expressed in school grades; plus some other criteria) the student may be diagnosed as “an underachiever”.  In this case the student is probably suffering from an Achievement Motivation Disorder (see heading Learning Strategy Training).  Psychological screenings for neuropsychological and/or emotional and/or motivational causes that may be affecting the child’s academic performance may be included in a psycho-educational evaluation.