My child is really struggling at school – should we consider a Psychoeducational Evaluation?
Struggles at school can occur quite early in some children, even before any type of academic work has begun. These children may have difficulty understanding directions, learning to read, or developing social skills. For others their learning difficulties arise in later years as they experience difficulty in reading comprehension, test-taking, and organizational skills.
Even with intervention and assistance, these struggles can persist and create an ever expanding set of challenges for the child and the family. These children are vulnerable to experiencing feelings of low self-esteem and developing low expectations for themselves. Their parents and teachers are left frustrated and feeling helpless.
In such situations, a psychoeducational evaluation can often provide greater understanding of the child and help identify solutions.
What is a Psychoeducational Evaluation?
In the simplest terms, this evaluation can determine if a child has a learning disability or other issues that adversely impact their ability to learn. A psychoeducational evaluation is distinct from other assessments in that a complete evaluation assesses child’s general emotional and behavioral issues in addition to their intellectual abilities and academic achievement levels. Thus the value of a psychoeducational evaluation is that it can measure a child’s emotional/behavioral functioning and its impact on the child’s academic experience.
Do I need a professional referral for this evaluation?
Ultimately the decision is up to the parents and there isn’t any single path leading to a decision to have their child tested. Sometimes a teacher or counselor has suggested an evaluation, sometimes the child’s pediatrician will recommend it, but often it is the parents that most strongly suspect their child may need to be evaluated. Parents tend to report that they just ‘knew things just didn’t add up’ when feedback from school was at odds with what they knew about their child. However, while there is no prescribed path or referral needed, the more information parents have about their child’s struggles, the better the outcome of any evaluation.
Before deciding to have a child evaluated, it’s important that parents and teachers first work together to determine whether there are any patterns of difficulty and whether any interventions have been helpful. Learning issues can often be traced back a number of years and not everyone who is struggling in school needs to be tested. Parents and teachers working together to develop and try alternative strategies can often help the student work through difficult issues. How the child responds to these interventions provides additional insight about whether a formal evaluation is needed.
In the end, parents should follow their gut instincts: when their child continues to struggle despite additional help, and despite eligibility for school services, they need to consult someone they trust about getting a formal evaluation.
After evaluation and diagnosis, how can the results help the child?
The goal of any evaluation is to pinpoint specific issues that are interfering with the child’s progress. Once parents and teachers know what they’re dealing with, they can start to address the challenges with specific interventions and accommodations. From this perspective, an evaluation is not a final determination or diagnosis; it should be considered as the first step toward identifying the resources that will actually help the child be successful at school and home.
Since the results can be complicated it’s important that parents review the report with the doctor and ensure plenty of time for interpretation, questions and concerns. Some doctors may be more in-depth in their recommendations and some more general so it’s crucial that parents get clear on the exact issues identified by the evaluation and become familiar with the current recommendations for those issues.
Results can also be emotionally trying since some parents may feel as if some of their worst fears are coming true. It is important to keep in mind that a diagnosis is not a sentence of hardship, it is actually the first step in the path of bringing relief. A parent can end their speculating and start planning.
To this end, parents need to make sure their needs are answered so they can drive the plan. At Psychology 360, we are able to help parents come up with an action plan based upon available resources and get them started building a strong network of support for the child.
Learn more about Psychoeducational Evaluations at Psychology 360 – Contact us today. Together we will determine what your needs are and how we can help.