Psychoeducational testing, preparation, tips, benefits and everything else!

Every parent strives to help their children excel in life as much as possible. However, despite your best efforts, your youngster may be struggling in certain areas. These struggles may occur early in your child’s development, usually characterized by difficulty in getting directions, social interactions, and learning to read and write.

For others, these challenges may arise as the child advances in age in the forms of inability to complete tests in the allotted time, organizing task materials and reading and comprehension. Under these circumstances, psychoeducational testing may be necessary to help understand the underlying causes of the child’s inability to excel in the classroom and point the way toward solutions.

What is psychoeducational testing?

Psychology is the general study of an individual’s behavior and mental processes. On the other hand, psychoeducational testing is defined as a series of psychological tests administered understand the mental processes underlying a child’s educational performance. As part of the psychoeducational assessment, the child is taken through a series of written and oral testing.

There are numerous psychoeducational tests out there and some are definitely better than others. Since these tests are administered to determine the nature and severity of the underlying disorders, it is important that you understand what these tests mean before subjecting your child to one.

Psychoeducational testing preparation

Preparing a child for psychoeducational evaluation can help reduce anxiety and promote cooperation during the upcoming series of tests. One way of practicing is to introduce the discussion by the age of the child; if they are eight years old, discuss the evaluation at least eight days prior to the testing. Reassure the child that the main reason for evaluation is to understand why they are struggling despite the hard work and effort they are putting into their class work. Explain that the test will comprise of a variety of puzzles, questions, drawings, games, and stories; and that the tests are not meant to portray the child as crazy in any way.

Most importantly, encourage the child and convince them that the test will be used to help the teacher and parents know how best they can help them succeed. It is important that you are as honest as possible.

The psychologist administering this testing should be adequately trained and experienced in managing children with a history of learning challenges. The test administrator should seek to make the child as comfortable as possible prior to and during the test. To maintain the professional integrity of the test, do not reveal the test results to the child. What really matters during the psychoeducational evaluation is whether the child is putting his or her best effort into each test.

Here are some tips to consider:

1. Schedule test sessions

It is important that you schedule your tests during the time of day when your child functions at their best. Ensure that you retain the child’s regular schedule so the testing does not result in a bad experience. Let the child be well rested and not hungry while taking the test. Finally, be around while the child is taking the test. Most kids will feel relaxed when they know that someone familiar is around.

2. Let the child know what to expect during the evaluation

It is important that the child understands the role of the test administrator in conducting the assessment as well as the reasons for the test. If possible, consider visiting the evaluation site with the child before the testing day. Find out about the expected types of questions, duration of each test, as well as the testing methods. It is important that the test administrator explains what the child needs in order to take the test. As a parent, your duty is to get the child to the test location on time and in a condition to deliver the best possible test result.

3. Observation of the student’s behavior is important during the test

Skills’ test, for instance, involves administering increasingly difficult challenges or tasks until the child fails three or so times. The test administrator will then note down the situations causing lack of attention, fatigue, delayed responses, or frustration. This is an important component of the diagnostic process. Motivate the child to do their best and not be discouraged. Also, ensure that the child is calm and collected during the test. The child should be given breaks during the test.

Psychoeducational assessment benefits

Most parents think that getting a child to undergo psychoeducational testing means that something could be wrong with the child. However, this is not true. Psychological testing evaluates the child’s strengths and weaknesses in different aspects. Besides empowering the candidate, the outcome of the test can also be used to set the roadmap for ensuring that the child learns and develops to their full potential. Remember, understanding your child’s natural strengths is important for improving their happiness and quality of life.

Here are some additional benefits when it comes to psychoeducational testing:
  • Setting realistic academic expectations based on your child’s strengths and challenges
  • Identifying the strategies, resources, and tools that will maximize your child’s learning
  • Determining the most appropriate academic environment and study strategies for your child’s learning

Psychoeducational evaluation components

Learning patterns, which explains observed behaviors, are part of the test series. For instance, a seemingly inattentive child who has difficulty following directions may also score low in oral testing. The following evaluation table can help you evaluate the outcome of the test.

1. Behavioral and affective

  • Use of teacher, parent and (where applicable) student questionnaires to establish behavioral patterns and concerns.
  • Projective tests, direct observations, and interviewing the child in order to affect, diagnose other psychological conditions and determine the child’s feeling about school problems.

2. Educational component

This component of a psychoeducational component involves observing academic performance on standardized testing with documentation of breakdown points.

  • Mechanics (capitalization, punctuation, and recognition or errors)
  • Language use (compared to oral language)
  • Organization
  • Pencil grip
  • Legibility (cursive and manuscript)
  • Graphomotor rhythm, fluency, and ease of output
  • Comprehension
  • Recall
  • Overall speed and proficiency
  • Decoding speed and accuracy
  • Summarization proficiency
  • Spelling in context
  • Error types
  • Accuracy
  • Ability to understand concepts
  • Geometric and visualization ability
  • Ability and degree of recalling facts
  • Ability to recall procedures and degree of proficiency
  • Word-problem solving skills
  • Ability to use available resources to solve problems
  • Level of interest and enthusiasm
  • Level of performance anxiety
  • Creativity
  • Specific affinity to content
  • Patterns of attention during academic work
  • Ability to understand what he or she is learning

3. Medical

This involves a review of the child’s medical history with the goal of uncovering factors, past and present, which affects the child’s academic performance. It also involves a comprehensive physical examination of the child in order to single out definable medical conditions that may affect the child’s learning ability.

Finally, the child is taken through a neurological evaluation to establish any underlying nervous system disorder.

4. Environmental

This involves interviewing the parent to establish relevant factors in the child’s present and past home environment. Additionally, this assessment includes cultural and peer-related as well as community issues related to the child’s performance.

5. Cognitive and developmental

This involves neuropsychological, direct intelligence, and/or relevant neurodevelopmental evaluation to detect the child’s neurodevelopmental strengths and weaknesses. It can also include an administration of questionnaires to document past and current neurodevelopmental affinities, function, and styles.

Psychological test caveats

A comprehensive psychological assessment involves a differential diagnosis of the child’s traits and abilities. The outcome of the test can be used to draw conclusions about the learner’s ability to perceive, process and pass information. Before getting into any discussions about the child’s psychoeducational test results with the child’s teacher, it is important that you know the most appropriate test for establishing independent and credible information. You can get this information from parent resource centers.

A psychoeducational test is just one metric. No single definitive test can accurately diagnose a learning disability. Rather, accurate diagnosis results from a summation of several tests. Often, observations of the child’s social and behavioral adaptive skills can help with the identification process. However, some children tend to have multiple challenges that confound the diagnostic process.

It is important to note that these psychological evaluations are not perfect as they can be influenced by the psychologist’s training and experience as well as the testing environment.

Other factors that can affect the outcome of the psychological evaluation include:
  • When the test is designed for a purpose and a population that is different from your child’s.
  • Your child’s overall attitude and condition. Prolonged testing can lessen the impact of the test sessions
  • When the test fails to be a true measure of what it is supposed to measure. This could be as a result of the test’s statistical inadequacy, also referred to as psychometric properties, like reliability, standardization, and validity.
  • When there is a misdiagnosis as a result of misinterpretation of the test. This can happen when the test administrator is not adequately trained or inexperienced.
  • When there are problems with the test’s standards for determining the typical learning patterns. Thus, a child who is unable to conveniently fit into one of the specified cognitive profiles may receive an inaccurate differential diagnosis to explain their learning challenges

Psychoeducational testing for children

Basically, psychoeducational testing provides a profile of a learner’s cognitive and intellectual abilities and levels of educational achievement. Understanding the learner’s background and other factors that may have an impact on their learning process is important for making an accurate and qualitative diagnosis.