Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is a psychoeducational evaluation?
A psychoeducational evaluation is typically conducted by a school psychologist, and it assesses areas of suspected disability to determine if a child meets California state criteria for special education services under one of the 13 eligibility categories. It also may help determine areas of need for individualized goal development. This evaluation takes place at the school, and often culminates with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting to discuss testing results, recommendations, eligibility, and possible goals and services. This is required for a child to access special education services through the school district.
What is school neuropsychology?
School neuropsychology is a growing field that promotes the "integration of neuropsychological and educational principles to the assessment and intervention processes with infants, children, and adolescents, and young adults, to facilitate learning and behavior within the school and family systems. School neuropsychologists also play an important role in curriculum development, classroom design, and the integration of differentiated instruction that is based on brain-behavior principles in order to provide an optimal learning environment for every child” (D. Miller, DeFina & Lange, 2004). There is an additional post graduate certification and training program that school psychologists or clinical psychologists must undergo in school neuropsychological assessment and intervention to receive diplomat status by the American Board of School Neuropsychology. A school neuropsychological evaluation may culminate with a specific DSM-5 diagnosis if warranted, a discussion of special education eligibility recommendations, and thorough intervention recommendations for the school and home.
When should I consider a school neuropsychology assessment?
The depth of a school neuropsychological assessment is not always warranted, and I will always advise you if I believe that a shorter assessment will be more efficient. Times to consider a school neuropsychological assessment include when:
A student returns to school following a head injury
A student has a documented rapid drop in academic achievement that cannot be explained by social-emotional or environmental causes
A student does not respond to interventions
A student has a suspected processing weakness
A student has significant scatter in psychoeducational test performance and more information is needed to determine diagnosis or interventions
A student has a complex medical condition and more information is needed to understand or monitor functioning and determine appropriate interventions.
How is a school neuropsychology assessment different from an assessment from a pediatric neuropsychologist?
Whereas much of the training between educational psychologists and pediatric neuropsychologists overlaps, educational psychologists with school neuropsychological training tend to have much more experience and training with special education law, consultation within school contexts, application of school-based interventions, classroom systems design and modification, and general instructional and intervention methodologies. Pediatric neuropsychologists tend to have additional training in medical settings and systems, in general neuroanatomy, and in clinical psychology. Both assessments should base test selection on neuropsychological models of functioning, and base recommendations on the individual needs of the child.
What might I expect in a school neuropsychological or psychoeducational assessment?
Before deciding to do an assessment, you should schedule a free 30 minute consultation to determine what level of consultation and/ or assessment is appropriate for your child. This is also a great opportunity for us to determine what the right fit for your situation is. I am happy to support you in requesting additional school district supports or evaluation, as well as discuss other possible intervention or consultation options aside from an assessment.
If we do decide on an assessment, we will then schedule a 90 minute intake session, as well as subsequent assessment sessions. I will thoroughly review any previous evaluations or school documents you have, and interview appropriate school staff and outside providers, with your permission.
School neuropsychological testing focuses on assessing strengths and weaknesses in a variety of areas that impact learning and behavior, such as basic sensorimotor capabilities, attention, working memory, speed of processing, visuospatial and auditory processing, academic abilities and acquired knowledge, language abilities, executive functioning, emotional functioning, and learning/ memory retrieval. General psychoeducational testing may focus on a smaller number of areas.
Typically, testing occurs in 2-5 sessions either at my office, at the school, or at your home. I also conduct at least one school observation. I provide a thorough report with diagnostic impressions and comprehensive recommendations, and schedule a debriefing session within two weeks of finishing testing.
How do I talk with my child about the assessment process?
This is a concern many parents have, and the answer depends on your child’s developmental level.
For children at the preschool through early elementary developmental level, it is often best to keep the explanation simple. You may tell them, “We are going to play and do some learning games” or “we are going to see someone to help us learn about things you can do really well and things that you need more help with”.
For children and young teens at the mid to late elementary level through middle school developmental level, you may wish to build on comments they have already made regarding frustration with experiences at school. For example, you might say, “You know how you are often feeling stressed with school and homework? We are going to go see someone that is going to help us learn about ways we and your teachers can help you feel more supported with school”.
For the teen and young adult developmental level, be straightforward and share that you would like to support them in their schooling, and that you are taking them to see an educational psychologist to find strategies and accommodations that will be helpful for them as they get older.
Believe it or not, children, teens, and young adults often find this process relieving! They may have experienced frustration and feelings of low worth at school for a long time, without knowing why or attributing it to some flaw within themselves. Sharing an understanding of the individual’s strengths and weaknesses in a developmentally appropriate way gives the student, family and educators a way to talk about the problem constructively, with a shared vocabulary.
What is a Functional Behavioral Assessment?
A functional behavioral assessment is usually performed by a behaviorist or school psychologist, and it tries to determine the "why" of an individual's behavior. A functional behavioral assessment is conducted to help the school or family team plan appropriate behavioral interventions, and often ends in the creation of a behavior intervention plan and ongoing structures to monitor progress. This assessment can be part of a more comprehensive psychoeducational or school neuropsychological evaluation, or it can be done independently. It consists of interviews, observations, and data collection to 1) determine the function of the problem behavior and 2) to determine a more adaptive behavioral pathway that can be taught to the individual. For a more in-depth article describing functional behavioral assessments to caregivers, please see:
What are the rates for an evaluation?
You will find my rates very competitive, and we will discuss rates during our initial consultation. I do not take medical insurance, but can provide an invoice with diagnostic codes, as some insurances may provide you with full or partial reimbursement.