Psycho-Educational Evaluation

Psycho-Educational Evaluation
By Susan L. Dickinson, MS
Pediatric Psychology

Commonly used Assessment Tools Commonly Used Assessment Tools


Is there a well-informed parent I can talk to about psych testing?

Utah Parent Center
801-272-1051 or 800-468-1168

To whom can I talk to at my child’s school about psych testing?
examiner and child ini testing
A parent may want to talk with Special Education director of your school district, as well as the teacher, the principal, resource director and/or school psychologist of your child’s school. When an in-person or phone conference is arranged with the school to discuss psych testing and how it pertains to your child, a parent may wish to ask a friend or family member to join the meeting for support and another perspective.

Who does psycho-educational testing?
  • Certified school psychologists and licensed clinical psychologists with training and skills in psychological and educational assessment of children conduct clinical and psycho-educational evaluations.
  • Graduate students and masters level professionals under professional supervision also perform psycho-educational evaluations.
  • The Educational Psychology Department through your nearest university may provide psycho-educational testing clinics as a training laboratory and community service.
  • A member of the Special Education team most frequently administers academic achievement tests, as the Woodcock Johnson Tests of Achievement-III.
  • The Speech and Language therapist evaluates speech production and language development, often using instruments as, Celf-IV, Casl, PPVT, Receptive One-Word Vocabulary Test, Naming Test, or other auditory processing language testing, such as the TACL and pragmatic or social conversation skills, such as TOPS.
  • An Occupational Therapist (OT) evaluates visual perception, fine motor and visual motor integration as well as sensory processing. Tests often used are: The Beery-Buktenica Developmental Test of Visual Motor Integration X, Bender Gestalt Test, Sensory Profile, such as Winnie Dunn. Hand-writing and graphic skills are also assessed.
  • The Physical Therapist (PT) assesses large motor development, ambulation, posture and wheel-chair fit and other accessories. Tests often used are: Peabody Developmental Motor Scale (PDMS2); Bruiniiks Osterosky Test of Motor Proficiency; Test of Visual perception Sills; Sensory Profile; Developmental Tests of Perception; Functional Independence Skills Handbook; Pediatric Evaluation of Disability Inventory.
  • PT and OT also perform assessments of development and feeding issues in infancy.
  • A pediatric neurologist often uses a Denver Developmental Test to assess the infant/toddler’s developmental stage.
  • An Audiologist assess hearing, central auditory processing, hypersensitivities and hearing aide need and maintenance.

What is a psychological evaluation or psycho-educational evaluation?

Clinical and psycho-educational evaluation is defined as a set of assessment procedures administered and interpreted to obtain information about the child’s development, learning, memory, academics, behavior and mental health. Different assessment procedures, or combination of procedures, are used, depending upon the referral questions, presenting problems and the past tests administered with careful consideration of cultural differences and possible impairments in speech/language, hearing, vision and motor development. Current status of basic health care, hearing and vision need to be established.

Psychological evaluation is conducted using different sources and assessment methods (norm-referenced, criterion-referenced tests, screeners/checklists, self-report ratings, observation, and review of history and development).

After the assessment (information gathering), the psychologist scores, interprets the results and discusses the findings with the parents. The parents and psychologist most often find it helpful to discuss the findings with those working with the child, as teachers, therapist and sometimes the child, if appropriate. Principals and parent advocates are often involved in the results discussion, as this meeting may be used for intervention development, accommodations and service delivery planning.

A parent needs to obtain a copy of all evaluations completed and establish a private home file. MedicalHome Portal - Care Notebook. The child’s primary care health provider will also need a copy of the evaluation.

Additional parent questions and answers about testing can be read at the following web sites: Evaluation: What Does it Mean for Your Child and Psychological Evaluations: What Every Parent Should Know (Available in english and other languages).


Where can I find written standards for psychological testing?

The National Association of School Psychologists and American Psychological Association have written standards and position papers regarding psychological evaluation and testing issues, which can be read at the following websites:

Psycho Educational Testing Standards:

American Psychological Association
Testing and Assessment

The Utah Special Educator address cultural contributions and issues in testing (spring 2003, Vol 23 and May 2005, Vol 25.
Utah Personnel Development Center

Herbert & Hostetter. English Learners: Literacy And Achievement - A special monograph edition of The Utah Special Educator. (2003 Spring). 23(05). Entire Issue.

What is the difference between the testing conducted by a Psychologist, Neuropsychologist and Neurologist?

A neuropsycholgist has specialized training in neuropsychology beyond the work of school and clinical psychology. The test battery is more extensive and time consuming to conduct. Whereas, the neurologist studies the structural, physical and metabolic conditions of the brain through history, CT, MRI, EEG and PET scans, the neuropsychologist evaluates brain function, that is, performance, through scientifically validated objective tests administered to the child.

What is the difference between a medical diagnosis and an educational classification?

Ex. Developmental Reading Disorder, Dyslexia and Learning Disabilities.

A medical health provider uses the term Developmental Reading Disorder for severe reading problems using the Diagnostic Statistical Manual - IV (DSM IV) and the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-9). The school would use the term Specific Learning Disabilities which is covered under Special Education, as specified under IDEA. (There are 11 special education classifications). Dyslexia is an older term from the medical literature which connotes is a difficulty with language, especially at the level of reading that is unexpected in relationship to the experience of the child.

Utah Branch of the International Dyslexia Association

What does a parent need to do to prior to the testing appointment?

When testing is conducted by the school psychologist, the parent follows the school district’s consent process, by signing a concent to test. When the testing is done by a community psychologist (private or public), the process will be reviewed and necessary consent forms signed.

The examiner will interview the parent/guardian/caretaker regarding the child’s background: birth, development, medical history, family, and school. Parents will be asked to sign releases to obtain copies of past testing; medical reports and school records. A copy of the current report card and child’s work samples are also helpful to the examiner.

Parents are encouraged to keep a home file of report copies. Utah Collaborative Medical Home Project - For & About Families.


How can a parent prepare the child for the testing appointment?

For the young child a parent can talk about going to see a psychologist/school psychologist who will ask the child about favorite toys, activities, and family and friends. The child may be asked to draw, do puzzles and talk to see how learning is progressing. For the young and or anxious child bringing a favorite toy (transitional object) or a photograph of the family, friend or family pet can ease the transition and facilitate conversation. For the older child who likes computers he or she can be told that computer activities, drawing, talking and school-type tasks will be done.

For testing conducted in a clinic setting, the parent needs to tell the child that no shots will be given. For the child who has had lived with many families or is or has been in foster care, special consideration needs to taken to reassure the child will return to the same home after the appointment.

Most children enjoy the testing experience once the transition from home to the testing room has been accomplished. They often look forward to returning.examiner and child together

During the psycho-educational evaluation will strengths be assessed and cultural differences be considered?

Strength-based Assessment
Seligman purports the use of strength-based assessments in the services of positive psychology. Click on for link to
Seligman’s book and website include checklists and surveys for adult and child personal assessment tools. Parents can complete the surveys/checklists about themselves and the children and use results as a basis for family refocus. In his book, Authentic Happiness, Seligman provides a framework to restructure one’s life (adult and child) through strength identification, utilization of signature strengths and resiliency- happiness building. One’s thinking (family thinking) is shifted from a position of weakness, depression and even despair to a new vitality, in order to look at the past with satisfaction, the future with optimism and the present with increased happiness.

Survey of the child’s reinforcers provides in addition to behavioral programming, this survey can provide material for the child’s strengths and interests.
The child, parent and teacher can complete this form. The child and parent/teacher completing the form together can be a relationship building tool as well as a planning tool for enhancement of talents and interests (FHPP). The parent assessment of child’s strength’s provide additional data (Child's Strengths Checklist).

The Daily Child Strength Scale is completed by the child and can be used to facilitate a discussion about strength, interest and activity development.


How are the testing results used?
The psycho-educational evaluation will yield information about the child in terms of general intelligence, levels of academic achievement, fine motor and visual motor integration, language, memory and daily skills. The scores generated compare the child's performance to other children's scores around the nation. In the schools test results are used for special education and related services in eligibility planning measuring progress and effectiveness of instructional strategies.

Psycho-education testing is also used to determine eligibility in other agencies for disability determination (Department of Services for People with Disabilities (DSPD) and Social Security Income (SSI)).

What does psych-educational testing not provide?
Psycho-educational testing does not answer all questions about problems a child maybe experiencing. Certainly, direct observation of the child's behavior within the classroom, on the playground and at home provides a wealth of data for intervention planning. Peg Dawson, PhD has written an excellent article on appropriate use on use and misuse of testing. Please refer to the following websites for further information:

How can a parent begin to understand the many confusing terms used in testing?

A glossary of testing terms may be helpful to a parent, as terms are discussed such as achievement, norm referenced, standardized, bell curve.
LD Online - Evaluation: What Does it Mean for Your Child

I am hearing about a new school procedure, “RTI” What is it?
Response to Intervention (RTI), not a new concept, was recently more formalized by the passage of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) in 2004.

Local educational agencies (LEAs) “shall not be required to take into consideration whether a child has a severe discrepancy between achievement and intellectual ability” and “may use a process that determines if the child responds to scientific, research-based intervention as a part of the evaluation procedures” (Pub.L.No.108-446 & 614 [b][6] A}; & 614 [b][2 & 3]).

See The Parent Primer on Response to Intervention at:

If the child is still failing after the RTI, a special education referral for testing could be a second step for an intervention beyond the regular classroom.

Commonly Used Assessment Tools and Who Usually Administers Them