Psychoeducational, Not Psycho-Educational

Okay, it’s really the same thing, but when you hand a report to a parent, it’s unsettling to see the word “Psycho” in isolation like that. If I had a nickel for every time I have typed the word “Psychoeducational,” I would have not that much money because a nickel isn’t really that much. But, I have done hundreds of Psychoeducational Evaluations and while they make perfect sense to me, a common complaint is that they are not reader-friendly.

A Psychoeducational Evaluation is a school psychologist’s bread and butter. It is the culmination of all background information and current testing in a lengthy report that in the end makes a statement about special education eligibility. Ideally, it should also detail how the student learns and how s/he thinks and feels about school, and provide recommendations tailored to a student’s needs. I say “ideally” because it is often completely unreadable to non-school psychologists. It really is its own genre of writing that blends educational jargon, obscure psychological terms, carefully crafted wording of facts and interpretation, and of course, special education legalese.

This begins my 5782975983475893 part series on explaining the contents of a Psychoeducational Evaluation for the real world.

Let’s start with the background history. This section takes one million years to write if you are testing a high school student.* A good background history details the developmental, medical, health, school, mental health, and family history of the child. It’s always a bit weird to ask a parent of a 17-year old about the child’s birth weight and when they said their first words or if there were problems in toilet training, but it really does need to get that specific. Why? Because you never know. Some of the most interesting things come up when you delve into a developmental history, and the child’s history culminates into who they are as a student.

The types of questions I ask about the child’s history depends in part on the referral question. If the referral question is Autism, I ask about social communication, and if its ADHD, I always ask about injuries or hospitalizations (many of my little ADHD friends have broken many a body part in their joie de vive for trying things without thinking). If the student is bilingual, I ask about learning in the native language. If the child is suspected of having an emotional disturbance, I ask about family history of emotional problems. The list goes on.

The point I’m trying to make is that the history is one of the most important parts of the assessment. I learn all kinds of things about the kid and build rapport with the parent too.

Zzzz…oh sorry I just fell asleep at my own post about Psychoeducational Evaluations. Maybe that’s why no one reads these reports in detail except other school psychologists and lawyers**

*I am envious of psychologists who work with preschoolers because their history is “They were born and had a cold when they were 2.”

** Lawyers who are armed with red pen, ready to sue the hell out of the school district (who can barely afford teachers), resulting in one child getting a $60,000 a year nonpublic school, OT, PT, private therapy, speech therapy, transportation and compensatory education, and kids at the less litigious areas of town get 30 minutes a day of help a week, if that. I have some strong feelings on the inequity of service delivery in special education. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for giving each kid what s/he needs, but in a system set up with inadequate resources, it can widen the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

[steps down from virtual soap box]

Sharing is caring!

Comments on Psychoeducational, Not Psycho-Educational

  1. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for this entry. I’m gung-ho RTI these days, and I’ve realized lately that in my mad rush to intervene, I’m neglecting to take a thorough history. And when I get around to it, I hit myself on the head and say, “OF COURSE the intervention didn’t work! If only I had known the child missed 6 years of school / swallows toys periodically / has a pencil phobia / didn’t speak until the previous year, etc.” Yes, I have made a very bad mistake multiple times, but sometimes somthing looks like just an itty bitty fluency problem, and then? As you obviously know, it turns out to be so. much. more.

  2. LOL. Those pencil phobias will get you EVERY TIME.

    Your comment about rushing to the intervention is well taken, especially this time of year, when the main intervention proposed is usually special education testing (or retention). I have made the mistake of rushing to assessment and then discovering the kid has been assessed two times already in elementary school and didn’t qualify. That cumulative folder is a gold mine of information. If you can find it. Some of the students I work with seem to change schools like I change socks.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Hi Rebecca
    I need your insight/wisdom! How is it possible for a child to achieve average scores on auditory processing tasks (WJ-III_ but bottom out on listening comprehension tasks (WIAT-II)?! Child has obvious lags in oral communication/language and only began speaking at 4-5 years of age. Reading comprehension is particularly weak?
    Thank you,
    Jancy King, M.Ed., C. Psych. Assoc.

  4. Anonymous,

    These kids are always a puzzle! What specific tests did the child do well on on the WJ-III? Were there any differences on the WIAT-II regarding receptive and expressive? If you send me the standard scores, I might be able to see if there’s something in particular about the nature of these subtests that would explain the difference. Also, to complicate, was there any test behavior that you noticed on either of these administrations?

    It’s always a challenge to make conclusions when there is a scattered performance on similar tasks. I’ve been there!

  5. Anonymous,

    These kids are always a puzzle! What specific tests did the child do well on on the WJ-III? Were there any differences on the WIAT-II regarding receptive and expressive? If you send me the standard scores, I might be able to see if there’s something in particular about the nature of these subtests that would explain the difference. Also, to complicate, was there any test behavior that you noticed on either of these administrations?

    It’s always a challenge to make conclusions when there is a scattered performance on similar tasks. I’ve been there!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

shares