It’s the start of a new school year which for many parents means it is time for re-evaluations for schools. Often times, children receive psychological testing from schools or private psychologists, but the terminology is not well-explained. Parents often leave the feedback session confused without a thorough understanding of the results.
Why is testing needed?
Assessment is helpful to determine whether your child meets criteria for a particular diagnosis, such as autism, ADHD, learning disorders, or developmental delays. It is also needed to determine your child’s strengths and weaknesses and overall level of functioning.
Re-evaluations may be needed to see how your child is progressing or to see if your child’s treatment needs have changed.
Can I do anything to help prepare my child?
There are a few things that you can do to help ensure that your child is ready for the evaluation:
- Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep the evening before the evaluation.
- Make sure your child is well-fed before the assessment. Some psychologists allow children to bring in some snacks as well, just in case they get hungry.
- If your child wears glasses or hearing devices, please make sure that your child wears them during the assessment.
What does your child experience during testing?
The psychological evaluation format can really vary depending on the reported concerns. Most testing includes an observation of your child as well as a parent interview. The parent interview is needed to gather further information related to your child including medical, educational, and psychological history. It is likely that your child may also be assessed more formally using standardized testing measures.
What tests will be given to my child?
The psychologist evaluating your child will determine the appropriate compilation of tests. This may include intelligence tests, achievement measures, executive functioning tests, memory assessments, and/or social-emotional rating scales.
Intelligence tests, or IQ assessments, assess a child’s cognitive abilities. They typically include a combination of verbal tasks, which require children to use their language to answer the questions, and nonverbal tasks, which are more visually-based.
An IQ test is usually recommended for most assessments, but is especially important for assessing giftedness, developmental delays, learning disorders, and/or intellectual disabilities.
Achievement tests are used to measure a child’s skills in academic areas including reading, writing, and math. Many achievement tests have fluency tasks (measuring how quickly your child can complete the questions), and application tasks (measuring how well your child can apply the skills to solve problems), and a skills component (measuring your child’s knowledge in each subject area).
These tests are really helpful to determine how your child is functioning academically compared to other children. Achievement tests are needed to see if your child is in the appropriate classroom placement, receiving the appropriate curriculum, or could benefit from additional supports.
Memory assessments are used to measure your child’s recall of information. Most memory assessments assess a child’s ability to recall both verbal information and visual information.
Executive Functioning Tests
These assessments are designed to asses a child’s executive functioning skills including attention, impulse control, organization, and working memory. These tests are commonly used to help diagnose Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorders (ADHD).
Social-Emotional and Behavior Tests
Many of these assessments come in the form of rating scales that parents, teachers, and even older children are asked to complete. These assessments generally measure different areas of behavioral and emotional functioning including a child’s mood, behavior, and social skills.
What happens after testing?
After testing is completed, all of the tests will be scored, interpreted, and integrated into a comprehensive report. A copy of the report should be made available to the family at a feedback session where the results can be explained, questions can be answered, and recommendations can be discussed.
At the end of the report, the psychologist will list recommendations for your family. If you have questions about any of these recommendations, make sure to ask the person giving you the information.
Test results can be scored and reported in various ways. Here are some key terminology that may be used throughout the report:
Standard scores have a mean, or average, of 100 and a standard deviation of 15. Meaning that most students perform within the Average range of 85 to 115.
Scaled scores are scores compared to children of the same age. These scores have a mean, or average, of 10 and a standard deviation of 3.
T-scores are another way to measure a child’s functioning. T-scores have a mean, or average, of 50 and a standard deviation of 10. Therefore, scores within the normal range are roughly between a 40 and a 60 T-score.
When a score is reported as a grade equivalent, this means that your child is functioning around that particular grade level. In a report, this is typically reported as a decimal. For example, the report may read that your child is functioning at 1.2 grade level for math skills. This means that your child is functioning at a level typical of a student in the 2nd month of 1st grade.
When a score is reported as an age equivalent, this means that your child’s functioning resembles that of a child at the particular age range.
A percentile rank score compares your child’s performance to other children of the same age. As an example, if your child scored in the 90% percentile that means that your child performed better than 90% of other peers taking the same assessment. Percentile scores have an average of 50.
Most evaluation reports will also include a confidence interval. A confidence interval includes the standard score your child receives, but also gives a margin of error. For instance, if your child received a 95% Confidence Interval of 90 to 112, you can be confident that if your child was evaluated again, 95% of the time your child’s true score would fall within this range.
If you have further questions, feel free to email us!