With each assessment, I have three objectives:
First, to address the referral questions as clearly and fully as I can with practical recommendations for needed interventions.
Second, from the rich information available with an assessment, to present an individual’s pattern of strengths and weaknesses, for purposes of planning present interventions and as a record for future reference, such as when documentation may be required for services or accommodations.
Third, and this applies increasingly with older children and adolescents, to use the assessment procedures as a clinical intervention to move the individual toward a more differentiated view of himself or herself, a more realistic awareness of strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and barriers, and the steps he or she can take to manage challenges.
Each assessment begins with the Wechsler scale appropriate to the individual’s age. This is the core test of cognitive abilities, but the picture may be augmented with other cognitive instruments to clarify aspects of the cognitive profile.
The next step is to profile academic skills and then more full probe and document areas of weakness. I usually use the Woodcock Achievement Battery including the Oral Language scale. The Woodcock screens academic skills on three levels: basic skills, fluency of basic skills, and higher level application of skills.
Neuropsychological testing and screening for language problems is part of the assessment procedures. Selection of tests depends on what questions are posed and what issues emerge in the course of assessment. Screening procedures include screening of memory, perception, information processing and focusing tasks. I use the TOVA-8 as an intrument to track several variables of attention and the Delis-Kaplan to profile other executive functions. Additional testing is often required for documentation when a child needs and qualifies for services or accommodations. Any additional testing within the first year is part of the original assessment.
In addition to testing of abilities and academic skills, I usually administer some psychological tests just to make sure there are no emotional issues contributing to school problems or even simmering along underneath to cause as potential problems in the future.
Within a week of finishing the initial testing, I will present parents with a formal report of assessment at the first parent feedback conference. At the beginning of this conference I explain that I expect several conferences to fully explore the findings, all included in the assessment fee.
After the first year, I remain available to discuss the testing results by telephone, or as a sit-down consultation with parents, if parents feel the assessment may be pertinent to future educational or behavioral issues. I keep all files of testing back more than a decade; it is sometimes helpful to review earlier testing as a basis for consulting on current issues.
In writing a report, my objective is to have almost every statement directed toward a practical suggestion or toward improvement of understanding. Often, to be sure, there will be statements in a test report that do not tie directly into any of the referral questions or into the main themes that have emerged from the assessment, but which I wish to place in the record, so to speak, for potential future benefit.
In the report of assessment, I present a picture of the individual’s level and pattern of abilities: strengths and assets; characteristic patterns in processing of information; any areas of weakness in thinking, learning, information processing, perception or memory; a profile of academic skills; and finally, consideration of any emotional, social or motivational factors that may affect development or performance.
The initial test report is for the parent. When the parent wants to send the report to another party, we consider what should be sent in the child’s best interests. For example, there may be sensitive material in a report that would not be needed by or even be a burden to a tutor.
Assessments take place over two or three half-days. My assistance, Penny, first schedules a one hour initial consultation to discuss the purpose of testing and to gather background information. The consultation fee for this session applies toward the full assessment if parents decide to continue. In that case we schedule two three-hour testing sessions initially, but it is common that an additional session is required.
Sue Wallington Quinlan, Ph.D.
Specialized Practice of Diagnostic Assessment, Neuropsychological Testing, Psychological Testing and Educational Assessment