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.