A Free Presentation Series for Parents with Students of All Ages
Individual Matters hosts a series of presentations for parents of students of all ages. Join Dr. Katen and other local experts to learn about all things that have to do with learning.
The presentations take place on the FIRST TUESDAY of every month for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. Topics will include:
- Learning Simulations
- ADHD: What is really causing the attention problem?
- Dyslexia and other Learning Disorders
- Auditory and Visual Processing
- Executive Function and Learning
- Learning Styles and Using Strengths to Find Success
- Gifted and Advanced Learners
- Successful Learning Skills: Organization and Homework Strategies
- Autism and Other Social Challenges
- IEPs, 504s, and Advocating for your Child at School
- And many more!
Location: 2530 E. Foresight Circle, Grand Junction, CO 81505
Day/Time: 1st Tuesday of each month, 5:30-7:00pm
If you can make it, please RSVP by email or phone so we can be sure to have enough seats and snacks.
Hope to see you there!
Do you answer “yes” to any of the following questions?
- Are you curious what hidden gifts or talents you possess, but don’t use?
- Do you sense that you learn or perceive the world differently from others?
- Does it feel like you could conquer the world – if only you didn’t have so much anxiety and self-doubt?
- Do you have big wishes/goals, but feel like you’re not educated (or smart) enough to attain them?
- Ever wonder why you experience relationships and social gatherings differently from your family and friends?
- Is school or work a struggle? Boring? Simply a poor “fit”?
- Are you an entrepreneur who wants to fine-tune your role in your business?
- Are you an employee who secretly wants to be an entrepreneur?
- As a mom, do you sense that your child is not performing at their best? Or as happy as they should be?
- Is it hard for you to pay attention, remember things, organize and manage your busy life?
- Do you feel like you’re a smart, creative person who is drowning in a world of checklists, to-dos, and non-stop life maintenance?
Maybe these questions seem like an advertisement for a motivational class or success
seminar. But sometimes, they’re questions that lead individuals to seek a neuropsychological learning evaluation.
A comprehensive, high quality, neuropsychological learning evaluation can help you understand:
- How you think.
- How you learn.
- How you relate to the world.
- Your interests and talents.
- Factors that may be suppressing your performance and happiness.
The goal of this evaluation is not to “diagnose” what is “wrong” with you or your child.
But it is important to identify what issues may be keeping you from functioning your best – and being your happiest. Here’s an analogy we can all relate to:
What would you do if your car did not start in the morning? Would you “give up” – i.e., call your boss your boss and quit your job? Would you “check out” – i.e, climb into the driver’s seat, stare out the windshield, and wait for something miraculous to happen? Would you become “behavioral” – yelling and cursing, maybe hitting your car? Or, would you buckle down and work harder – i.e., push your car to work?
Everyone will respond in his or her own way, depending on temperament, motivation, how many times this has happened before, financial situation, whether a phone is available, and so on…
Of course, the ideal choice would be to call a tow truck and have your car delivered to a mechanic’s shop. There, the mechanic would begin his assessment of the problem by asking you what happened. Based on the history you give, he might continue the diagnosis process by considering your vehicle’s make/model, identifying the type of engine in the car, checking the oil, evaluating whether the engine parts are moving correctly, determining whether any parts are broken or jammed, ensuring the engine is connected to the drive rod, axle, and wheels, etc. He might even check to see if your wheels have air in them – or if the gas tank is empty!
Basically, the mechanic would take a comprehensive look at your vehicle to figure out exactly what is keeping your car from performing the way it was designed.
Similarly, a neuropsychological learning evaluation involves understanding where you are, how you got here, and where you want to go.
Like a mechanic’s shop, the diagnostic process evaluates your brain – its horsepower (IQ), output (e.g., academic achievement, behavioral symptoms, emotions), how various parts work together (e.g., attention, working memory, executive function), and if the engine connects to the rest of the car (e.g., visual, auditory, sensory processing). This is a simplistic comparison, of course, but it illustrates the value of comprehensive diagnostic assessment.
Since every human is unique, a neuropsychological evaluation is arguably much more complex than figuring out why a car won’t start… Especially when one takes into account the influences of emotional, social, and behavioral functioning, the infinite scope of interests, personality, temperament, and family dynamics – and the fact that everyone is unique!
But the overall goals of the two assessments are similar – to figure out how to optimize performance.
Unfortunately, there is a stigma about “psychological testing” that may prevent adults from pursuing a learning assessment – either for themselves, or for their kids.
Over time, this will change, of course. At some point in the future, neuropsychological learning evaluations will become mainstream. Someday, it may be as common as getting vision or hearing checked, having cavities filled, or getting blood pressure checked – just another approach to living longer, healthier, and happier lives.
Few people would disagree with the sayings, “Live life to the fullest,” or “Be the best you can be.” Wouldn’t it be nice to find out what the “fullest” or “best” really means? And then to identify and overcome any obstacles that might stand in your way?
– Dr. Katen
“Live the life you were meant to live!”
©2017 Individual Matters. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share this article with others, as well as to print or post it on other websites, so long as credit is given to the author.
A Look at the Different Types of Learning Evaluations
There are many different types of testing available for learning-related issues.
Where and why you seek testing for your child (or yourself) will determine who evaluates your child, which tests are administered, how results are interpreted and communicated to you, what findings and recommendations follow, and the total amount of time and costs involved in the process. Discussed below are a few different types of testing, as well as related factors parents should consider when choosing the most appropriate option for their children.
Why are you seeking an assessment?
Answering this question is the first and most important step in the assessment process. What are your desired outcomes for testing? Are you hoping to understand your child’s gifts? Would you like to help your child understand his or her temperament? Are concerned about your child’s academic performance? Do you think your child may have a learning or attention disorder? Are you uneasy about your child’s emotional, social, or behavioral functioning? Has your school or pediatrician recommended testing?
There are all sorts of reasons that parents consider having their children tested. By outlining your goals, you will have a clearer idea about what type of testing is most appropriate for your child.
Who should conduct a learning assessment?
There is not a simple answer to this question. Many types of professionals administer “learning assessments,” but they often have dissimilar qualifications. To complicate the matter, professional credentials and licensure vary by state. For that matter, so do the ways that schools classify learning issues.
Regardless where you live, a licensed clinical psychologist (Ph.D. or Psy.D.) has the prerequisite education and licensure for conducting psychological testing and issuing clinical diagnoses. But not all psychologists specialize in testing – some only provide therapy, while others assess mental health rather than educational performance or neuropsychological functioning. Any professional – psychologist or not – who provides psychoeducational testing should have not only the minimal licensure and credentials, but also specialized training and experience in assessment.
Typically, schools and colleges will only accept diagnoses and recommendations from an evaluation provided by a doctoral-level psychologist. Furthermore, these institutions require “gold standard” instruments – standardized tests produced by reputable companies and backed by years of scientific research.
What type of learning assessment will you need?
Depending on your goals, there are a variety of assessment options:
Comprehensive psychoeducational assessment
This is a wide-ranging yet in-depth approach to understanding your child as a “whole person.” Comprehensive psychoeducational assessment evaluates neurological processes and cognitive functioning (IQ, attention, memory, processing speed, executive function, etc.), as well as academic achievement (skills in math, reading, and writing). Furthermore, the process will assess visual-motor integration, sensory processing, social and emotional functioning, visual and auditory processing, behavior, temperament and personality, gifts and strengths, learning styles, overexcitabilities, interests, life experience, and neurodevelopmental disorders. A skilled evaluator will be adept not only at administering the actual tests, but also at analyzing and integrating the results (including both quantitative and qualitative data). Essentially, this process should produce a manual that explains your child’s overall “operating system.” Since it evaluates multiple facets of your child – and not just learning issues – this process also supports conclusive diagnosis, generates specific recommendations, and guides the referral process.
Learning disability (dyslexia) testing
This type of assessment is recommended for the purpose of evaluating and diagnosing a suspected learning disability. In these cases, a qualified professional is someone who holds appropriate licensure and can issue a correct and pertinent diagnosis. The learning assessment will measure and compare a child’s IQ with his or her academic achievement – the traditional method for identifying a learning disability. If indicated, diagnosis of a specific learning disorder by a clinical psychologist qualifies a child to be considered for learning accommodations at school. While a “learning specialist” might test for dyslexia, it is important to understand that “dyslexia” is not a clinical diagnosis (per the DSM-V). By itself, identification of dyslexia may not be sufficient to qualify your child for special services at school. Furthermore, limited assessments such as these may not reveal or conclusively rule out other causes of learning problems – in fact, sometimes they produce more questions than they answer.
Attention-Deficity/Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder (not a learning disorder). Who can diagnose ADHD? Generally speaking, only a medical doctor (M.D.), psychiatrist (M.D.), or psychologist (Ph.D. or Psy.D.). In most cases, diagnosis is based solely upon results of behavioral checklists and interview with the child and parents. However, there are many reasons for a more in-depth evaluation. As a result, some psychologists assess ADHD using not just checklists and interviews – but also neuropsychological measures of IQ, attention, memory, and executive function. Unfortunately, there is no single, decisive test for identifying ADHD.
What are the costs of a learning assessment?
Just as the types and scopes of testing vary, so do the costs. Some learning professionals and tutors provide “learning assessments” for as little as $300 or $400. These can be completed in a few hours and may (or may not) utilize standardized tests of IQ or achievement, result in diagnoses, or provide individualized recommendations. Unless completed by a doctoral-level clinical psychologist, these evaluations may not qualify a student for accommodations at school.
Evaluations conducted by schools may be more extensive, but schools do not diagnose learning disorders or ADHD. Schools may assess for learning “issues” like dyslexia and make recommendations for special education services, but only psychologists and doctors diagnose clinical or medical disorders. Furthermore, school evaluations are not intended to assess your child as a “whole person” – only whether he or she has a condition that affects functioning in the classroom. Since educational classifications and resultant accommodations are based upon your child’s current grade-level and classroom functioning, they may not be pertinent a year from now.
Finally, comprehensive psychoeducational assessments are conducted by doctoral-level clinical psychologists. Prices typically range from $1500 to $5000. The entire process involves 8-15 hours of testing, twenty or more hours of scoring and analysis, an extensive and detailed written report (15-25 pages), a feedback session with parents, and school consultation. Clinical diagnosis of a learning disorder by a psychologist who utilizes “gold standard” test instruments is often required by schools before they will consider a student for school-based learning services and supports. Furthermore, a high quality assessment will accurately capture your child’s gifts, strengths, personality, and underlying areas of challenge (the “whole person”) – and stay relevant for years to come.
Want more information?
As a parent, you justifiably want to ensure that whoever evaluates your child can deliver outcomes that support your specific goals for testing. How do you do this?
One way to find out is simply to call their offices and inquire. Some will provide basic information over the phone.
Another option is to schedule an initial consultation. During this meeting, you can ask the assessment professional about his or her background and scope of expertise. Also, find out what specific tests they use, whether they issue clinical diagnoses (as contained in the DSM-V), and if their findings can and will be accepted by your child’s school. You might also inquire about their overall philosophy towards assessment, learning, and ADHD – in other words, how they approach testing, and why. While psychologists are unlikely to share client testimonials (due to patient privacy policies), they might offer generic samples of past reports. Furthermore, consultation with an experienced assessment psychologist sometimes results in immediate referrals that save you time and money. In any case, this initial step will give you solid information – a “road map” for action – that helps you to be more informed about, and comfortable with, the testing process.
– Dr. Katen
“Live the life you were meant to live!”
©2016 Individual Matters. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share this article with others, as well as to print or post it on other websites, so long as credit is given to the author.