Un­lock­ing in­tel­li­gence: How psy­choe­d­u­ca­tional testing can create an en­riched learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence

Psy­choe­d­u­ca­tional testing yields unique road maps for kids’ suc­cess

The Kids Post - - Contents - By Reiko Mil­ley

The most im­por­tant tests your child could take this school year will not be graded. In­stead, the re­sults would be used to un­lock his or her full po­ten­tial for learn­ing.

Ad­min­is­tered by the Col­lege of Psy­chol­o­gists of On­tario reg­is­tered psy­chol­o­gists, psy­choe­d­u­ca­tional testing gives valu­able in­sight into a stu­dent’s unique learn­ing style and how it can be ap­plied in the class­room. A se­ries of in­ter­ac­tive tests al­lows a psy­chol­o­gist to iden­tify spe­cific strengths and needs and create cus­tom­ized plans for im­prove­ment. In this way, psy­choe­d­u­ca­tional testing can pro­vide a real so­lu­tion to the all­too-com­mon prob­lem of a child strug­gling to suc­ceed in school or an ex­cep­tion­ally bright child who isn’t be­ing pushed to his or her po­ten­tial.

“Par­ents re­ally want to know their child’s learn­ing strengths and is­sues. They want to be in con­trol and do what’s in their child’s best in­ter­est,” ex­plains Dr. Wil­liam G. Ford, one of Toronto’s lead­ing ex­perts in ed­u­ca­tional psychology and providers of psy­choe­d­u­ca­tional assess­ment.

“What they’re look­ing for is a road map for learn­ing,” Ford ex­plains.

This road map can be­gin at one of Toronto’s pri­vate clin­i­cal psychology prac­tices. Some schools, in­clud­ing those in the Toronto Dis­trict School Board (TDSB), also pro­vide this testing for stu­dents who are not reach­ing their full po­ten­tial in the class­room. TDSB Psy­cho­log­i­cal Ser­vices mem­bers ( reg­is­tered psy­chol­o­gists and as­so­ciates spe­cial­iz­ing in ed­u­ca­tion) are as­signed to spe­cific schools and pro­vide in­for­ma­tion, coun­sel and stu­dent as­sess­ments.

Toronto pri­vate schools can also co-or­di­nate psy­choe­d­u­ca­tional as­sess­ments upon re­quest. For ex­am­ple, Brank­some Hall’s learn­ing strate­gies team, guid­ance coun­sel­lors or mem­bers from their health cen­tre will con­sult with par­ents and re­fer stu­dents to out­side psy­chol­o­gists, turn­ing assess­ment find­ings into prac­ti­cal plans for class­room sup­port.

“Chil­dren have vary­ing learn­ing pro­files, and these of­ten ex­plain why they are stronger in some sub­jects than oth­ers,” ex­plains lo­cal provider Dr. Alisa Kenny Bridg­man. “For ex­am­ple, a child may have strong vis­ual-spa­tial pro­cess­ing and be very good in math, but may have weaker oral

lan­guage skills that af­fect their read­ing and writ­ing de­vel­op­ment.”

Psy­choe­d­u­ca­tional testing pro­vides valu­able in­for­ma­tion about this unique learn­ing pro­file through a com­pre­hen­sive assess­ment of a child’s mem­ory, oral lan­guage skills, phono­log­i­cal aware­ness abil­i­ties and ex­ec­u­tive func­tion­ing skills.

The goals of testing, Kenny Bridg­man ex­plains, can in­clude iden­ti­fy­ing is­sues such as learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties, gift­ed­ness and at­ten­tion- deficit/ hy­per­ac­tiv­ity dis­or­der (ADHD).

Psy­choe­d­u­ca­tional assess­ment can ben­e­fit a va­ri­ety of stu­dents: those who are strug­gling aca­dem­i­cally (for ex­am­ple, if they hav­ing dif­fi­culty read­ing or are do­ing poorly in math), those who exhibit at­ten­tion is­sues or those who are sim­ply not meet­ing their aca­demic po­ten­tial. This type of testing can help de­ter­mine if a B stu­dent can be­come an A stu­dent with a lit­tle ex­tra help and ef­fort.

“Ex­cep­tion­ally bright chil­dren are re­ferred to de­ter­mine if they would ben­e­fit from aca­demic en­rich­ment,” adds Kenny Bridg­man.

Ford notes that many gifted chil­dren are re­ferred for assess­ment as they come to un­der­stand con­cepts more quickly than their peers. “It can be lonely at the top,” he re­marks, ex­plain­ing these kids of­ten feel more con­fi­dent af­ter be­ing iden­ti­fied.

Kenny Bridg­man says the av­er­age age of re­fer­ral is eight to 10 years, but clin­ics can also as­sess younger stu­dents, even kids in preschool and stu­dents over 18 years old.

Re­gard­less of a stu­dent’s age or rea­son for re­fer­ral, the doc­tors agree that the assess­ment process is of­ten an en­joy­able one.

“Psy­choe­d­u­ca­tional testing is in­ter­ac­tive,” Kenny Bridg­man ex­plains. “The child will work oneon-one with a psy­chol­o­gist in a quiet room and will com­plete tests as­sess­ing their in­tel­li­gence, aca­demic skills, mem­ory, oral lan­guage skills and more.”

Ford com­ments that chil­dren are of­ten sur­prised at how out of the or­di­nary and in­ter­est­ing psy­choe­d­u­ca­tional testing can be.

“Kids are not blocks of wood — they are com­plex lit­tle peo­ple — so the tests are not steel rulers, they’re elas­tic yard­sticks.”

Dur­ing an ini­tial visit with Ford, chil­dren are asked unique ques­tions and are en­gaged in re­fresh­ing prob­lem-solv­ing games and ex­er­cises. This cog­ni­tive assess­ment helps build a rap­port be­fore they are tested in read­ing, writ­ing, math and study skills at a later date.

At Kenny Bridg­man’s clinic, two to three assess­ment ses­sions are usu­ally needed to build a learner pro­file.

“The child is given breaks and snacks as re­quired — and can also earn points and re­wards,” Bridg­man says. “Chil­dren usu­ally en­joy the process, and the time passes very quickly.”

Af­ter testing is com­plete, psy­chol­o­gists can be­gin to make prac­ti­cal rec­om­men­da­tions for im­proved learn­ing. These will be tai­lored to the in­di­vid­ual stu­dent and in­clude class­room strate­gies and even aids such as key­boards, lap­tops and cus­tom­ized study ma­te­ri­als.

Armed with the tools needed to im­prove their own learn­ing, stu­dents — and their par­ents — can rest as­sured that their road map is headed in the right di­rec­tion.

A learn­ing assess­ment can help any stu­dent reach new heights

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