Unlocking intelligence: How psychoeducational testing can create an enriched learning experience
Psychoeducational testing yields unique road maps for kids’ success
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