Psychoeducational Assessment

A Psychoeducational Assessment identifies factors that may have an impact on any aspect of an individual's learning. This assessment is used to determine the individual's learning profile. Factors that can affect an individual's profile includes their ability to process, retain, or output information. These factors can either have a positive impact (in the case of giftedness) or a negative impact (in the case of a learning disorder or Intellectual Disability (ID)).

When Do You Order a Psychoeducational Assessment?

A psychoeducational assessment should be done when: an individual has considerable academic difficulties, unreasonable efforts are needed to maintain school grades, there are questions about diagnoses, a patient's behavioural and social functioning is significantly impaired, or a choice of intervention best suited for a patient's learning profile needs to be identified.

A psychoeducational assessment consists of multiple components as described here:

The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) is an Intelligence Quotient (IQ) test that measures intelligence and cognitive ability in adolescents and adults. The WAIS consists of 4 components that can be grouped into 2 categories (Reasoning Abilities and Supportive Processes of the Brain):

  1. Verbal Reasoning - How does an individual think about and solve problems using language? (tests Reasoning Abilities)
  2. Non-Verbal Reasoning - A universal test of intelligence (tests Reasoning Abilities)
  3. Working-Memory - How good is the individual at multitasking? (tests Supportive Processes of the Brain)
  4. Processing Speed - How fast is information processed by this individual? (tests Supportive Processes of the Brain)

By understanding an individual’s IQ alone, one can determine if they meet the criteria of giftedness (the top 2 percentile of the population, by age and sex). If an individual's IQ and adaptive functioning (see below) is below the 2nd percentile (i.e. - IQ < 70), they are considered to have an intellectual disability.

You Cannot Have Both a Learning Disorder/Disability and Intellectual Disability

A learning disability (i.e. - learning disorder) and intellectual disability are two mutually exclusive diagnoses. You can have one or the other, but never both!

Academic achievement is the individual's academic abilities in the following areas:

  1. Reading
    • Basic reading (decoding and reading fluency)
    • Reading comprehension (understanding words and meaning)
  2. Writing
    • Basic writing (spelling and writing mechanics)
    • Sentence construction and essay writing
  3. Mathematics
    • Basic computational skills
    • Mathematical concepts and problem solving
  4. Oral Language

IQ ≠ Academic Achievement

Although generally predictive, an individual's IQ does not always predict academic achievement.

Other cognitive factors that can impact learning include:

  • Memory
  • Phonological processing (if this is impaired, it results in a reading disability, also known as dyslexia)
  • Fine motor skills (if this is impaired, it results in a writing disability)
  • Language (if this is impaired, it can cause an aphasia, affecting the expressive and/or receptive aspects of speech)
  • Executive functioning

Adaptive functioning is how well an individual manages the common demands of day-to-day life, and how independent they are compared to others with a similar age and background. Areas assessed include communication, community function, functional academics, home living, health and safety, leisure activities, self-care, self-direction, social interactions, and work place interactions. These factors are usually assessed by questionnaires completed by teachers, family, or caregivers.

Other non-cognitive factors that can impact learning include:

Standardized and normed educational assessment measures are the mainstay of psychoeducational assessments and testing. Information measures of performance, and the individual's response to teaching is also considered. Collateral information from self-report, parents, and teachers are also considered.

A learning disability is when an individual's academic achievement does not meet their expected level of function for their given IQ score. By identifying the IQ-academic achievement gap with a psychoeducational assessment, the gap/discrepancy can be narrowed and the individual will be able to function better academically as a result. Methods to address this gap include proper access to special education resources, educational accommodations (e.g. - extended examination time) or more appropriate academic placements (e.g. - gifted classes).