A psycho-educational assessment is an evaluation of underlying mental processes which affect a person’s ability to function optimally within an educational and workplace setting. Although it is more common for psycho-educational assessment to be carried out with children, they can also be requested by adults.

For children, psycho-educational assessments are usually requested when a child is noted to be experiencing difficulties in their daily functioning at home and/or at school. It can happen that difficulties are highlighted by school staff whereas parents are not aware that their child is experiencing specific difficulties. This is common for parents who only have one child,  since they cannot compare their child’s development to their siblings’. Thus, they might be unaware of what is typical development and what is atypical. Since teachers are exposed to seeing many children, they can be in a better position to identify when children are not developing typically.

Educational psychologists are specialised in carrying out psycho-educational assessments. The process usually starts with an intake interview with the parents to gather a history of the child’s background and development. School staff is also consulted so as to gather feedback on the child’s functionality at school. A class observation may also be carried out. Parents and teachers may be given questionnaires to fill in, which are then analysed by the psychologist. Individual sessions are held with the child to carry out tests to assess several areas. These areas include: general cognitive functioning, literacy skills, attention, processing speed, memory, planning and organisational skills. The final part of the assessment process involves the psychologist analysing the collected information to identify the child’s strengths and areas of need.

A feedback session is carried out with the parents to report the findings from the assessment. The conclusion from such an assessment could be that the child has a condition or disorder and therefore a diagnosis is made by the psychologist. Common disorders include: Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Recommendations are given by the psychologist to address the child’s needs as well as improve their functioning and overall well-being. This includes working with other professionals such as speech therapists and occupational therapists. A recommendation for a child to be supported by a learning support educator (LSE) at school can also be made. When children have specific difficulties, they can also be granted examination access arrangements to assist them in accessing the exam paper. These can include having a reader and extra time.

In conclusion, a psycho-educational assessment should be requested when parents or teachers are concerned about a child’s development. This could be because they are not reaching expected developmental milestones, are observed to be functioning atypically and not making progress at school.

Dr Marilyn Muscat is registered as an Educational Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom where she trained. She works with children, adolescents and their families to understand more about educational, social and emotional well-being concerns that they have and to help them improve upon their difficulties. She can be contacted on marilyn@willingness.com.mt or call us on 79291817.