Psychological vs. Psychoeducational vs. Neuropsychological Evaluations
By: Lauren M. O’Connell Mahler, Esq.
McAndrews Law Offices, P.C.
When it comes to obtaining an evaluation of your child in order to guide the development of appropriate educational programming, it can be confusing for parents to determine what kind of evaluation they need. Psychological? Psychoeducational? Neuropsychological? They may sound similar, but there are important differences between each of these evaluations.
- Psychological Evaluation: Performed by clinical psychologists who typically work outside of schools in hospitals or in private practices. Psychological Evaluations can include many of the same formal assessments as Psychoeducational and Neuropsychological Evaluations in order to examine a person’s psychological, emotional, and behavioral functioning. However, Psychological Evaluations are typically intended to guide diagnosis and treatment from a medical perspective, not from an educational perspective. Clinical psychologists typically do not have a background in education and therefore may not be familiar with schools or the specific accommodations or services that support students with disabilities in school settings.
- Psychoeducational Evaluation: Performed by school psychologists or other learning specialists who usually work directly in schools or have a background working in schools. These evaluations typically include formal assessments of a child’s intelligence and a child’s academic achievement in addition to other assessments. The testing usually does not take as long to administer as Neuropsychological Evaluations. Psychoeducational Evaluations seek to understand a child’s learning style generally, and then guide the development of classroom accommodations and supports from an educational perspective. Psychoeducational Evaluations are generally not as broad in scope as Neuropsychological Evaluations, and usually do not include formal assessments of the specific domains of cognitive functioning (attention, memory, executive functioning, language, etc). Because they are more limited in scope, Psychoeducational Evaluations may not provide the level of data needed to fully assess, diagnose, and recommend treatment for disabilities involving language, attention, executive functioning, or other more complex social/emotional and learning-related difficulties. They focus more on identifying the child’s difficulties in the classroom (i.e. what is happening) rather than examining the underlying brain origins and neurocognitive processes that are causing the child’s difficulties in the classroom (i.e. why it is happening).
- Neuropsychological Evaluation: Performed by Neuropsychologists who specialize in Neuropsychology, which is a field that focuses on understanding brain-behavior relationships and goes beyond school psychology and clinical psychology. Neuropsychological Evaluations examine how a child’s brain functions and how that functioning impacts the child’s behavior and learning. Neuropsychological Evaluations are typically much broader in scope than Psychological or Psychoeducational Evaluations, and thus usually take longer to administer. Neuropsychological Evaluations typically include assessments of intelligence and academic achievement, but also go even further to include formal assessments of the specific domains of cognitive functioning that are controlled by different regions of the brain, such as executive functioning, visual-perceptual abilities, information processing, attention and concentration, learning and memory, sensory perception, language, adaptive skills, and fine motor skills. By examining a child’s underlying neurocognitive processes in greater detail, a Neuropsychological Evaluation can provide deeper insight into why students are having certain difficulties, what their learning strengths and weaknesses are, and what interventions can be used to successfully address their difficulties both in and outside of school.
Each of these evaluations uses standardized assessments and rating scales. All of them also typically include observations of the child and interviews with the parent, child and sometimes the child’s teachers. Some evaluators are certified in multiple areas, such as both School Psychology and Neuropsychology. Regardless of which type of evaluation is conducted, when a parent is looking for guidance to develop an appropriate IEP or 504 Plan for his/her child, it is important to have the child evaluated by a person who has a background working in schools, who will observe the child in the school setting, who will obtain input from both the child’s family and school personnel, who will review the child’s educational and medical history in detail, and who will conduct comprehensive assessments of all of the child’s areas of need.
The information within this article is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. You should consult with an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. For more information, visit www.mcandrewslaw.com or call (302) 380-4975.