The MLO Minute: By, Caitlin McAndrews, Esq. and Dennis McAndrews, Esq.
During the current pandemic, delays in conducting psychological testing of children with disabilities has often delayed the implementation of appropriate programming for these children, regardless of whether that instruction is conducted in – person or remotely. Most school districts and charter schools have been unwilling to themselves conduct, or to approve publicly-funded private psychological evaluations, in the same room outside of normal face-to-face testing with the evaluator and student personally present together. Of course, with the transmission issues related to the current health crisis, such in-person evaluations have often been viewed as impossible to conduct. As reported in an earlier newsletter, many private psychologists are now conducting in-person evaluations in a variety of settings, including at private outdoor locations where the risk of transmission is dramatically reduced, or in more traditional settings with the use of Plexiglas shields, enhanced ventilation, masks, etc. Fortunately, a new study by a leading university has now found that conducting neuropsychological evaluations by remote means can produce results comparable to traditional testing.
On September 24, 2020, the periodical, Science Daily, reported that the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center had just released the results of a new study which was published online in the Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology. This study found that administering neuropsychological evaluations to children online in their own homes is feasible and delivers results comparable to test traditionally performed in a clinic. While previous research on adults reflected that such evaluations could be done effectively with the examiner and patient in different rooms, those tests were conducted in controlled clinical or laboratory settings rather than in the patient’s home. Moreover, none of the earlier studies involved children, a population that presents its own challenges.
The study involved 58 children ranging in age from 6 to 20. Each child received the same 90 minute neuropsychological battery twice, once at home and once at the clinic. Half the group received the home test first and the other half received the clinic test first. When the researchers compared the results obtained from the home and clinic-based tests, no significant differences were found. Significantly, the researchers also gave each patient and their caregivers a survey to assess their level of satisfaction with the remote testing. The vast majority (94% of caregivers and 90% of participants) responded that they were satisfied with home-based testing. When given a choice between remote or in-person testing, most indicated no preference.
This important study reflects that remote psychological testing must be considered as an option to allow for standardized testing to occur remotely during the current pandemic. In so doing, critical information regarding the current functioning of children with disabilities can be obtained and provide the necessary background to identify appropriate programming for these children.