Assessments

Overview

Educational psychological assessments identify a student’s preferred learning style, strengths and difficulties. The learning profile generated from an assessment provides you with a great deal of information about your child, both educationally and behaviourally. Assessments identify specific learning disorders (such as dyslexia), giftedness, school readiness or under achievement.

Understanding your child’s learning profile assists with:

  • Helping children to learn
  • Curriculum planning: focusing on strengths as well as difficulties
  • Setting educational goals
  • Understanding social-emotional, and behavioural difficulties

Everyone learns differently. Understanding the way your child thinks and processes information can assist with their levels of academic achievement and success at school.

When a young person understands how they learn and why they think the way they do, it promotes a sense of empowerment, identity and self-understanding…and this in turn can strengthen self-esteem, confidence and a willingness to learn.

SPACES conduct the following assessments:

  • Comprehensive Educational Assessments
  • Specific Learning Disorders
  • Giftedness
  • School Readiness
  • Intellectual (Cognitive)
  • Academic Achievement
  • Auditory Processing
  • Neuropsychological and Executive Functioning

All children will benefit from an educational assessment; however, here are some things to look out for:

  • Attention difficulties
  • Poor memory: difficulty remembering learnt information
  • Anxiety, worry or stress
  • Frustration or anger
  • Language delay or speech difficulties
  • General learning delay or difficulties
  • Seem bright but can’t understand or retain basic concepts
  • Social difficulties
  • Comprehension issues
  • Organisation or planning difficulties
  • Querying processing issues; such as auditory or visual processing

Refer to the Fees & Rebates for details of assessment fees.

Comprehensive Educational Assessment

An Educational Assessment will identify your child's learning potential and preferred learning style. It also provides a measure of how your child is performing in a range of skill areas, and how this compares with their peers and grade expectations.

Testing involves a series of different activities, including questions, puzzles, patterns and memory games, in order to identify your child's learning abilities and areas of difficulty. This knowledge then assists in developing specific recommendations for parents and teachers that are tailored to create educational opportunities and to help your child reach their full potential.

Why should a child be tested?

  • To understand the way your child learns.
  • To assess for specific learning disorders.
  • To screen for any intellectual deficits.
  • To assess eligibility for funding or special arrangements.
  • To provide intervention programs for children with specialised needs.
  • To assess gifted children in order to provide appropriate and stimulating learning environments.
  • To test for school readiness.
  • To gain early access to school or to remain in kinder another year.
  • To understand uncharacteristic behaviours and/ or emotional issues that are presenting at either home or school (anxiety, frustration or social issues)

Your child’s learning abilities can impact on behavioural, social-emotional, attention and performance issues at school. For example, learning difficulties (including giftedness!) can severely undermine your child's learning and enjoyment of school, potentially leading to low self-esteem and anxiety.

If you can determine whether your child’s intellectual skills are impacting on their performance and behaviours at school, then you can address these issues and focus on their strengths. It is important to accurately identify the underlying problems and put in place effective intervention programs and strategies as early as possible in their education.

What does an educational assessment include?

The testing is carried out over two 2-hour sessions. The scoring and report takes a qualified psychologist approximately 4 hours to complete.

A school meeting can be arranged post-testing and after the feedback session. In this meeting the psychologist will explain the results of the assessment and how to best support your child’s learning, achievement and development at school. This is an additional cost to the assessment.

Refer to the Fees & Rebates for details of assessment fees.

Dyslexia and Specific Learning Disorders

Assessment is also helpful to identify specific learning disorders (such as dyslexia). The most common way to determine if a child has a specific learning disorder is to assess their level of intelligence and their level of academic achievement. Traditionally, when a child’s level of intelligence does not mirror or reflect their level of achievement, this may be due to a specific learning disorder. However, the diagnosis of learning disabilities has veered away from a discrepancy between intellect and achievement, and instead focuses on significantly low achievement, information processing deficits, pattern of strengths and weaknesses combined with poor response to intervention. A diagnosis must also take into consideration the child’s age, previous and current opportunities to learn, as well as their educational and developmental history.

Dyslexia is a learning disability manifesting as a difficulty with reading and written language. It is a brain-based or neurological condition that interferes with the acquisition and processing of language. Basically, people with dyslexia are processing language differently to others. Dyslexia may vary in its severity and it is manifested by difficulties in reading, writing, spelling, phonological processing, handwriting and sometimes in mathematics.

Students with learning problems often suffer from low levels of confidence, poor self-esteem and heightened levels of frustration, anxiety, or anger. Counselling is often recommended to help individuals understand that they are not “silly” or “stupid” – they simply learn differently.

Learning disorders are often defined by information processing problems, such as:

Auditory Processing

Difficulty perceiving and understanding what is heard. There is no issue with the ability to hear per se, however students with auditory processing problems have difficulty with listening. For example, they may have difficulty following instructions, or completing work efficiently with background noise.

Processing Speed

The rate or speed at which the brain processes information. These students take longer to complete tasks, struggle to complete set work and spend long periods of time on homework tasks.

Working Memory

This is the ability to learn and retain auditory information in short-term memory and then using the learned information to complete a task . Working memory is like the mental workspace in which we can hold information in our mind whilst mentally engaged in other activities. The capacity to do this is crucial to many learning activities in the classroom. For example, students may have to remember the sentence they want to write while trying to spell the individual words. Or they have to remember the list of instructions given by the teacher while carrying out the steps in the tasks. Working Memory skills are closely related to learning and achievement in early literacy and numeracy.

Information processing difficulties are identified in a full Educational Assessment.

Refer to the Fees & Rebates for details of assessment fees.

Giftedness Assessment

Does your child:

  • Appear bored or inattentive at school?
  • Say that they feel different or think differently to others?
  • Display emotional sensitivity?
  • Tend to worry a lot?
  • Show perfectionistic tendencies?
  • Avoid certain activities or situations out of fear of failure?
  • Have difficulty interacting with same aged peers?
  • Have a strong sense of social justice (e.g. playing the fair policeman in the playground?!)

These are but a few of the social-emotional and behavioural difficulties that gifted children display. These children have cognitive skills that are significantly advanced for their age, however, their social-emotional development is usually age appropriate. This is termed asynchronous development and refers to uneven intellectual, physical, and emotional development that is often present in children with intellectual giftedness.

The disparity between their cognitive skill level and their emotional development can often result in heightened levels of frustration, confusion and at a times challenging behaviours. At school, these behaviours may be misinterpreted as social-emotional immaturity. However, it is more that the child with superior thinking skills has not yet developed the emotional maturity that mirrors his cognitive capacity in order to deal with his thoughts. Furthermore, the child has not yet developed the social skills to manage the disparity between his superior thinking (and interests) compared with the typical thinking skills and age appropriate interests of his peers, nor the understanding of where his behaviours are coming from.

It is important that you discover your child’s learning potential in order to help them with their social-emotional and behavioural difficulties, which can impact on self-esteem and their willingness to learn and go to school.

Gifted and high potential students require a specialised approach when it comes to learning and teaching to ensure that every student has the opportunity to reach their full potential.

Special provisions should be made in regular classrooms so that these students can experience the challenge and excitement of an appropriate learning experience, a learning experience that is equal to their high potential.

What does a Giftedness Assessment include?

  • An initial review of your child's background: developmental, educational, social-emotional, and family history.
  • A cognitive (intelligence) test (WAIS-IV, WISC-IV or WPPSI-IV)
  • An achievement (academic) test (WIAT-II)
  • Giftedness checklist
  • A detailed report
  • Tailored learning recommendations for parents and the school
  • A comprehensive feedback session to explain the results and create an action plan
  • A number of tip sheets that outline strategies, interventions, programs and referrals if necessary.

Refer to the Fees & Rebates for details of assessment fees.

School Readiness Assessment

A school readiness assessment is beneficial for children who are either:

  • Eligible for early school entry
    The Department of Education in Victoria has clear guidelines about early school entry. OR;

  • Eligible, by age, to start school
    In Victoria, children must turn five before April 30th in the year they start school.

Either way, a school readiness assessment will:

  1. Give you advice on whether your child is READY to start school
  2. Help you to make an informed decision
  3. Give you information on how your child learns – vital information for teachers too!
  4. Give you tips, strategies and ideas on how to support and promote your child’s learning in certain areas (e.g. reading and numeracy)
  5. Screen for social-emotional and behavioural issues such as AD/HD or anxiety

More specifically, a school readiness assessment will provide information regarding your child’s:

  • Cognitive development
  • Early literacy and numeracy skills
  • Communication skills (expressive, receptive and written)
  • Socialisation skills (e.g. coping skills and play skills)
  • Self-care skills
  • Gross and fine-motor skills.

This assessment takes the worry out of making a very important decision – when should your child start school!

As part of the school readiness assessment, a school meeting can be arranged for the psychologist to explain the results of the assessment to school staff and outline strategies on how best to support your child in their first year of school. This is an additional cost to the assessment.

Refer to the Fees & Rebates for details of assessment fees.

Intellectual (Cognitive) Assessment

A cognitive assessment reflects a student’s learning potential. It is an assessment of a child’s thinking sills or intellectual abilities. Cognitive development is primarily concerned with the ways in which students acquire, develop, and use internal mental capabilities such as problem solving, memory, and language. It gives information on:

  • Auditory and visual processing
  • Verbal and non-verbal thinking skills
  • Memory
  • Sequencing
  • Language skills
  • Graphomotor (handwriting) speed skills
  • Planning abilities
  • Perceptual and spatial skills
  • Reasoning and comprehension skills

The WISC-V (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children- Fifth Edition) is an individually, digitally administered clinical instrument for assessing cognitive ability of children between the ages of 6 to 16 years 11 months. The WISC-V (pronounced whisk) takes approximately 2 hours to complete. The scoring and report takes a qualified psychologist approximately 4 hours to complete.

More intellectual assessments are:

  • WPPSI-IV Australian (pronounced whip-see) Ages: 2:6 to 7:7 years.
  • WAIS-IV Australian (pronounced wace) Ages: 16 to 90 years.

The main benefits of a WISC-V include:

  • Early identification of learning issues
  • For funding and special provision or exam arrangements
  • Identify how your child learns; strengths and weaknesses
  • Identification of gifted children
  • To assist the teacher on how to best support your child’s learning, achievement and development
  • To develop individual learning plans

The assessments are standardised and universally recognised assessments in schools. They are Australian normed, meaning that your child’s results are compared with that of Australian children of the same age.

*IMPORTANT NOTE: A cognitive assessment is most valuable when combined with an academic achievement assessment, as this tells you whether your child is academically achieving to their intellectual potential. A cognitive and achievement test together will give you a formal and thorough understanding of your child’s learning profile.

Refer to the Fees & Rebates for details of assessment fees.

Academic Achievement Assessment

An academic assessment identifies the level at which your child is performing in different areas at school and how this compares with age and grade expectations. It is a detailed assessment of the underlying ‘mechanical’ skills in reading, writing, mathematics and oral language. For example, word reading, reading comprehension and phonetic decoding are all reading skills that impact on overall reading ability.

The Wechsler Individual Achievement Test Third Edition – Australian (WIAT-III) is an Achievement assessment measuring academic skills such as:

  • Reading
  • Written expression
  • Spelling
  • Mathematics
  • Fluency
  • Listening comprehension
  • Oral expression

The WIAT-III takes approximately 2 hours to complete. The scoring and report takes a qualified psychologist approximately 4 hours to complete. It is a standardised and universally recognised assessment in schools. It is Australian normed, meaning that your child’s results are compared with that of Australian children of the same age.

*IMPORTANT NOTE: An academic assessment is most valuable when combined with a cognitive assessment, as this tells you whether your child is academically achieving to their cognitive or intellectual potential. A cognitive and achievement test together will give you a formal and thorough understanding of your child’s learning profile.

Refer to the Fees & Rebates for details of assessment fees.

Auditory Processing Screener

Auditory processing difficulties can be defined as difficulty perceiving and understanding what is heard. There is no issue with the ability to hear, however, students often struggle with the ability to listen. In other words, auditory processing is the brain’s processing (or what the brain does) with what we hear.

Auditory processing abilities impact on our overall ability to process language based information. For example, when a student has difficulty processing auditory information or information that is heard, it causes language overload which then results in misunderstanding of instructions and explanations – often interpreted as poor concentration, poor attention or appearing “lost”, in a “fog” or confused.

Furthermore, language-processing difficulties may make the processing of complex mental tasks difficult and time consuming. This slow processing speed may increase mental fatigue and potentially leading to comprehension difficulties, loss in concentration or attention, heightened levels of frustration or anxiety and an inability to complete work or be organised. From here, it is clear to see how processing and attention difficulties can be closely associated with emotional and behavioural symptoms.

An auditory processing screener will identify the specific auditory processing abilities that are presenting as areas of difficulty for your child and the extent to which theses difficulties may be impacting on your child’s ability to listen and learn in the classroom.

Recommendations, strategies and programs are outlined to assist in strengthening and developing your child’s auditory processing skills. Comprehensive auditory processing testing, combined with formal attention testing may be recommended given your child’s results on the screener.

Refer to the Fees & Rebates for details of assessment fees.

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