Hearing the word "testing" can leave people feeling intimidated.
However, the purpose of testing is to provide clarity and be helpful. What’s confusing is the many different types of tests, evaluations, or assessments available. Testing can be provided within your school district or privately with a psychologist. This article will provide information about types of testing and what they can and cannot tell you.
Should Testing Be Separate From School Evaluations?
When a school provides an evaluation, they typically have a specific area of concern. These evaluations are usually focused on your child’s academic performance or needs at school. For instance, if your child is struggling with reading, you will receive a “dyslexia evaluation.” This is the same for concern with mathematics and written expression.
This type of focused testing will provide information about your child’s academic performance and if they meet criteria to receive help at school through a 504 Plan or Individual Education Plan (IEP). Another important detail about school evaluations is that they are free.
Private evaluations are generally provided by a psychologist for a fee. Licensed clinical psychologists are expertly trained to administer assessments and tests and interpret the results. There are several types of evaluations or assessments offered. The overall goal of testing it to provide data on the individual’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses.
Below is a list of evaluations offered by psychologists:
- Neuropsychological Evaluation - Neuropsychological assessment has at its core the goal of identifying individual cognitive strengths and weaknesses. A good neuropsychological assessment tailors the evaluation to the child’s needs as well as being comprehensive. Thus, not all children will be administered the same measures. It is designed to provide parents, educators, and medical personnel not only with what the child knows, but how the child thinks and arrives at solutions. Children can have difficulty for many different reasons and a neuropsychological evaluation provides a window into understanding what is problematic, what is a strength, and what are the treatment recommendations. The main areas that are evaluated in a neuropsychological assessment include the following: Cognitive functioning, academic achievement, attention, executive functions, learning and memory, language, visual-spatial skills, adaptive behavior, social and emotional functioning.
- Psychological Evaluation - A psychological evaluation can include numerous components such as norm-referenced psychological tests, informal tests and surveys, interview information, school or medical records, medical evaluation and observational data. A psychologist determines what information to use based on the specific questions being asked. This is a formal way of making accurate conceptualizations and formal diagnoses.
- Attentional Evaluation - There is no "one test" to diagnosis ADHD. Rather, a diagnosis is often made as part of a neuropsychological evaluation. This is the most objective and ethical method for diagnosing Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
- Autism Evaluation – Developmental screenings can detect signs of an autism spectrum disorder as early as 9 months. These tests help medical professionals track developmental milestones. When a child is older, the use of formal measures is indicated. Professionals like developmental pediatricians, child neurologists, and child psychologists provide testing to make a formal diagnosis. Like an attentional evaluation, a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder is reached through a neuropsychological evaluation.
- Gifted and Talented Evaluation - Testing provides an objective and systematic way for identifying gifted children. This evaluation includes a formal measure of cognitive (intellectual) functioning. In additional to intellect, a variety of characteristics are considered to identify gifted children (creative, artistic, leadership, and specific academic fields) which often require more than one test to identify.