In our first Consult The Expert article for March, we had the opportunity to speak with one of our clinical psychologists, Dr. Jamie Levine. One of her areas of specialization is working with children who have school-related difficulties.
“So many components can negatively impact a child’s learning and performance in a school setting,” she explained. “These could be things like attention concerns, learning challenges, developmental difficulties, social or emotional concerns, and even challenges within the home environment. Sometimes there is an overlap of these aspects, as well.”
When working with a child who is challenged, Dr. Levine often recommends a psychoeducational evaluation. “This type of evaluation is very comprehensive,” she says. “It looks at many areas that could be affecting the child’s ability to learn.”
Indeed, an evaluation can reveal some of the challenges that can impact learning, including:
- Cognitive (ie: what underlies the child’s learning concerns? How does the child approach new problems?)
- Academic ability (reading level, math, writing)
- Task abilities (for example: ability to focus, attention to a task, impulsivity)
- Language skills
“A psychoeducational evaluation helps me understand what is at play for that particular child, so I can provide the correct support or interventions for their unique situation,” Dr. Levine said.
When Is A Psychoeducational Evaluation Done?
A psychoeducational evaluation may be requested for many reasons. An educator might ask for an evaluation if they notice the child struggling to learn or acting out in the classroom. Maybe the child’s parent wants an evaluation to find out why their child seems to be having a hard time staying focused or is resisting going to school. Perhaps the pediatrician picks up on a parent’s frustration when the child won’t sit still or seems overly anxious or fearful.
Whatever the reason for testing, Dr. Levine says the evaluation will help to identify the child’s strengths, along with the areas that are impacting their learning ability. “Once we have the evaluation results, we can make recommendations for how to work on building these strengths and providing interventions for areas of concerns within the classroom or through services outside of school.”
Who Performs A Psychoeducational Evaluation?
A psychoeducational evaluation can be conducted in a school setting or private setting, according to Dr. Levine. “In a school setting, the testing will likely be completed by a school psychologist. Outside of school, a comprehensive evaluation should be performed by a clinical psychologist who specializes in evaluations.”
But, is there a benefit to having the child evaluated in a private setting versus a school setting?
Although a school can evaluate a child, Dr. Levine discussed the benefits of testing in a private setting. “When a teacher picks up on concerns, the school may do some testing, but it may be limited in scope,” she says. “It can take a while to start the evaluation process. Often, schools try to provide some intervention first and testing waits until they see the results of the interventions.”
She also points out that, while schools may use some similar evaluation measures to the assessments that are used in the clinic, school testing typically does not provide a specific diagnosis. “The child can be struggling academically, but a school usually won’t diagnose something like ADHD or a specific learning disorder. Because of this, they may provide accommodation and support for the child’s challenges, but not interventions or treatment. If the parent wants an understanding of the specific diagnosis, so a targeted treatment plan can be implemented, it is helpful to have the child evaluated in a private setting, such The Children’s Center.”
How Long Does A Psychoeducational Evaluation Take?
“These evaluations are extremely comprehensive,” Dr. Levine says. “I tailor the testing to each child, based on his or her concerns. When I do an evaluation, I first meet with the parents for about 1.5 hours to get background information about the child. After I have this preliminary information, there are typically three additional appointments with the child for 2-3 hours each.”
Who Sees The Evaluation Results?
“In a private setting, the evaluation results are discussed with the parents,” Dr. Levine said. “The parents are also provided with a full write up of the results, any diagnosis, and our recommendations. We also encourage the parent to share these results with the school so the child can be supported with any accommodations and interventions that may be needed. We are always happy to collaborate with the child’s school.”
Parents may be concerned about a child being “labeled” if the results are shared with the school, but Dr. Levine says there are many benefits to doing so. “Sharing test results can help with teacher understanding of the child and empathy, as well as accommodation that can benefit the child. Also, we can recommend strategies that teachers can use to support the child in the classroom.”
A better understanding of a child’s strengths and weaknesses is also helpful for the parents and child. Children often recognize that they are facing challenges and could possibly label themselves as “stupid” or “dumb” if they don’t have an understanding of their diagnosis.
Once the child knows the reason behind their frustrations, however, it can be liberating. Instead of feeling negative about themselves, the child can address any concerns and work to improve them. “Really,” Dr. Levine pointed out, “the benefits of testing outweigh the risk of labeling by having the knowledge of what is impacting the child.”
If Your Child Is Struggling…
…the child and clinical psychologists at The Center For Anxiety Disorders can help. For more information or to inquire about a psychoeducational evaluation, contact us or call us today at 561-223-6568.
About Jamie Levine, Psy.D – Clinical Psychologist
Dr. Jamie Levine is a licensed clinical psychologist who specializes in the treatment of anxiety disorders, mood disorders, relationship difficulties, adjustment to life transitions, and ADHD. She uses a collaborative therapeutic approach to create a safe, supportive, and open environment to facilitate growth and change. She integrates a variety of therapeutic approaches, including cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic, interpersonal, and solution-focused therapy.
Dr. Levine graduated from Emory University with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She earned her doctorate degree in Clinical and School Psychology from Pace University in New York City. Dr. Levine received training at Columbia University Medical Center/ New York-Presbyterian Hospital where she provided evidence-based treatment and conducted neuropsychological assessments. She also provided therapy services to individuals across the lifespan at Nova Southeastern University’s Psychology Services Center and Pace University’s outpatient mental health center.