How Can Teachers Refer Students for a Learning Assessment

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The Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children - Fifth Edition is one of the assessment tools we can use.

If a child in your class is having academic, emotional or behavioural difficulties at school an assessment can be helpful because:

  • It helps determine what the problem is and why it is happening.
  • It allows us to find the most effective way of helping the child.
  • The report from the assessment can sometimes be used to apply for practical support such as extra time in examinations.

Which conditions can I diagnose?

I have worked at a number of different child & adolescent services & hospitals in the UK and at the Dyslexia Association of Singapore. In these roles I often diagnosed children with conditions such as;

  • Dyslexia
  • Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism
  • Speech and language difficulties
  • Selective mutism
  • General learning difficulties
  • Mood & anxiety problems
  • Eating & sleeping problems

Some of these diagnoses were made as part of a multi-disciplinary team.
In Malaysia I only give a diagnosis if there is a strong practical reason why this would be helpful (for example; to gain extra time in examinations). I’ve explained more information on my post about diagnosis. I believe that it is more important to understand a child’s strengths and difficulties and find the best way to help them rather than focusing on giving them a ‘label’. I also find that this approach generally makes parents feel more comfortable.

Is the assessment an IQ test?

The assessments tools I use are sometimes called ‘IQ tests’. I don’t like this term because a single number such as an ‘IQ score’ rarely tells us enough about a child. What’s more useful is understanding the pattern of their strengths and difficulties. If we know their learning profile we can help the child use their strengths to compensate for their difficulties.

Technically, we tend to refer to the assessment as a ‘Cognitive Assessment’ or a ‘Neuro-psychological assessment’.

What happens in an ‘Assessment’?

This depends very much on what is causing concern but I tend to divide assessments into two main types.

  1. Assessments where the primary concern is that your child is not performing as well as they should academically.
  2. Assessments where behaviour, attention or emotional difficulties are also a concern.

All assessments will include the following:

  • An interview with the parents or carers which aims to understand what the problem is and gather relevant background information.
  • A discussion or email contact with the teacher to get their opinion (if the parents give permission).
  • A discussion between myself and the child to get their opinion of the problem.
  • An assessment with your child using specialist psychometric tools only available to registered practitioner psychologists. This usually takes between two and four hours. It may be done over several sessions if it is difficult for the child to concentrate or if it takes time for them to relax and feel comfortable
  • A feedback meeting with parents or carers to explain the findings of the assessment. During this session I will explain why I think the child is having difficulty and give specific recommendations to help them.
  • Feedback to the child to explain the assessment findings and recommendations.
  • A written report describing the background to the problem, detailing what happened in the assessment, explaining the findings and giving clear recommendations. This report is valid internationally and can be used to apply for exam accommodations where appropriate.

Assessments in which behaviour, attention or emotional difficulties are also a concern may also include the following:

  • Longer more detailed discussions with parents and carers.
  • A longer discussion with teachers (if agreed to by parents) to understand their observations of the child.
  • Observations of the child at school and other relevant situations.
  • Additional psychometric assessments in order to understand them more clearly.
  • Feedback to teachers (if agreed to by parents) to explain why the child might have difficulty and to discuss with them how they might be able to help your child.
  • A more in-depth report exploring different options for supporting them.

How will the student feel about doing an ‘Assessment’?

Rather than using the words ‘assessment’ or ‘test’ which tend to get children instantly worried, I explain that we’ll be doing some tasks to help understand how they learn.  Most children will still feel anxious at the beginning of an assessment. They’ll usually be meeting me for the first time and it may still seem like a ‘test’ situation to them.

My aim is to get the very best performance out of a child. So I won’t continue an assessment if I think a child is too anxious. I usually spend time helping them relax before we start.

The advantage of the assessment tools that I use is that they are designed in such a way that a child experiences much more success than failure (we end a task when the child finds it too difficult). Many of the tasks are quite different from what they do at school. We may be moving blocks around to match a pattern or looking at patterns to decide which comes next.

What happens after an ‘Assessment’?

It is my aim to help parents and teachers to develop a plan that will help the child. I will look at all the data we have gathered; including the test scores,

Sometimes I will be able to guide you to implement these changes yourself. On other occasions I will refer you to the appropriate specialists who will be able to help you implement those changes. On rarer occasions I may suggest that I need to assist in devising and supporting the plan for your child. I always aim to do this collaboratively with you.

I will send you a full report that explains the assessment and describes each of the recommendations that I have made. The formal way of writing a Psychological Report means that they are often 8 to 12 pages long. I know that it might be difficult to get teachers or tutors to read such a long report so I always include a one page summary of the main issues.

If you are studying at an International School or International University you can use my report to apply for Exam Access Arrangements. If the assessment results supports a recommendation it is possible to apply for accommodations such as extra time, a laptop, scribe or a separate room.

I think a child in my class needs an assessment… what should I do?

If you are concerned about a child in your class please feel free to contact me to discuss whether it would be useful to approach the parents and suggest an assessment. However, until we have consent from the parents to share information the child should remain anonymous to me and to preserve confidentiality our discussions should not be too specific. You may also find that your school has guidelines on how to proceed.

Where Can I Refer a Child for an Assessment?

I conduct assessments for school age children, university students and adults.

Unfortunately, the assessment tools that psychologists use have not been adapted to Malaysia. It’s, therefore, necessary to use assessments from overseas. I use British versions of the assessment tools.

My assessments are most appropriate for children who prefer speaking in English or children who are attending schools where they are required to learn in English.

If a child prefers to speak in another language they may benefit from having a psychologist who can translate the instructions into their preferred language. One centre which has multi-lingual psychologists is Oasis Place which is based near Nu Sentral in Kuala Lumpur.

How much does a Learning Assessment Cost?

Assessments can be quite costly due to the length of time it takes to do the assessment, the cost of the assessment tools (the company that makes them requires that you pay for each assessment) and the time it takes to write a proper report.

At Prince Court (where I do all my private work) the fee for an assessment starts at RM4,600. Some insurance policies will cover the fee. You can contact Prince Court’s Insurance Department for more information. You can email me at dan@psychologist.com.my if you’d like more information about an assessment and it’s cost.

Universiti Kembangsaan Malaysia (UKM) in Kuala Lumpur, has a Health Psychology Clinic which does a briefer version of the learning assessment for a much more affordable rate. You can find out more information via their website.

Further information

If you would like any more information about this process please do get in contact with me

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