Psychoeducational Assessments and ADHD

Does a Psychoeducational Assessment also diagnose ADHD?
Psychoeducational Assessments are usually completed by your school district. In many provinces and all of the United States school districts provide timely psychoeducational assessments upon a reasonable request from a parent or teacher (with the parent's permission). Usually those psychoeducational assessments happen within 50 working days.

Here in British Columbia we have the regrettable problem of poor school funding and staffing. In some school districts children are placed on a waiting list that can last for one, two, three or more years! Many school districts place children on a "waiting list" only to redo the waiting list at the end or every year! So parents often make a choice to go to a registered psychologist to get a psychoeducational assessment.

One of the advantages of a psychoeducational assessment completed by a Registered Psychologist rather than a School Psychologist is that a REgistered Psychologist is authorized to diagnose ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and a School Psychologist is not. School Psychologists usually only hold an MA or MS degree, not a doctoral degree, and are not a "regulated profession" in BC. You should know, however, that many School Psychologists who are completing psychoeducational assessments for learning disabilities and behavioural issues are actually Registered Psychologists who have chosen to specialize in school based psychology. So, they may or may not be able to diagnose ADHD. Adding to the confusion is the fact that many school districts have rules that limit what school psychologists do, and some districts do not allow even their Registered Psychologists to make a diagnosis of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) or other related childhood disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder or Aspgerger's Syndrome.

Another important factor to consider is that when a child is diagnosed with ADHD it is often critical to complete a Psychoeducational Assessment, as nearly 50% of children with ADHD also have another disorder, often a specific learning disability. A Registered Psychologist or your School Psychologist can complete that assessment.

When is the best time to get a Psychoeducational Assessment?
It is appropriate to get a psychoeducational assessment whenever a child has had repeated academic failures, and classroom based interventions have failed. Waiting more than a year of academic failure places your child in a difficult position to get out of. This is especially true of children in grade 3-4, when the classroom curriculum begins to change and become much more difficult. A lack of strong basic skills can make academic work very difficult if not impossible for some children.

Does a Psychoeducational Assessment also address behaviour problems? 
Usually a Psychoeducational Assessment does look at behavioural problems. First, it's often necessary to rule out that the behavioural issues are not caused by academic deficits. Second, schools are able to complete not just a Psychoeducational Assessment but also a Functional Behavioural Analysis (FBA) to understand the reasons for the child's behaviour. Most school districts have someone trained in completing FBA's. Again, while all schools in a state like California would be required by law to provide FBA's, and to have them completed by a fully and appropriately trained specialist, this is often not the case here in British Columbia.

If the school is going to provide an FBA you should ask what training, expertise and experience the provider has (how many FBAs have they completed? What training did they get? How many hours of training? How much of it, if any, was supervised by an expert in behaviour? These are good questions to ask.

Finally, remember, your medical doctor can usually make a diagnosis of ADHD. If they feel unsure, they can make a referral to someone else. But a diagnosis of ADHD leaves out a lot. It's best practice to also complete, at least for children, a Psychoeducational Assessment. Your family MD is covered by MSP, however services by a Registered Psychologist, even though they are a regulated health provider, are not covered by MSP. Most extended health care programs cover some or all of these costs, but you need to check with your individual provider before having a Psychoeducational Assessment done. Some providers will not cover the cost of an assessment.

 Dr. Jim Roche provides both Psychoeducational Assessments and ADHD Assessments, as well as treatment and coaching for children, adolescents and adults with ADHD, behavioural disorders and autism spectrum disorder. His website can be found at: http://www.relatedminds.com