What Is a “Psychoeducational Evaluation” and Should My Child Have One?
If your child is struggling at school with learning, you may be concerned about whether he or she might have a learning disorder, such as a reading disability/dyslexia, math disability, or written expression disability. Or, you may wonder if there might be an attentional deficit (e.g., ADHD), or if your child might be just “bored” and not challenged. Alternatively, you may be concerned about emotional issues, such as anxiety or depression, which may be affecting your child’s learning progress.
If you are experiencing any of the above concerns, pursuing a psychoeducational evaluation for your child can be a useful way for you (and your child’s teachers) to discover some answers.
There are several areas that Dr. Gilbert assesses in her psychoeducational evaluations:
- Cognitive Ability
- Academic Achievement
- Social/Emotional/Behavioral Functioning
- Attentional Functioning
The cognitive assessment provides information about an individual’s intelligence, revealing any strengths as well as weaknesses. Areas assessed include verbal reasoning, visual-spatial skills, nonverbal abstract reasoning, working memory (auditory and visual), and processing speed. This information can be very useful in understanding your child’s thinking and reasoning abilities. For example, if your child’s verbal reasoning skills are significantly better than his or her nonverbal reasoning skills, it may be that your child may understand new information more easily when it is presented in a verbal, rather than visual, format.
Moreover, if your child is found to have a weakness in working memory and/or processing speed, this may mean that, in order to learn, your child may require information to be repeated, or may need to be exposed to material on multiple occasions, or may need the pace of instruction to be slowed down. Further, within working memory, it can be very useful to discover whether your child may have a weakness in recalling either visual or verbally-presented information. In this way, your child’s teacher can then be sure to introduce material in a format that works better for your child. The cognitive assessment may also determine whether your child is a gifted learner, and in need of gifted instruction at school in order to appropriately stimulate and capture your child’s learning motivation. Knowing your child’s intellectual strengths and weaknesses can especially help teachers to understand that your child can learn, but that he or she may need strategies or accommodations to facilitate that learning.
The academic achievement assessment measures a child’s achievement in reading, math, and written language. In reading, the areas of sight-word reading, phonetic decoding, oral reading fluency, and reading comprehension are assessed. When children are young and their reading skills are still emerging, Dr. Gilbert often includes a test of phonological processing to investigate foundational reading skills. For math, timed math facts, untimed math calculations, and math reasoning are measured. In the area of written language, sentence composition skills, spelling, and essay composition skills are evaluated. This information may then be used to determine whether a Specific Learning Disorder is present in reading (dyslexia), math (dyscalculia), or written expression (dysgraphia).
To assess a child’s social, emotional, and behavioral functioning, parent and teacher rating scales are used. When appropriate, the child may also complete a self-rating scale. These scales include a wide range of concerns that children exhibit, including acting-out behavior, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and adaptive skills such as adaptability and social skills. Rating scales are also used to assess whether a child may be exhibiting significant difficulty with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Lastly, a computerized test is administered, which measures a child’s ability to sustain his or her attention, as well as to resist impulsive responding, when exposed to both visual and auditory information. Dr. Gilbert is then able to consider all this data, in conjunction with the child’s history, to determine whether ADHD may be present, or if anxiety is a primary factor preventing the child from making adequate school progress, or if depression may be playing a role, or if an Oppositional-Defiant Disorder may be at play. Included as part of the evaluation is a meeting with the parent(s) to review all the assessment data, and to discuss best practice recommendations that are provided by Dr. Gilbert. Because Dr. Gilbert is a certified school psychologist (in addition to being a licensed psychologist), she can guide parents in navigating the complicated world of special education services and IEPs if appropriate.
If you are interested in more information, please contact Dr. Gilbert’s office. The testing typically involves 4-5 hours of direct testing. The cost is generally $1250 – $1450, depending on what assessments are needed. Remember to bring your child’s eyeglasses if they are needed, to make sure your child goes to bed on time the night before, and that your child has a good breakfast/lunch prior to the assessment.
Destiny—A Manifesto for All
By KEN WELLS, LPC
If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. – Henry David Thoreau
It was an August evening over 50 years ago in a little midwest farmer’s town. From my memory it was a special night. The team that I played-the Schilling Stars were facing Columbia Machine for the city championship. Each team had won its division and would play to see who would win the City Series. It was best of three. I was selected to pitch the opening game of the Series and naturally was really excited. I had won all of my games that year, including 2 no hitters where the other team didn’t score any runs. I remember the evening had electricity in the air because I just loved playing baseball. Of course, it was Little League, so our Coach Bernie Nale always played everybody at least the minimum of 2 innings. I never liked it because I just wanted to win. I was always frustrated when we did not have the best players on the field.
Some of the kids only played because their parents made them. During this year there was a kid whose name was Williams. He was one who could care less about baseball. Back in the day of Little League, position players would enthusiastically chatter support for their pitcher between pitches—like “me, me swing batter!”. If the chatter was weak and I was pitching, I would turn to the field and holler for the players to talk it up for me. Once, I was pitching and turned around to yell at all the position players to talk it up. I looked around and saw Williams standing in right field with his glove on his head! He had picked a dead dandelion and was blowing the spores, watching them fly away in the wind. I remember being pissed. Between innings I stormed to dugout and complained to the Coach to do something about Williams. What I recall the Coach said to me is that he would talk to the guy who mowed the field and ask if he would cut the grass a little closer so there would be no dandelions to distract Williams next week.
On this night, I was glad that Coach was in my camp and he intended to play just the guys who would help us win. I remember the smell of popcorn and the pungent odor of cigar smoke. It was all inviting to me. There was a charge of anticipation in the air as the game began. It was a 6 inning game and we were the visiting team. When I came out to pitch the final inning, there was a buzz of thrill in the air. We were ahead 8-0 but what was special is that I had a perfect game going—no one reached base to that point. I’m a lefty and remember feeling really pumped when we got the second out. I remember knowing that I had a perfect game going and wondered if I could get the last guy out. I don’t even remember how we got him out but I do remember being deluged with teammates congratulating me for being “Perfecto”! As I made my way off the field, two people said things to me that changed the direction of destiny baseball would take in my life. One adult came up and told me that the only reason I pitched a perfect game was because of the defense behind me. His son was the shortstop. The other, my brother Jimmy, said to me “Beckett (my middle name) you will be a ballplayer when you can hit .667 the way I did in American Legion ball. We won the City Series but what stuck with my young mind were those two impactful statements.
Destiny is often shaped by words and behaviors to individuals when they are young, impressionable and influenced by others around them. Unless there are people to protect and provide clear perspective, the destiny of many young minds is crushed and cremated before they ever begin.
I remember rolling over in my young mind that no matter what I would do, I could never be good enough. To a young and impressionable mind, it was profound. I had tried so hard to be so good, but somehow in my mind I wasn’t. I had won all of my games that I pitched that year and was not selected to the All Star team. I don’t recall any adult saying much about the game or the season, one way or the other. They may have. But, what stuck were the two adults who said some pretty stupid stuff to an impressionable kid. Things in my inner life began to unravel soon thereafter. I lost my confidence and my way around baseball. Within 2 years of that game, I had given up playing baseball, believing that my best would never be good enough. Whether or not I would have ever been a decent player later in life is unknown and not even the point. What mattered is the experience of destiny being curtailed and stymied by untimely hurtful remarks that shaped my young and naive mind.
As an addict destiny seems to narrow to one central focus—when can I get high, get laid, or figure out where the next hit will come from. All of life is reduced to the utility of craving. Nothing else matters. I’m an addict, a pastor, a professional counselor and a person who started out wanting to be a baseball player. As an addict, I know what it is like when I can’t get enough of what I really don’t want. As a pastor, I have absorbed the pain of a lot of people who pretend to fulfill their destiny with a lot of frenetic energy for God but who end up at a place of deprivation not too far from what an addict experiences. As a professional counselor, I listen to people share broken dreams and destroyed destinies triggered by an all consuming ‘I want what I want when I want it’ mentality from a place of addiction or other dysfunction.
Looking back as a young aspiring baseball player, I was first introduced to the possibility of building dreams and fulfilling destiny playing Little league baseball. It was about introducing the special idea that no matter who you are, there is a destiny to be fulfilled. Even if you don’t know the rules of the game, you dream that you can still be a star player. How many kids who played Little League baseball have daydreamed about hitting a walk off home run or diving and reaching just beyond the fence to catch and rob someone of a home run. Most of us who played have had these and other heroic daydreams.
When my son Jimmy, started playing tee-ball, there was this kid who kept striking out by missing the ball teed up for him. Finally, his last at bat, after two missed swings, he hit the ball on the third try and the ball dribbled off the tee. All the parents were screaming “Run, Run”. The little guy was frozen with little idea what to do. Suddenly, he sprinted to third base to fulfill his destiny. While all the parents yelled at him to go to first base, he went to third and in the midst of all the noise and commotion he and the third baseman stood on third base hugging each other, jumping up and down on the base. This comical picture puts in perspective the intensity of dreams that parents have for their kids around baseball and other sports.
Addiction has a way of squeezing all of the magic out of you. As a counselor, I have heard thousands of heartbreaking stories of people who have been tragically deprived of seeing the possibility of embracing an exciting, adventurous destiny. I would add my story to the long list of those that I have listened to. Many hopes, exciting plans for a happy destiny dashed by addiction and human brokenness.
Every person should have the opportunity to fulfill their destiny. No one should remain stuck in the shadow of their own past or limited by what others say that they can or cannot do. As a pastor and counselor I have listened to many folk speak about the messages they received from their now deceased parents that debilitate, sabotage and defeat destiny.
I have never utilized a ouija board to call back voices from those who have already passed. Yet, I have heard many people share the negative enervating messages from parents who are dead but whose voice is as real as if they were alive today or as clear as any ouija board could possibly create. These are the messages that dominate and narrow vision and eventually destroy destiny— keeping people mired in destructive behaviors.
It is necessary for each person to go deep within themselves and not let the voice or influence of others squeeze them into the mold of common expectations. I was told after I pitched a perfect game in a Little League title game that I would only be a ballplayer when I could hit .667 like my older brother did in American Legion ball. I believed him. In less than 2 years, I quit playing baseball.
I was told that I would never make it in college by one of my high school teachers. My college academic advisor told me that my “C” average in college meant that was all I would ever be in life- just nothing special. In time, I learned to never believe those two people.
When I was little, two people’s opinion and statement influenced and shaped my destiny. Later, two people’s opinion only fueled my passion from within to spurn their conclusion and walk to the beat of a different drummer. By this time in my life I had begun to develop a vision for what I could become and create in my life. I knew down deep that none of these people knew what was inside my heart. It wasn’t like as if I didn’t continue to experience failure during my college days. I had attempted to sell Bible books during the summer of my college sophomore year. I worked 80 hrs a week- from 8am-10pm, going door to door every day. I earned $300 for the entire summer. I returned to college and came within a whisker of flunking out of college after the Fall semester. Later, just after my senior year, I failed as a youth pastor, crossing boundaries with one of the kids in my youth group. Yet, there was something within that reminded me that these results were not who I was.
To know yourself is to be able to fulfill your destiny. Dreams will never be discovered unless you are willing to embrace the mysterious. The journey within will take you to places of uncertainty, conflict and even confusion. Only those who are willing to embrace their heart can truly descend to the depths of their life and know themselves. Fear prevents many from taking the journey from the head to the heart. Many people cannot stand the creative tension that is developed when challenged with looking at what is inside the heart. Addicts dread the tension and stress of the unknown. It drives them to act out.
Only those who are willing to embrace their heart can truly descend to the depths of their life and truly know themselves. The goal is to sit with ambiguity, doubt and despair. Allow these unwanted feeling experiences to do their healing— their purging work! Falling short of this process is settling for something shallow. It will take determination and resolve to move through the uncertainty, doubt and the fear of the unknown. What happens for those who stay the course is that you begin to slowly see your dream on the horizon. It is a wonderful harmonious experience to know your dream that has come from your heart.
It is important to not question it- to just go with the flow of what it brings to you. Always know that you will not have to make your dream come true, rather, it will flow through every part of your being. Like an athlete who in sport stops trying to force the game his way but lets the game come to him. It just happens. Nothing will be able to prevent destiny from happening because ultimately your dream is a part of you and you are a part of your dream.
Your destiny is not about results, it’s about the essence of who you are. It’s about the quality of your being. You will not be able to fail if you connect to the depth of essence of who you are. Destiny becomes a part of the quality of your being. Shame and addiction dominates and tells us that what we do is who we are.
But, be relaxed and confident. You are right where you need to be when you take the journey into your heart. This is where destiny is forged. No need for hurry. There’s no place, no day that you are required to do more than you can do in peace. It may sound “booga- booga”— but always be aware that there is a guiding light, a divine presence that walks beside you to witness and to celebrate your destiny. You are special and your willingness to be present in your heart is witness to this great discovery of destiny.
Dag Hammarskjold once said “We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours”. Destiny is an intriguing dynamic. It equates prospect and purpose. It suggests inevitable conclusion in the course of events. There is a certain mystery to it. There is a sad reality that not everyone is given equal opportunity to rendezvous with destiny. Yet, what some have put into the framework of their hope and vision has inspired many. T.S. Eliot reflected that “A man’s destination is not his destiny. Every country is home to one man and exile to another. Where a man dies bravely at one with his destiny, that soil is his.”
It’s the soil of suffering and struggle that characterizes the content of destiny for many throughout the world. Yet there are those who have miraculously championed the pathway for human dignity for all sojourners who struggle. In unlikely circumstances of squalor and suffering they have embraced the vision of Thoreau who said “if one advances confidently in the direction of one’s dreams, and endeavors to live the life that one has imagined, one will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
For most, fear dominates like a pack of wolves chasing you through the woods. Destiny can seem so fleeting, so distant, so dichotomist, and at times phony. It’s important to not be dominated by thoughts that you won’t make it. Remain present in the here and now. In truth, it’s all you have and all you need. Destiny is about living in the connection of every moment of your life.
Picture yourself creating the reality of your desired future. See yourself moving forward like a steady ocean liner plodding its way across the sea. When you experience doubt, always know that you do not have to be afraid if you know who it is and the energy that’s present and walks beside you.
Charting your own path means that sometimes you will be lonely because you are creating destiny. In one sense, it is true that no one is there because you are the only one who can create your specialness. But if you look around there are others who have gone before you and there are those who are present in the here and now who going through the same experience. Know they are there applauding your courage to be you. They are prompting you that you are doing it and that you are not alone. When trouble comes, look inside not out. Everything you need to fulfill destiny is inside your heart. You are capable. With courage, stand for principle and fulfill purpose. The very nature of fulfilling destiny is one of freedom. The freedom that comes from your destiny will free others of their own bondage. Destiny is a healing dynamic that creates conviction within. This is the unexpected success that Thoreau is talking about.
While you embrace your dreams, take time to connect with the energy and vision of others who are creating their own destiny. Their destinies will be similar yet different from your own. You will discover a tipping point whereby others will collectively connect their energy with yours and provide a conglomerate healing force that will permeate the universe. Collective destiny ignites a firestorm of energetic love and positive flow that triggers the power of dream and destiny in countless others. It is through you fulfilling your destiny that you will provide the energy for others to create their own. Peace becomes an emerging theme when people fulfill their own destiny. Judgment, comparison and control will diminish in the presence of destiny. Always know that the peace that passes the understanding of many comes from the destiny that lives inside the heart. Know that your life matters and that every life matters. There is no deprivation in destiny. There’s enough destiny for everybody to know the freedom and the power of creating their dreams. When reality of destiny appears in sufficient amounts there is no longer a need for control and domination of one over another. To be at peace and in harmony with all living things is an ideal pursuit that is the personification of a fulfilled destiny.
By Ken Wells
By Gloria Gilbert, Ph.D., Child and Adolescent Psychologist, PCS Staff Psychologist
The decision of whether to bring your son or daughter to therapy can be a difficult one, as is the choice regarding which therapist would be the best fit for your child or teen. As a child/adolescent psychologist, I’d like to share my “process” of beginning therapy with a young person, in the hopes of “demystifying” that process and increasing parents’ comfort level and understanding of how therapy for kids “starts.”
I find it most helpful to have an initial session with just the parent(s) to obtain background information, to learn about the parents’ concerns for their child, and to identify what goals they might like for their child. The next session is then for the child to meet with me individually, where I explain what a psychologist is (e.g., “a Feelings Doctor”) and how I help children and teenagers. I also share about how, what the young person and I talk about, can be “private,” unless it involves anything about the child’s safety; in that case, we’d need to tell mom or dad or another adult. Then, depending on the age of the child, we might play a game or two to “break the ice.”
At this point, I usually give young people a choice about whether they’d like to tell me about themselves, or to allow me to go through a series of questions I have prepared (usually, kids prefer that I ask them questions). The questions start out “light,” including inquiries about what they like to do for fun, about their school and friends, and about their family. For younger children, I might ask them to draw a picture of their family as they tell me about family members. The questions also allow me to discover what in their lives makes them feel worried, scared, sad, and mad. The session closes with an invitation to bring mom or dad into the session. The child has the option to share about what we did and/or talked about. The goal of this first session is to allow the child and me to get to know each other, and for the child to have a positive first experience with therapy.
At the next session, I usually present an activity I have termed, “My Problems, Bothers, Worries, and Unhappy Memories Page.” From my own life, I draw pictures to represent some of the problems, bothers, worries, and unhappy memories that I experienced in childhood. The young person then has an opportunity to complete his/her own “Problems” page. I often find that children can identify as many “problems” as is their age. Next, I assist the child in identifying how each problem makes him/her feel; to rate each problem on a scale from 0 to 10, with 10 being the most bothersome; and to draw lines connecting problems to discover possible themes or patterns. I find this information to be so helpful in understanding, from the young person’s perspective, what are or have been the biggest challenges in his/her life. Often, children are interested in sharing their drawings with their parent(s), and I have been told by many parents how informative and helpful this information has been to them.
From there, I explain to the child how, when we have many things in our lives that bother us or cause us “yucky” feelings, those negative memories take up room in our brains, preventing us from being able to have good and happy feelings. My job is to help children learn to better cope with those negative memories or experiences, so that they can have more room in their brains for good and happy feelings.
Lastly, I assist the young person in identifying his/her own goals for therapy. While parents certainly can offer input into these goals, I feel it is critical that the goals be generated by the young person…if they are going to be coming for therapy on a regular basis, they need to have it be worth their while to work on issues that are important to them (not just what’s important to their parents)! Once a young person identifies his/her goals, these are shared with mom and/or dad, and a plan is made for the frequency of sessions and the estimated duration of treatment, as well as what kinds of therapy techniques might be used.
In sum, this process allows me to get to fully know the child, to understand his/her struggles, and to discover how the young person would like his/her life to be better. Often, this process can “open the door” toward improved communication and connection between child and parent(s) as well. It is always a privilege and honor to guide a young person through this process!