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.

Mother Guilt/Mother Shame: Stop the Madness

On a weekly basis, I meet with women in my therapy practice who feel like they are not good moms. When I explore this with them, I find that in contrast to their feelings of failure, they are doing a really good job. Their children are thriving: They do well in school, they have friends, and participate in lots of different activities. And when their children have struggles (a part of thriving), they verbalize the thoughtful way they approached the situation.

I thinks it’s important to admit that I, a psychologist and a mom who should know better (notice the unhelpful, negative thought), struggle with not feeling like a good enough mom, too. Parenting is the most humbling job no matter how well prepared you think you are.

Many things contribute to creating and sustaining moms’ feelings of not being good enough. Many of us are struggling to balance our mommy roles with other roles in our lives and are feeling stressed about not doing everything perfectly. So, in this first entry, let’s look at the concept of being a good enough mom.

The concept of the good enough mother was first coined by Donald Winnicott in 1953. In his work as a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst he observed thousands of babies and mothers and came to realize that babies and children actually benefit when their mothers fail them in manageable ways. They need their primary caretakers to fail them in tolerable ways on a consistent basis to learn to live in an imperfect world. Like trees blown around by wind, children grow stronger by managing challenging events in their lives. The good enough mother is cognizant of her child’s development stage and supports her child’s learning and growth.

60 years later and good enough mothering hasn’t made its way into mainstream thinking. That is terrible. We need to change how we define parenting and celebrate it. Good enough is not mediocre. Good enough is thoughtful. Good enough is making rational choices. Good enough is supporting each other to be the best mom we can be. Good enough frees us and our children to be imperfectly perfect. Let’s start with getting the word out. #goodenoughmom


Article by Cathy Walls

Sex Addiction Expert Explains Why Good Kids Get Pulled Into Porn

by Mark Bell, LMFT, CSAT, PCS Staff Therapist and Claudine Gallacher, MA

Most parents understand that pornography is prevalent and easily accessible, but they convince themselves that their own good children would never be ensnared by it. Sadly, this is an all too common mistake. Many good, healthy, and normal children get pulled into porn. Here are three reasons why this is a natural result of biological programming, followed by three powerful strategies to porn-proof your own good kids.

Why Good Kids Are Pulled Into Porn

#1. Children are naturally curious.

Curiosity has an especially powerful role in childhood. Curiosity drives learning. Parents discover that curious children want to see, smell, touch, taste, and listen to new things. Humans crave and are hard-wired for novelty of all kinds, but most especially physical novelty (including sexual) experiences. It’s normal for kids to be curious about looking at both male and female naked bodies.

#2. All people, including children, are biologically designed to be drawn to sexualized images.

When children are exposed to sexual images or media they are naturally intrigued and can become excited, even aroused. This does not mean there is something wrong with them. In fact, it indicates that their bodies and brains are responding in a manner consistent with their human design. Pornography elicits within children a premature stimulation of sexual feelings. In other words, though sexual feelings typically awaken during puberty, pornography exposure often causes this aspect of human development to activate too early. Young kids, lacking sufficient life experience and brain maturity, don’t understand these newly awakened and intense sexual feelings and have difficulty coping with them. The end result is that a child will feel drawn to pornography and not know why. The child may or may not like seeing porn initially; nevertheless, the child will often feel an inner pull towards it. It’s important to understand that this pull is as biologically driven as the human preference for sweet foods. Virtually all of us like something sweet. Similarly, there is an aspect in all of us (yes, even children!) that innately responds to sexual images of some kind.

#3. Pornography produces powerful chemicals that reinforce a child’s innate attraction to it.

Besides activating the sexual template too early, porn can activate it too much. This is because pornography is a supernormal stimulus. What does that mean? Humans are hard-wired to be interested in male and female bodies, but under normal circumstances we aren’t exposed to endless numbers of people willing to undress and perform sex acts in front of us the moment we first meet! This “unnatural” sexual stimulus causes the brain to release an “unnatural” (unusually high) dose of a chemical called dopamine, often called the molecule of motivation. Author and behavioral scientist, Dr. Susan Weinschenk explains:

“The latest research shows that dopamine causes seeking behavior. Dopamine causes us to want, desire, seek out, and search. It increases our general level of arousal and our goal-directed behavior.”

When a child sees porn, that child’s brain will begin to release large amounts of dopamine, creating a drive for more, even in a child who did not like seeing pornography in the first place. Unfortunately, with repeated exposure, porn can become strongly woven into the tapestry of a young person’s developing sexual template. Eventually, porn might convince the brain that masturbation in front of a screen is more rewarding and even more normal than sexual experiences within a real, committed relationship.

It’s Normal to Be Enticed by Porn

Hopefully, you can see why good, healthy, and normal children are vulnerable to porn. When children become victims of pornography, they are merely responding naturally to an unnatural or supernormal stimulus. In fact, asking children to reject porn is asking them to have a biologically unnatural response to this supernormal stimulus. Falling prey to porn’s lure is our human default setting. Studies showing that 90% of college age males (and 30% of college age females) view porn regularly bear that out.

What’s a parent to do? 3 Strategies to Empower Your Good Kids

  1. Recognize porn’s power. Don’t assume that your child can withstand it alone. To stay free from porn, your child is going to need the power of your mature brain and your willingness to teach the skills necessary to reject porn. Telling your child that porn is bad and should be avoided is usually not enough.
  2. Teach children about their two brains (the feeling brain and the thinking brain) and that they must use the thinking part of their brain, their still-developing pre-frontal cortex, to override the pull of pornography.
  3. Give them a concrete plan that moves the pornography they will see out of the part of the brain that solely reacts (the feeling brain) into the part of the brain that can choose to say no (the thinking brain). For example, the CAN DO Plan™ found in Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids does just that. We suggest you read this book with your children and then follow up with repeated conversations and mentoring.

With your help and training, your child CAN DO what it takes to reject pornography.

*Originally published on Protect Young Minds on Sept. 10, 2015


How Does a Sex Addiction Expert Teach HIS Kids to Avoid Porn?

by Mark Bell LMFT, CSAT, PCS Staff Therapist

I’m a father of 5 young boys, ages 2-10 years old, and work as a sex addiction therapist. In this post, I’d like to share three strategies for addressing sexual matters, including pornography.

Maybe because of my profession, I find myself more and more aware of what my kids are confronted with regarding modern sexuality and pornography. Over the course of my career, I have worked with a diverse clientele possessing an assortment of sexual and emotional issues. This has made me even more mindful of my stewardship as a father to protect my sons’ potential by teaching them the important lessons of personal purity, integrity, healthy sexual awareness, and respect for womanhood.

My wife and I have implemented three strategies for addressing sexual matters, including pornography.

  1. Planned Interviews

One strategy is folded into a monthly father and son interview with me and each of my boys to discuss their spiritual, relational, physical, and intellectual well-being. We pray, we talk, I ask questions, I advise, I listen, I inquire some more, and above all I try to stay curious and inquisitive about each of these domains in their lives. And of course I ask them why it is important to be aware of inappropriate pictures, images, media, peer interactions, and conversations. I affirm what they say and try to add a little something extra that they may have missed or didn’t think to say. One cannot reiterate it too much.

  1. Spontaneous Conversations

The other strategy we use is to take advantage moments that arise at any given time and place (regardless of what else is going on) to ask and inform them about what they just saw, heard, or were exposed to. For example, my wife and I were watching a news show about a week ago while the boys were running around the house playing basketball on a number of our door-mounted indoor hoops (better than video games and the microwave timer is a great game clock!). During this news show our oldest son took a break to sit down with us and overheard the reporter describe how children can be easily kidnapped. He seemed intrigued and confused. My wife quite naturally proceeded to inquire of him if he knew why some adults would steal children. “No”, he said. She then proceeded to explain that many kids are stolen for sexual purposes and even used in child pornography, which she explained was forcing sexual activity on children that is filmed, put online, and watched by other adults who want to see it. My wife was quite direct and clear, and he was, of course, disturbed by this concept (as we all should be!). Naturally this was not our first sexual conversation with him. If it had been I imagine he would have been even more distressed and confused. However, he was able to hear and comprehend this because he has heard us talk about the harmful impact of pornography a number of times as well as our view of healthy sexuality. Our desire is to take advantage of the moments that naturally present themselves, to make them into empowering conversations instead of solely relying on structured, formal teaching opportunities.

  1. Resources for Parents

I would like to add that another part of parenting our boys around healthy sexuality is reading books that address these issues directly. One of those books we are using this summer is Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids. My wife and I have looked forward to reading and using this book due to the positive word of mouth by friends, social media connections, and my professional colleagues. In fact, a number of peers in my professional community of IITAP (International Institute of Trauma and Addiction Professionals) have referenced and recommended this book on our professional listserve. The buzz and endorsement from professionals and friends was a good sign of its broad appeal and benefit to families.

The Results

As we have utilized these three strategies, we have seen our sons’ emotional and sexual intelligence grow appropriately and confidently. The message we want them to hear (and we believe they are already understanding this more and more) is that using pornography is a form of unhealthy sexuality that most often results in making a person more selfish, dishonest, isolated, unhappy, less empathetic and more disrespectful towards others, particularly females. We strive for our sons to understand that respect for others begins with respect for themselves. What they watch, what they say, what they listen to, what they do, and who they associate with largely influences who they become, how they feel, and what they desire. This is what my fatherly role and professional experience has inspired me to instill in my boys.

*Originally published on Protect Young Minds on June 25, 2015


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