We offer diagnostic assessments for common neurodevelopmental conditions such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). These assessments require the use of specialised assessment instruments and questionnaires, as well as discussion with parents and ideally the school. As part of this assessment a psychometric assessment may also be recommended.
Psychometric assessments involve a detailed clinical interview with the parents, and also the administration of standardised tests of various different cognitive (thinking) skills and academic skills.
Sometimes we would focus mainly on measuring the child’s overall intellectual ability level, whereas on other occasions we would also measure academic skills (reading, writing, and maths) and/or particular cognitive abilities (such as language skills or motor skills).
The Assessment Process
Psychometric Testing is generally divided into several individual sessions to avoid fatigue and to get optimal performance from the child. It generally consists of an initial session with the parent/s only (~1 hour) to ascertain a comprehensive history and information about the child’s current level of functioning.
Following this, testing sessions with the child take up to 2 hours for each test battery administered. This will almost always include the administration of a general intellectual ability test battery first. Additional test batteries will focus on academic abilities, and/or more in-depth assessment of specific cognitive domains.
A separate feedback session (~50 minutes) is then organised to discuss the child’s results. This session often involves the parent(s) alone, but can sometimes include a mature child or adolescent.
Tests of General Intellectual Ability
Tests of General Intellectual Ability assess an individual’s overall intellectual potential, and they form the basis of describing the child’s individual profile of strengths and weaknesses. These tests measure a person’s ability to problem-solve and analyse in verbal and abstract formats; the ability to complete tasks quickly; and the ability to mentally manipulate information.
These tests of general intelligence are suited to children with learning difficulties, as they do not involve any reading or writing: they are therefore a measure of intelligence irrespective of academic achievement.
There are one of two tests that can be administered, depending on the child’s age:
- Wechsler Preschool and Primary School Intelligence Test (WPPSI) – suitable for younger children aged 2 years 6 months to 7 years 7 months.
- Wechsler Intelligence Test for Children (WISC) – suitable for older children between the ages of 6 and 16.
Tests of Academic Ability
The Wechsler Individual Achievement Test (WIAT) is used as a measure of academic achievement. It enables the assessment of a broad range of academic skills, including reading, written language, oral skills, and mathematics. The assessment is normally administered in conjunction with a general intelligence test in order to understand the child’s academic results in light of their overall cognitive ability. For example one would expect that if a child’s intellectual ability was above average, then their academic ability should also be above average. Also, if intellectual ability is below average then below average academic ability is expected. If there is a discrepancy between the two tests then this indicates that there may be an issue that needs further investigation.
Tests of Specific Cognitive Domains
The NEPSY-II is a test of specific cognitive domains such as language, visuospatial skills, and motor skills: it is therefore often used as an adjunct to the WISC-IV and WPPSI-III. We also use tests that measure executive function skills (such as the Delis-Kaplan Executive Function System – D-KEFS) and memory (such as the Children’s Memory Scale).
Target Areas for Assessment
There are some situations where we would focus mainly on measuring overall intellectual ability. These include:
Intellectual Disability (over 5’s) or Global Developmental Delay (under 5’s)
Assessment can help to determine what type of assistance the child will need across the whole academic curriculum.
Assessment of giftedness or very high intellectual ability may allow recommendations to be made for accelerated learning opportunities or strategies to nurture particular strengths. To read more about testing for Giftedness click here.
School readiness assessment
Determining the child’s preparedness for starting primary school or to anticipate any challenges with transitioning to secondary school is helpful for many children.
Specific learning disorders
For some children we would be interested not only in measuring overall cognitive ability but also specific academic and cognitive areas. This is because the child may have specific academic or cognitive weaknesses that are distinct from their overall intellectual ability level.
Specific learning disorders are concerned with the child’s academic skills, such as:
- Reading impairment (similar to ‘Dyslexia’)
- Written expression impairment (which overlaps with ‘Dyspraxia’ and ‘Dysgraphia’, but may also occur for other reasons such as problems with attention or planning)
- Mathematics impairment (similar to ‘Dyscalculia’)
For more information about Specific Learning Disorders, please click here.
Neurodevelopmental disorders also require assessment of specific cognitive abilities.
- Language skills (Communication Disorders)
- Social communication skills (Autism Spectrum and Social Communication disorder)
- Attention and/or hyperactivity/impulsivity (ADHD)
- Motor coordination skills (Developmental Coordination Disorder)
- Visuospatial and conceptual skills (often closely linked to mathematics ability)
- Executive skills (planning, problem-solving, abstract thinking, mental flexibility, and self-regulation) and memory skills
Causes of Impairments
In many cases, difficulties in the above areas may arise for reasons that are difficult to localise precisely: these may include genetic factors, problems with the child’s development during pregnancy, premature birth, or birth trauma.
In some cases there will be a specific genetic or neurodevelopmental syndrome (such as Sickle Cell Disease or an Epilepsy syndrome): in such cases the child’s skills can be compared to what we would normally expect of someone with that condition. In other cases, it may be that other members of the family struggle with the same skill area (which is often the case with reading impairment, for example).
With other children there may have been a specific ‘event’, such as an illness (such as Meningitis, Encephalitis, Brain tumour, or Stroke) or an impact to the brain during an accident: in such instances the child is referred to as having an ‘Acquired Brain Injury’.
Some conditions may result in an initial impairment, followed by a period of partial or full recovery; in other conditions there may unfortunately be a progression of the condition affecting the brain; and with some children their full range of difficulties may only become apparent later in life because some of our more complex skill areas continue to mature during adolescence. If any of these reasons apply, it may be that a ‘repeat assessment’ is recommended some time after the initial injury or illness.
Additionally some parents may wish to request a repeat assessment to determine whether an academic intervention (such as with a reading or mathematics impairment) has been effective.
For more information see our FAQ about child testing here.
If you would like to find out more about our psychometric assessments, or to start the assessment process with one of our child clinical psychologists, please email or call the clinic on 0405 430 530.