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Learning Disabilities - Psychological Assessment

Psychological assessment encompasses assessment of the three major aspects of the mind namely, cognitive, affective and conative. Maloney and word 1976 defined psychological assessment as a process of solving problems or answering questions. Psychological assessment involves understanding not only the causes of the problems but also potentials solutions. The purpose of psychological assessment is to evaluate an individual or group of persons relative to a specific issues or problem. These may include intellectual functioning, learning disabilities, special abilities, scholastic achievement, personality functioning, emotional and social areas and question of normality and abnormality. The psychologist develops hypotheses based upon information of past behaviour present behaviour and predictions for future behaviour as defined by given situations incorporated in assessment information.

    Early identification

  • Visual-perceptual problems: difficulty distinguishing shapes and sizes difficulty coloring, writing, cutting out lack of established “handedness” – uses either right or left hand to perform a task letter and word reversal
  • Attention/memory problems: difficulty concentrating, does not listen well, forgets easily, cannot follow instructions with many steps
  • Language deficits: delay in language development, has difficulty forming sentences and/ or finding the right words
  • Reading problems: has trouble sounding out words, has difficulty understanding words or concepts misread letters or puts them in incorrect order.

Distinguishing learning disabilities from other disorders

It is not surprising that the symptoms describing a child with learning disabilities sound similar to those of a child with ADD. All ADD children have learning disabilities, but not all learning disabilities, but not all learning disabled children have ADD.

Children with various medical and genetic diseases may also have leaning problems. Girls with Turner’s or X 0 syndrome, have severe visual-perceptual problem (Alexander & mony, 1985). Children suffering from chronic illness such as diabetes, arthritis and kidney or liver disease may have poor school performance either because of the disease itself or from psychosocial problems related to the chronic illness. Also, children with psychiatric disorders often fail in school.

The influence of a child environment is an important as his or her physical and emotional health. For example a child who is having and has poor nutrition cannot pay attention and does not learn well. Also, if the child comes from a home that does not emphasize learning, he or she will rarely achieve well in school (Bell, Abrahamson &Mc Rae, 1977).

Thus, before performing a battery of psychological and educational tests on a child who is having trouble learning, a complete medical and social history should be taken. Questions to the parents might include: is your child hyperactive? Does your child receive any medication that might affect his or her learning? Does he or she have any emotional problems? Does your child seem afraid to go to school? Does he or she avoid going to school, sometimes using sickness as an excuse? Is there any problem with vision or hearing, either now or in the past? Do you suspect that any recent changes in your home may have upset your child? Are you having problems with you child other that in school?

Evaluating the learning disabled child

Treatment involves evaluation and diagnosis as well as program planning. Using a group of psychological and educational tests, one initially assesses the cognitive, visual-perceptual, and psycholinguistic strength and weakness of the child as well as his or her level of achievement in different academic areas. This leads to a strategy for treatment. Most children are not tested until they have completed kindergarten

Cognitive and other tests: two commonly used cognitive or IQ tests are the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Revised (WISC-R) and the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children (K-ABC).

The WISC-R the WISC-R contains both tests of language abilities and performance testes of eye-hand skills that require minimal verbal response. It is divided into six verbal and six performance subtests, none of which requires reading or spelling. These subtests consist of a series of increasingly difficult questions ranging from a 6 to 16 years old level. On each the child is asked to perform up to the level at which he or she consistently fails. Each subtest is then scored, which 10 being an average score. Thus it is possible to determine a child’s strengths and weakness by examining the results of the subtests. A variation of this test, used for children 4.6 years of age and older, is called the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence (WPPSI)

The verbal subtests include: information, comprehension, arithmetic, similarities, vocabulary and digit span (digit span is an optional test)

The second category, the performance subtests, includes: picture completion, picture arrangement, block design, object assembly, coding and mazes (mazes is an optional)

K-ABC: the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children is a new psychometric measure designed to test children from 2.6 to 12.6 years of age. It differs from the WISC in that it minimizes the role of language and verbal skills in testing. In addition, this test is particularly useful for testing children with learning disabilities because it covers and evaluates different aspects of reading skills. Using this test, one is able to ascertain not only whether a person has a reading disability but also which type of reading disability. Thus, the dysphonetic reader can be distinguished from the dyseidetic reader.

Besides the use of cognitive tests, other tests are used to assess a child’s intellectual abilities. These include tests of visual-perceptual skills, psycholinguistic abilities, and academic achievement tests.

Visual-perceptual Tests
1 Bender-Gestalt Test 9drawings the child is asked to copy visual-perceptual skills; eye hand coordination
2 Good enough Draw-a- person test Child is asked to draw a person; points are given for number of body parts, accuracy and detail Visual perceptual skills; child’s self-image
3 Motor-Free Visual Perception Test Assesses visual perception with out visual-motor encoding tasks.
4 Marianne Frostig Developmental Test of Visual Perception Purports measure visual perception in five basic areas including eye motor coordination, figure ground, constancy of shape, position in space spatial relations. Validity studies have not supported five areas of visual perception.
5 Raven’s Progressive Matrices Measure visual discrimination and reasoning process by analogy The Raven’s manual provides no data on reliability or validity and the norms are outdated. Cognitive abilities are confounded with visual discrimination in latter part of test. Its primary use is as a criterion referenced test.
6 Memory-For Designs Test Assesses immediate visual memory and visual-motor coordination. The test was originally designed for the purpose of identifying brain injured persons. However, diagnosis based on this one measure is inappropriate.
Visual-Motor Performance Measures
7 Bender Visual –Motor Gestalt Test Assesses visual perception-motor integration abilities The Bender is often used as a rapid screening device
8 Bender Visual Retention Test Revised Edition Performance requires spatial perception, immediate recall and visual-motor reproduction The Benton provides three different forms for different administrations.
9 Developmental Test of Visual-Motor Integration(VMI) Assesses visual/motor abilities through the reproduction of figures. The VMI is one of the better normed visual-motor instruments. Visual stimuli are presented in terms of the normal developmental sequence.
Auditory Perception Measures
10 Auditory Discrimination Test (Wepman) Screening instrument to assess one’s ability to recognize fine differences between phonemes Revised in 1973, the Auditory Discrimination Test requires only a few minutes to administer. Evidence of the instrument’s validity is sufficient.
11 Goldman-Fristoe Woodcock Test of Auditory Discrimination(GFW) Designed to assess speech and sound discrimination It is not clear whether GFW is a test of auditory discrimination or auditory closure
12 Goldman-Fristoe-Woodcock test of auditory Skills Test Battery Assesses a broad range of auditory perceptual skills. An easy-to administer but time consuming battery. Rarely give entire battery of tests. May provide helpful diagnostic information.
Individual tests of intelligence
13 Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale Provide a general measure of intellectual functioning and of mental age The scale as a whole is heavily weighted with items tapping verbal ability. Both administration and scoring are fairly complicated and require a well-trained examiner. Large amounts of interpretative and clinical data have been accumulated on the use of the test.
14 Mc Carthy Scales Consist of 18 subtests grouped into six scales. General cognitive index provides a general measure of intelligence The Mc Carthy is an enjoyable test for younger children-well designed.
15 Malin’s Intelligence Scale for Indian Children (MISIC) Consist of 6 verbal subtests and 5 performance subtests MISIC test is useful for assessing intelligence of School going chidren
16 Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence Provides a full Scale I.Q, verbal I.Q and performance I.Q. Scores are derived from 11 subtests The WPPSI has restrictive usefulness because of its limited age range.
17 Wechsler-intelligence Scale for children-Revised Yields a general measure of intellectual functioning plus verbal and performance scores. Scores are derived from 10 subtests. Two additional subtests are also available, but are not normality used to calculate the I.Q. scores. The WISC-R is perhaps the most frequently used general intelligence measure. However its validity is questionable with specific ethnic or socio-cultural groups.
18 Wechsler-Adult Intelligence Scales-Revised(WAIS-R) Same general format as other Wechsler Scales. The WAIS-R is the restandardized form of WAIS. Due to the recency of the revision, little information is available concerning its comparability with WAIS. Technical quality and test construction is good as with other Wechsler Scales.
19 Slosson Intelligence Test The Slosson is a widely used screening instrument in the assessment of mental ability. It is primarily a measure of verbal ability. Technical information in the manual is limited. Large and variable standard deviations exist with different age groups.
20 Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test Revised(PPVT-R) The PPVT-R is designed to estimate verbal intelligence through hearing vocabulary. It can function as a useful screening device for receptive language Cultural disadvantaged children do more poorly on this test than on other intelligence tests.
21 Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-Educational Battery (part One Test of Cognitive Ability) 12 subtests to assess both cognitive ability and specific scholastic aptitudes The battery is adequately standardized. Scoring and interpretation are relatively complex. Learning disabled appear to perform more poorly on Cognitive Abilities portion than on WISC-R
Differential Aptitude test
22 Detroit Test of Learning Aptitude Principally used for educational and vocational counseling. Includes subtests which measure 19 skills areas. Form these, a variety of batteries may be selected for use with specific cases The Detroit is one of the most widely used multiple aptitude batteries. Inadequate standardization information.
Psycholinguistic tests
23 Illinois Test of psycholinguistic Abilities (ITPA) Two groups of 6 subtests Auditory reception: visual reception; auditory/visual association; verbal expression; manual expression(first 6 tests); auditory expression: grammar, auditory sequential memory, visual sequential memory; sound comprehension; specific language deficiencies
24 Wepman Auditory Discrimination Test Spoken words that sound similar Ability to differentiate similar sounding words
Academic Achievement Test
25 The Wide Range Achievement Test (WRAT) Battery (useful for determining rate of learning) 3 subtests; grade level is obtained on each subtest. Spelling, reading, math abilities
26 Woodcock-Johnson Psycho-educational Battery Subtests in areas covering reading skills, mathematics, writing, science, social studies, humanities General ability, academic achievement, personal interest
27 Metropolitan Readiness Test(taken during second half of kindergarten) Screening test for entering first grade; may be first standardized measure of learning problem Counting, number concepts, alphabet, phonetics, visual discrimination
28 Gates-Mac Ginities Reading Tests Vocabulary words; stories and questions about the stories Silent comprehension and vocabulary
29 Durrell Reading Tests Oral reading
30 NIMHANS index for Specific Learning Disability- Level-1 It measures attention, visual and auditory discrimination, visual and auditory memory, speech and language, visuo motor and language, writing and number skills.
31 Word Recognition Test List of words of varying difficulty. “flash score” percentage of words recognized instantly; “untimed score: percentage described without a time limit Sight reading vocabulary; word skills
32 Detroit Test of learning Aptitude 19 subtests Prerequisite skills (short-term recollection, memory, ability to follow oral directions etc.) for reading and other school subjects; ability to understand opposites
33 Informal Reading Inventory (IRI) Test that yield 4 levels of reading ability “independent” reading ability; “instructional” level; frustration” level; Hearing capacity” level
34 Key Math Diagnostic arithmetic Test Several subtests; yields grade equivalent Computational skills and concepts identifies types or errors made
35 Peabody Individual Achievement test(PLAT) Provides an overall assessment of basic academic areas including: reading, recognition, reading comprehension, maths and General information The PLAT is an easily administered screening instrument. Standardization is superior to most individually administered achievement tests.
36 Brigance Diagnostic inventories Criterion-referenced multiple-skill battery Content validity of tests appears appropriate. The Brigance is useful for teachers in planning and evaluating instruction.
Adaptive behaviour
37 Vineland Social Maturity Scale (VSMS) Indian version Adaptive behaviour scale measures 8 self help skills of children It give the level of social functions in children
Rating scales
38 The Pupil Rating Scale (Myklebust) Screening instrument that requires teachers to rate five areas of behaviour including: auditory comprehension, spoken language, orientation motor coordination and social behaviour The scale easy to use but no reliability data are reported in the manual. Norms are presently inadequate.
39 Devereaux Adolescent Behaviour Rating Scale Completed by a teacher or parent to rate a student’s typical behaviour The scale is most useful as a device to identify behaviours that may be interfering with achievement. It is not intended as a measure of personality. Comparison of rating collected from several persons may be useful.
40 Behaviour Problem Checklist(BPC) Designed as a screening instrument for identifying behavioural deviance in children and adolescents. Local norms are recommended by authors The BPC is easy to use. Validity and reliability information is available