Assessing students – Sally Britton

Assessments for Students with Learning Difficulties

Sally Britton, Master of Education
NZCER registered assessor, SPELD registered assessor

I am often approached by parents concerned and frustrated by the struggles their son or daughter faces at school. Learning difficulties often affect confidence, behaviour and sometimes relationships with others.

Whatever the reason for these learning difficulties, finding out more about the causes and how best to support the student will lead to improved self-esteem and educational outcomes.

A psycho-educational assessment is an important step in finding out more about your child’s learning difficulties.

What is a psycho-educational assessment?

A psycho-educational assessment provides information on:

  • Intellectual ability
  • Cognitive abilities
  • Educational achievement levels.
  • The assessment is designed to answer these questions:
  • Does the student have a specific learning difficulty, for example, dyslexia?
  • Are attentional difficulties the cause of learning difficulties or delays?
  • What are the student’s cognitive and academic strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are the appropriate educational recommendations?
  • Are learning difficulties causing behavioural and emotional problems?

When should a specific learning difficulty be suspected?

  • When the learning difficulty is unexpected.
  • When the learning difficulty is persistent.
  • When the student has strengths in some areas but difficulty in others.
  • How can I get an assessment?

Assessments are available from registered assessors. Students can be referred for an assessment by schools or by parents. Sometimes referrals are made by doctors or other medical professionals. In the case of adults, self-referral or referrals from an employer are accepted. Under achievement is usually the major concern. Reading, spelling and often maths will be implicated.

What should i expect from an assessment?

An assessment will take approximately 3 hours.

  • Assessments are 1:1 and tailored to the student’s needs.
  • The assessor is skilled in providing a quiet and stress-free environment to ensure the student is relaxed and able to give their best.
  • Following the assessment a comprehensive report will be provided.

If you suspect a specific learning difficulty, a psycho-educational assessment is recommended. The sooner the appropriate learning support is provided, the better the outcomes will be for the student.

Sally Britton
Master of Education
NZCER registered assessor