Recently, many people have called to request an educational evaluation or an ADD evaluation. Since these terms can mean different things to different people (including professionals), it is important to become knowledgeable about the kinds of testing available and how each type may or may not meet the needs of your student.
Educational evaluation is a general term that can mean many things. It is often offered by an educational specialist who provides a test battery like the Woodcock Johnson which yields a cognitive and an achievement measure. This is a somewhat limited kind of evaluation in contrast to a comprehensive psycho-educational test battery. While the latter may also mean different things to different professionals, the psycho-educational evaluation I provide provides information about an individual’s cognitive functioning that is more extensive than that which can be obtained from an evaluation based on one test. It includes important data on information processing and executive functioning that may make the difference between a student being eligible or not for services at school. A comprehensive battery taps many different measures of skills like processing speed and memory that may go undetected by one test alone. It also includes multiple measures of important school related areas like reading and written expression.
Similarly, when individuals call for an “ADD evaluation”, this, too, may mean different things. In fact, there is no one test to diagnose ADD. Moreover, it is important not to base a diagnosis solely on screening instruments like the Connors scale often used by pediatricians. A thorough evaluation of the presence of ADD really requires assessment of cognitive functioning, information processing/executive functioning, and achievement as well as behavioral and functional data from parents and even the classroom teacher.
While a comprehensive evaluation may be more expensive than the administration of a single test or some quick screening devices, it is important to weigh the cost against what is needed to properly diagnose the factors interfering with a student’s performance and functioning as the identification and remediation of these obstacles may be life altering.
In summary, it is important to educate yourself about the differences in evaluations and try not to take shortcuts any more than you would if you were trying to obtain a medical diagnosis for a significant disease.