When individuals are experiencing learning and performance difficulties, there is a high probability that cognitive ability, neuropsychological processing, and/or executive functioning deficits are at fault. The job of the evaluator is to first take a thorough history (i.e. academic; developmental; medical), generate hypotheses about which of the above areas may be implicated, and then construct a test battery that will target the domains in question.
It is not enough, however, to just review test findings. They must be linked in a meaningful way to instructional strategies, accommodations, and modifications that address the areas of deficit. This is because academic subjects are really byproducts of these processes. Moreover, recommendations based upon the test data must be practical and realistic. That is, the evaluator must have knowledge and experience about how schools work, the kinds of recommendations that can be reasonably accepted by a child study team and implemented by teachers. Reports that are computer driven and yield reams of unreasonable and impractical recommendations are frowned upon by child study teams and not taken seriously. Even when a reasonable strategy is generated it may not be implemented due to unavailability of either school personnel who can implement it or equipment. In these instances, it is important to be able to create alternate instructional recommendations that are doable for a particular school or child study team.
This kind of educationally informed neuropsychological evaluation takes into consideration what is possible within the confines of a specific school. It is of equal importance to be knowledgeable about how child study teams work, how they view outside evaluations, and how to consult the team in a way that is not threatening and is collaborative rather than adversarial in nature. The best plans can get stuck in the “institutional mud” if they are not presented in a manner that brings everyone involved-student, parents, teachers, and child study team-on board and in agreement with the common goal of helping a student progress.
Since schools typically offer psycho-educational rather than neuropsychological evaluations, it is of paramount importance to write reports that can be easily understood by the audience of professional that will read it and written with an inclusive tone rather than one that makes school teams feel threatened or defensive as they must implement the recommendations.
Serving as a private evaluator and a member of child study teams has given me a view from both sides of the fence that allows me to navigate the school system and avert an adversarial stance. Similarly, when doing evaluations for the purpose of requesting accommodations on college admissions exams, I have extensive knowledge of how the reports are reviewed and am skilled at writing appeals when requests are declined.