The Importance of Seeking a Neuropsychological Evaluation Using the Pattern of Strengths and Weaknesses Model (PSW)


While few would disagree with the fact that neuropsychological evaluations offer the most comprehensive information about students’ learning and performance issues, it is equally important to seek out an evaluator who utilizes the PSW model in constructing the test battery, interpret the findings, and translate the data into practical instructional strategies.

This is because the PSW model posits that academic subjects like reading, math, and writing are really byproducts of a group of neuropsychological processes that are necessary to perform successfully in a particular subject area. The PSW approach drills down to find the specific broad and narrow abilities that are contributing to students’ school problems better than any other existing assessment model.

A skilled evaluator will conduct a PSW based neuropsychological in the same way you would peel back the layers of an onion. You start by looking at the outer layers-the broad abilities. However, it is important not to stop there. Each broad ability is comprised of a number of narrow abilities that may determine what is causing the learning problem. For example, it is not enough to say that a student has a reading problem. You must go further and identify if this problem is caused by a deficit in phonological awareness (i.e. decoding) or orthographic processing (i.e. difficulty storing and retrieving the visual images of letters and words) or both. It is only then that an instructional plan tailored to each student can be effectively constructed.

A failure in doing the necessary PSW analysis can lead to plans that do not specifically meet a students’ individual needs, leading to continued frustration and feelings of failure.