Describing the process of assessing students when they are struggling in school is not always easy. Each student brings unique strengths and challenges to the process, cognitively, academically and emotionally. This description of the process should be seen as a starting point, a way to understand what I do and why. I strongly encourage you to schedule a phone consultation to discuss the specifics of your student after you have read through this summary, the components of the assessment process and the frequently asked questions.
I am a Clinical Psychologist. I trained with Educational Psychologists and Clinical Psychologists together. My referrals are often bright and capable students who are struggling with school and nobody is sure why. Often parents and teachers wonder if the issue is a learning disability, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, or some emotional challenge (anxiety, lack of motivation, procrastination, avoidance, poor frustration tolerance, low self-esteem or giving up too easily). Parents also wonder whether school or homework would be different if they just had a different teacher, or if as parents they were more strict, or pressured their child less, or many other "what ifs." It is common for students who are struggling in school to have some or all of these emotional challenges. They are trying to solve a problem they don't understand.
For these reasons, and a few more I will describe below, I don't do brief screenings that focus only on a possible problem. It is too easy to miss some important piece that affects students in other areas. With a brief screening we put them through testing, say we will help, and all too often leave them without the support they need.
It is also important that we understand a student's strengths. A thoughtful and thorough assessment provides you, and your child, with a strong understanding of their learning style. You will leave understanding how your student learns best, what obstacles occur and how they affect their learning now and in the future. You will also understand how we will use their strengths to develop strategies or compensating mechanisms for areas of difficulty.
Finally, and most importantly, if we only assess your student in areas of difficulty, nothing you or I say to them will convince them that they are bright and capable in other areas. They will leave focused on a problem. The goal of this process is to protect their love of learning, a belief in themselves and an understanding of their challenges. Challenges which they better understand because we understand them and know how to help. This process should be empowering.