Assessing learning difficulites, including Specific Learning Disorders
Difficulties in learning can occur for a range of reasons and show themselves in a variety of ways. For example, a child may seem to understand some things but not others, or quickly forget what they have learned. They may struggle to pay attention, follow directions, or remember what they should be doing.
As clinical psychologists, we have access to a range of tools that enable an assessment of complex ‘thinking’ processes such as attention and memory. We can also explore whether emotional factors, such as anxiety, are getting in the way of a person engaging with learning. A comprehensive assessment can identify what the difficulties are, how they are impacting on a person academically, and what can be done to help.
Specific Learning Disorders
When a child or young person is experiencing difficulty with a specific academic skill (e.g., reading, writing, or mathematics) and is struggling to achieve in the same way they can in other areas, they may have a Specific Learning Disorder (SLD). For example, they could have a great general understanding of ideas discussed in class, but find reading very effortful, struggle to get words down on a page, or find number concepts ‘a mystery’. This can be hugely frustrating for the child, and those around them, because it can be hard to understand why a capable learner is having trouble grasping skills that seem to come naturally to others.
SLDs are commonly referred to by names such as Dyslexia (reading), Dyscalculia (mathematics) and Dysgraphia (writing). Whichever terminology you use for these challenges, difficulty reading, writing or managing numbers can really get in the way of accessing learning across the curriculum. It can also cause the young person a huge amount of stress, potentially impacting their self-esteem and their emotional well-being. It is therefore important that learning disorders are identified as early as possible so that at home and school, the necessary adjustments can be made to help your child.
Sometimes diagnosis of learning disorders is ‘missed’ during schooling. Often this is because a person with these difficulties works so hard to compensate and find ways to work around the challenges they face. This can become harder as they progress to higher levels of education or move into a work environment. Assessment for older students and adults can be very valuable in throwing light on how a person learns, helping them to explain this learning style to others and developing strategies to help them manage with greater ease day-to-day. It can also be used to support applications for Special Assessment Conditions (SACs) for those working towards qualifications, such as NCEA.
An assessment for a learning disorder includes identifying cognitive and academic strengths, as well as any weaknesses that might be getting in the way of learning. In addition, we will explore the social and emotional issues that can arise as a result of having a learning disorder. We also make thorough recommendations about how best to support a person going forward, based on their specific learning profile.
In our educational psychology assessments, we complete a cognitive assessment (the 'foundation' skills for how our brains work), then carry out an in-depth assessment in relation to the academic area of greatest concern (e.g. literacy). If a second academic area also needs to be explored (e.g. mathematics), it can be added for an additional fee. This would suit people wanting, for example, both a dyslexia and dyscalculia assessment.
The price of an educational psychology assessment is $875 (inc. GST). This includes a general cognitive assessment ($600 inc. GST) and an in-depth exploration into the academic area of greatest concern - either literacy or mathematics ($275 inc. GST).
To add an assessment of a second academic area (e.g. mathematics), an additional session can be booked, for an additional cost of $275 inc. GST. This is always discussed in advance - no surprises!