As part of my PhD school psychology program I was placed at a practicum site which conducts neuropsychological testing. During this experience I was given a student’s file to look over for the purpose of making recommendations to assist with classroom and academic difficulties. The file contained the student’s background family information, academic testing results, and neuropsychological test results. What was interesting about this experience was that I was given the file to examine in pieces. First I was given the academic testing results, which combined with various types of background information are the results most school psychologist have to work with when making recommendations. I was then given the neuropsychological testing results, followed by the student’s family and developmental history.
Based on the results of the academic testing alone it was clear that the student had a math learning disability. His overall IQ result was in the above average range and his math scores were 2 standard deviations below. At this point, my recommendations centered on additional math supports to address the specific areas of mathematical difficulty. When I was given the results of the neuropsychological tests a very different picture began to emerge that revealed a young man with many areas of the brain that were not functioning well. These results are not typically evident on the standard academic tests used by school psychologists. The final piece of the puzzle was an overview of the student’s developmental and family history. When the file information was put together in its entirety a very different diagnosis emerged. In the end, the student was given a diagnosis of a non- verbal learning disability.
What was important about this experience was the realization that as school psychologists we often rely on academic testing and background information to make our recommendations when we may not be getting the complete picture. This may result in the implementation of recommendations that are not in the best interest of the student. In the above noted case, the student had not yet begun to experience many of the secondary disabilities or adaptive functioning deficits that are likely to accompany this type of diagnosis, so the referral was to address the obvious math difficulty. Although school psychologists typically do not receive training in neuropsychological testing, it is clear that having a base knowledge in neuropsychological testing and assessment can help us to look beyond academic testing results to better understand the needs of our students.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA