Parent Perspectives on Psychoeducational Assessment: Filling the Gap Between
Parents and Practitioners.
Harvey H. Mar, Ph.D., Project Director.
Nancy Sall, Ed.D., Project Coordinator.
An evaluator is preparing to conduct an assessment of a 7-year-old child who is deaf-blind. The child attends a special education program for children with severe disabilities where he receives speech/language therapy, occupational therapy, and mobility training. Materials are gathered, necessary papers collected, and the test kit is organized. Is the evaluator ready to conduct a psychoeducational assessment on this child? As we talk to more and more parents, we are learning that the answer is, "Not really."
Psychoeducational assessment is the process of carefully gathering information to learn about an individual's cognitive abilities, communication skills, social experiences, behaviors, interests, and learning style. Results from an assessment can be used to generate educational goals and to identify the best strategies and resources to help a child achieve those goals.
Because individuals who are deaf-blind are so diverse in their sensory functioning, as well as in their learning and communication skills, assessment of deaf-blind children can be a challenging task. Numerous concerns exist regarding how assessments should be conducted. The reliability of the assessment results is another important issue. Do they give an accurate picture of a particular child's abilities?
A recent project, Psychoeducational Assessment of Students who are Deaf-Blind, conducted a survey and held a focus group with parents and guardians of school-age children who are deaf-blind in an effort to determine their thoughts and concerns regarding the assessment process. Twenty-five parents responded to the survey and four participated in the focus group, sharing
experiences about their own children's psychoeducational evaluations. The following suggestions were compiled from their input.
What can evaluators do to make sure assessments are useful and accurate?
Use an evaluator who has experience working with deaf-blind children. Evaluators who are accustomed to working with deaf-blind children and are sensitive to their needs have a better grasp of the concerns and issues unique to these students and their families.
Communicate directly with the student. It is important to understand how each child communicates. The evaluator needs to use the child's own communication methods (e.g., Sign Language, gestures, words, tactile signs, body language, facial expression) during the evaluation.
Become familiar with techniques for adapting test materials for children who are deaf-blind. Parents expressed frustration with evaluations that were performed using tests and procedures designed for children with normal sight and hearing. These materials are not appropriate for deaf-blind children.

Spend time becoming familiar with the child prior to formal testing. Perhaps one of the most important parts of the assessment process, from the perspective of parents, is preparing for the assessment by learning as much as possible about the student prior to the evaluation. One father stated that the very first step of an evaluation should be to get to know the child and what his or her likes and dislikes are. Another child's mother pointed out that people who don't have contact with her daughter on a regular basis don't understand what she is saying.
Be patient and take time to do the evaluation. When evaluating deaf-blind children it is essential to take enough time to give them a chance to succeed. It may be useful to conduct the evaluation over more than one session.
Include the family in the evaluation process. Ask parents for their input. Parents favored evaluations in which the practitioner took the time to contact them directly. Also take into consideration how cultural factors such as different racial backgrounds may affect the assessment process.
Include clear, easy-to-understand recommendations in the written report. The report should include suggestions for future goals and specific concrete interventions that can be used at school, at home, and in other settings. One parent commented that a helpful feature of her son's evaluation report was that it listed goals that weren't solely related to therapy, but could be used in everyday life. Avoid the use of jargon or excessively technical language. Parents may feel overwhelmed by the use of professional jargon in reports or during meetings.
Make sure that the information in the written report is accurate. Some parents indicated that while parts of their children's reports were satisfactory, other parts could be misconstrued or contained incorrect information. For example, the copy of a report one parent received stated that her son had bronchitis, but the parent had told the evaluator that her son had meningitis.
Make sure the parents receive a copy of the written report. On more than one occasion, parents indicated that they had never seen a copy of the report or they were unaware that an evaluation had been conducted.
How can psychoeducational assessments be used by parents?

Comments from parents focused on ways that psychoeducational assessments could support them at home. One parent indicated that she would like to have progress reports made available to her on a regular basis and felt that she would benefit from guidance about how to help her daughter at home. Others also felt it would be useful to receive training to help them work with their children to promote their independence and ability to communicate and interact in natural environments.
Results from this study can be used to bridge the gap between what parents and professionals know about psychoeducational assessment. The meetings and interviews conducted by this project have resulted in a greater awareness of parents' perspectives regarding the assessment process and can be used to broaden professionals' understanding of psychoeducational assessment. Based on what parents are saying, a psychoeducational evaluation must go beyond merely conducting a test or writing a report. Assessments should include parents as members of the team, and professionals should be experienced in working with individuals who are deaf-blind. Assessment also should focus on communication. It should use appropriately adapted materials and should result in meaningfully written reports that emphasize purposeful and functional interventions.
Psychoeducational Assessment of Students who are Deaf-Blind: A Decision-Making Model for School-Based Practitioners (Grant #H025D60011) is a three-year funded project from the U. S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs. This article was prepared by Nancy Sall. The contents do not necessarily reflect the position of the U. S. Department of Education.
The authors gratefully acknowledge the contributions and support of the families who participated in this study. We also wish to express our sincere thanks to Carrie Masten of NFADB for her help with the survey.
 This article was published in the Deaf-Blind Perspectives - Winter 1999-2000 Volume Seven, Issue Two.


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