How psychologists can help

Ask the experts

June 16, 1999

Q. My 8-year-old son has been struggling with reading. A friend suggested I take him to a psychologist for I.Q. testing. How will psychological testing help determine what his problem is with reading?

A. Assuming your child has had a medical examination and there is nothing physically interfering with his reading, then contacting a psychologist who has experience working with children and expertise in psychological testing may be your next course of action.

Psychological testing provides a sampling of your child's academic functioning and is useful for helping determine teaching strategies to use with him.

The psychologist will probably start by interviewing you about his developmental and educational history, and for an understanding of your son's problems from the parental perspective. Next, he would chart a step-by-step route to take called a Treatment Plan. Before meeting your child, the psychologist may go to his school, review his academic records, talk with teachers and school counselors, and make a classroom observation.

Next, a clinical interview with your son is scheduled at the psychologist's office to begin the evaluation. Another, more extended session, is scheduled to complete the psychological assessment with intelligence, personality and achievement tests.

The most widely used intelligence test, the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children (WISC-III), assesses a child's cognitive abilities including his verbal, performance and full scale I.Q. Your child's I.Q. scores are standardized so that test results are compared to those obtained by children in the same age range.

After the testing is completed, the psycholoogist schedules another meeting with you to interpret the test results, highlight your child's cognitive strengths and weaknesses, and make recommendations.

Children with learning, language, reading or attentional problems often have variability in their tests and overall I.Q. scores. For example, your child might miss easier items but pass more difficult ones within the same test.

If learning, language or attentional problems are identified, the psychologist may suggest that you share these results with his school to determine whether special educational services are needed. The psychologist might also recommend supplemental academic services such as tutoring and study skills. If attentional difficulties are suspected, you may be asked to consult with your son's pediatrician for further evaluation, including the need for medication.

-- Harvey M. Rapp, Ph.D., a psychologist in Columbia, specializes in psychological testing and children's learning problems.

The Sun has assembled a panel of professionals to address your concerns about reading and your child. If you have a question, or a suggestion, please write to: Ask the Experts, Reading by 9, Features Dept., The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278

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