Types of Assessments
Most of the assessments Dr. Nelson conducts fall into two categories: Psychodiagnostic and Psychoeducational.
Psychodiagnostic assessments are appropriate for accurately identifying issues of clinical concern. This type of evaluation is conducted when a client presents with a history of symptoms or behaviors that are distressing to the person or his/her loved ones, and/or are interfering with some important aspect of life functioning such as interpersonal relations, work, school, or self-care. These issues may include disordered mood symptoms, anxiety, cognitive functioning issues, memory, attention and concentration, impaired personality functioning, interpersonal functioning deficits, anger issues, trauma history, and many others. The goal of the assessment is to clarify whether a disorder is present, and to distinguish symptoms of a disorder from other medical, environmental, psychosocial, or substance-related factors that may be contributing to the client's presentation.
Often, clients are referred to Dr. Nelson for this type of evaluation after previous treatment or interventions have not been effective, with the presumption that the individual's prior diagnosis may have been incorrect or incomplete. Sometimes, a person's unique pattern of challenges is diagnostically and therapeutically complex, requiring a more comprehensive assessment than a therapist, counselor, or medical doctor can typically provide. Other times, a client may present with new issues of concern that have not previously been identified or addressed. Co-occurring disorders (or "dual diagnosis") are also common; for example, when a person has both a mental disorder and a substance use disorder simultaneously. A skilled psychodiagnostic assessment can help by accurately describing the situation, and attributing symptoms or behaviors of concern to their correct sources. This is the first crucial step to finding treatments and interventions that are most likely to be effective.
Psychoeducational assessments are conducted with a different focus. Although some of the same procedures may be used as in a psychodiagnostic assessment, the psychoeducational testing battery is designed to identify strengths and weaknesses that are directly relevant to an individual's capacity to perform in an academic setting. Assessment procedures will include multiple measures of cognitive ability, academic achievement, visual-motor integration, and (sometimes) sensory processing capacity. Typical referral questions for a psychoeducational battery include (but are not limited to):
determining whether a learning disorder (i.e., dyslexia, dyscalculia, etc.) exists, and to what degree;
investigating whether clinical disorders such as autism, neurobiological or developmental disorders, Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), or disorders of speech or fluency are present;
testing for any sensory processing difficulties that may be contributing to impaired academic performance.
Alternatively, a limited cognitive assessment may be requested in order to determine whether a school-aged child might be eligible for inclusion in a Gifted And Talented Education (GATE) program.
Most often, a psychoeducational assessment is requested in order to determine the correct placement for a student according to his or her abilities (and limitations, if these are present). A competent and thorough psychoeducational evaluation by an independent expert can be an invaluable investment for parents, in order to ensure that a student is receiving all of the assistance and educational opportunities to which he or she is entitled under law. Depending on the case, these can include academic accommodations via an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 Plan, if appropriate. College-level and graduate students with a history of difficulty in certain areas of academic functioning can also benefit greatly by having an independent psychoeducational evaluation performed. These types of students may also be entitled to accommodations in testing, coursework, or entrance examinations if an evaluator finds adequate evidence of current and historical impairments.
Please refer to the FAQ page for an important comparison between the work of school psychologists and the services offered by Dr. Nelson.
Other types of assessments may include pre-employment screening, testing for malingering, pre-surgical evaluation for bariatric patients, and assessment of neurological function. Please contact Dr. Nelson directly in order to discuss your needs. If Dr. Nelson is unable to assist with your specific situation, a referral to an appropriate provider will be made.