Psychologist and Evaluator
San Francisco, CA
Phone: (415) 577 - 4750


Learning Disabilities Testing / Educational Testing

Psychological Testing

Learning Disabilities Testing

Learning disabilities testing is also called an Educational Evaluation or a Psychoeducational Evaluation. This type of evaluation often includes an assessment of whether an individual has an attention problems indicative of an attention deficit disorder.

What is learning disabilities testing?

This is a process which includes clarifying past successes and challenges in school, administering certain ‘tests’ in my office, and writing up a detailed report.

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How long will it take to test for a learning disability?

The testing process usually takes 2 sessions of about 3 hours each.

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When will I get the results?

Once the testing is completed, and we’ve gathered information about your school history, it takes me about 2-3 weeks to analyze and write up the results. You will come back in and we will go over the results. You will receive a detailed report which is usually 15-20 pages long.

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How will learning disabilities testing (otherwise known as a psychoeducational evaluation) help me/my child?

  1. The testing process will help to clarify exactly what your strengths and weaknesses are as they relate to learning and school work. Once you understand these you can work with them more directly.
  2. The testing process usually provides relief because it typically helps clarify that you are smart and capable, but have a learning disability which makes it difficult for you to fully demonstrate your knowledge in a traditional school manner.
  3. If a learning weakness is substantiated, you will be entitled to academic accommodations, such as extra time on tests, testing in a separate quiet room, access to additional learning materials such as books on tape, and access to any learning center or specialist at your school.
  4. If a learning disability is identified you will be entitled to apply for accommodations on high stakes testing such as the SAT, GMAT, GRE, LSAT, and licensing boards of various disciplines.

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Who can do learning disabilities and/or ADHD testing?

Psychologists, neuropsychologists, school psychologists, and educational therapists (Masters level professionals) can conduct this type of testing. However, not all of these professionals are versed and competent in this type of testing. In order to be competent in this type of testing the evaluator should have advanced training, years of experience, and supervision, in the area of learning disabilities testing.

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Why won’t health insurance pay for learning disabilities testing?

Nearly all health insurance plans exclude coverage for Educational Evaluations. This is due to the fact that minors are legally entitled to evaluations through the public school system, even if the child attends a private school. The challenge with going through the public school system is that they are often back logged with evaluations, and have more stringent standards about who qualifies to be evaluated, as well as who actually ‘qualifies’ as learning disabled.

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What are some of the most common learning disorders which are identified by an educational evaluation?

  1. A reading disorder, otherwise known as dyslexia, is one of the most common learning disorders. Recent studies show that 1 in 5 school age children has some significant difficulty learning to read. Prevalence rates in the population indicate that about 4 percent of the population has a reading disorder/dyslexia.
  2. ADHD, Attention Deficit Disorder, or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (words which can be used interchangeably) is another condition which often causes impairment in optimal school functioning. In bright individuals it is not uncommon to first diagnose this condition later in life, such as in late adolescence or even adulthood.
  3. A language disorder is another relatively common type of learning disorder which reflects difficulty expressing one’s thoughts either verbally and/or in writing.
  4. A writing disorder is present when a bright and capable student has excessive difficulty expressing thoughts on paper. This person can often verbalize ideas without a problem, but when asked to write them down has difficulty getting started, organizing, and fully expressing ideas. Individuals with this condition often have sloppy penmanship as well.
  5. A math disorder exists when a capable student is unable to master computation and/or math concepts, despite average intelligence, and remediation. Approximately 1-2 percent of students has a true math disorder. Individuals who have dyslexia are more likely to have math disorder.

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What are some of the common signs of a learning disorder?

  1. very slow rate of reading
  2. difficulty finishing tests
  3. can’t stay focused very long on assigned reading
  4. frequent ‘tip of the tongue’ phenomenon, get tongue-tied, can’t speak under pressure
  5. excruciating difficulty writing, particularly when under a deadline
  6. seems to take twice as long as it should to complete assignments
  7. seem to work twice as hard as your peers, and still don’t get great results
  8. hate to read out loud in front of others
  9. can’t pronounce new words well
  10. never able to really memorize multiplication tables
  11. still count on your fingers
  12. you feel insecure or embarrassed about your school abilities
  13. you feel like you’re not a success as a student despite your best effort
  14. you just can’t seem to learn a foreign language
  15. messy handwriting despite good effort

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What if I find out that I do NOT have a learning disability?

If the testing does not substantiate a learning disability it should still help to clarify why you are struggling in school. It may be due to emotional factors, a poor fit with your school, or a normal delay in cognitive growth and maturation. When trying to figure out what is causing difficulty in school or learning, it can be just as important to rule out factors, such as a learning disability, as it is to determine what exactly the problem is.

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Psychological Testing

What is psychological testing?

Psychological testing is actually a process which includes the use of ‘standardized tests’ as well as a review of symptoms and history. These standardized tests are based upon normative behavior patterns for the ‘average person,’ or upon the behavior of individuals who have certain problems –i.e., attention deficit disorder, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder. These ‘tests’ are not like typical tests where there are right and wrong answers. These tests require the individual to answer questions, talk about perceptions about pictures, and complete questionnaires.

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Why is it useful to do psychological testing?

Psychological testing is useful for many reasons. First of all, it is often an expedient way to find out the answer to certain diagnostic questions, such as whether an individual has an attention deficit disorder, depression, or bipolar disorder. Secondly, the questions on these tests are not always obvious, which helps to ascertain a genuine outcome. For example, teenagers do not always want to admit when they feel depressed, but psychological tests can sometimes reveal that they may in fact be experiencing a depression which is beyond their awareness. Finally, psychological test results are compared against the overall population of particular age groups, which helps to determine whether an individual’s behavior or symptoms are in fact ‘normal,’ or whether they are indicative of a disorder.

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What ages are you competent to test for, Dr. Waterworth?

I evaluate all but the youngest students, from ages 10 through adulthood.  I believe that it is best to see an expert in early childhood development and academic skills when working with students from kindergarten through third grade, and you will find a referral for one on the Tutors and Colleagues page.

Much of my work has gravitated towards evaluating adults, particularly graduate and college students.  Do not hesitate to consider an evaluation if you are an adult and suspect you have a learning difference, it is never too late to find out why you have struggled.  Many conditions go undetected and diagnosed for a variety of reasons.

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When should a student be re-evaluated and why?

As you know, the brain changes rapidly in childhood and thus more frequent re-evaluations may be appropriate.  In the industry of evaluations and academic institutions, evaluations are thought to be relevant and valid for 3 years.   This is because a student’s skills and functioning can change dramatically from say, age 8 to  That said, a re-evaluation need not occur just because it has been 3 years from the last one.  A re-evaluation should be considered when:

·      the student is transitioning from one institution to another and the evaluation would help educators and parents plan more carefully to ensure a successful transition

·      the student is seeking accommodations from a testing board and ‘current’ testing is required

·      trusted school personnel perceive it would be beneficial to understand the current learning and abilities of the student

·      if there is a question about a new condition which is impacting learning –eg., the development of depression, anxiety, or ADHD/ADD

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What is the difference between a Psychoeducational Evaluation, a Neuropsychological Evaluation, and a Psychological Evaluation, and are you qualified to conduct all of them?

Yes, as a clinical psychologist I have the training and expertise to conduct the Psychoeducational and Psychological Evaluations.  In addition, I pursued advanced didactic training and supervision from neuropsychologists and therefore am competent in conducting Neuropsychological Evaluations.  I am in the process of becoming Board eligible through the American Board of Professional Neuropsychology.

The primary emphasis of a Learning Disability Evaluation is on the learning and academic ability of a student, with less attention paid to the emotional and social functioning of the student.  These evaluations always include tests which measure the component skills of reading, writing, and math.   A thorough Psychoeducational Evaluation examines both the learning issues and the emotional issues of the student.  The typical Neuropsychological Evaluation does not include any tests measuring academic skills.  Rather, this evaluation examines whether there are underlying weaknesses in brain functioning, with particular attention to: memory, attention, processing speed, and other areas pertinent to the referral question.  For most students seeking an evaluation about learning and academic functioning, a Neuropsychological Evaluation is not the best type of evaluation, because there may be little analysis of how the student’s brain functioning is impacting his/her academic skills.

Over the years I have come to conduct a hybrid Psychoeducational and Neuropsychological Evaluation, so that any factors impacting learning will be detected.  I always examine: academic skills, personal history, social and emotional functioning, and neuropsychological factors which undergird learning (attention, memory, and processing speed).

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If a student is struggling in school, is a Psychoeducational Evaluation usually the most useful course of action to address this?

Not necessarily.  This type of comprehensive evaluation can be total ‘over-kill’ depending upon the nature of the situation.  I will not recommend the evaluation if there are other courses of action which would more directly remedy the problem.  Please call for a complimentary consultation to determine whether an evaluation is warranted.

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