What is the assessment experience like for the child? 

Your child will be asked to answer questions and perform a variety of tasks, from replicating designs with blocks to providing definitions of vocabulary words. Tasks generally start out easy and gradually increase in difficulty. Different tasks require different cognitive skills – thus some may be easy for your child and others may be difficult. I establish rapport and make sure the student feels comfortable with me and the environment before beginning work. While testing I employ positive reinforcement to encourage students to work to their full capability tempered with sensitivity to areas of difficulty. Many “high-fives” are delivered as effort and successes are recognized. Stickers are earned for completed tasks with progress rewarded further with selections from a toy basket (adapted to the age and interests of the child). Breaks are taken as needed and students are allowed and encouraged to move around rather than being made to sit still. I find each child fascinating, and children thrive under my encouraging, one-on-one attention. I have found that even those who arrive the first day with some trepidation leave having enjoyed the experience so much that they are eager to return.

What kind of testing is done? 

My comprehensive assessments involve three types of testing: psychological, educational, and neuropsychological. Psychological tests measure cognitive strengths and weaknesses (e.g. IQ, specific abilities), and the non-cognitive factors that can influence learning (e.g. behavior, motivation, emotions, and mood). Educational tests measure academic skills and achievement – what has been learned in reading, writing, math, oral language, and other academic areas (achievement relative to age and grade peers). Neuropsychological tests measure processing skills in areas including: attention, executive function, memory, visual-motor processing, auditory processing, and social cognition.

I do not employ a standard group of tests or “test battery.” The tests I use vary by student and are chosen to address the specific issues of concern expressed by parents, teachers, and students, as well as issues I see crop up during the testing. Assessment is thus an adaptive process, responding to the student. Typically, a “cross battery assessment” approach is employed in which subtests found to measure different processes are selected from a variety of test batteries to ensure that each area is thoroughly addressed. My scientific approach is based on the Cattell-Horn-Carroll (CHC) model of cognitive abilities – the most comprehensive and empirically supported theory of the structure of cognitive and academic abilities. I am trained to administer and own a large number of psychological, educational, and neuropsychological tests, checklists and rating forms to address the needs of the students I see.

How long does the assessment take?

Depending on the child’s age and areas of concern, 8-12 hours of testing broken into two sessions over two days are typically required for a comprehensive assessment.  A gifted and achievement assessment can usually be conducted in one day. Some children who are slower to process yet have much to communicate, or who need more breaks or tire easily, may require more time. I do not charge extra in this event. Sessions need to be separated by at least one night and optimally no more than one week. I use the time between assessment sessions to score and analyze the tests administered in the first session in order to decide what to administer in the next. For this reason I am unable to provide instant feedback on the testing days. It is likely that your child will need to miss school (this may be a selling point). In the case of students for whom missing school would be problematic I make every effort to schedule sessions on weekends or over school holidays.

What are the advantages of a private assessment over testing done at my child’s school?

An advantage of public school-conducted evaluations is that they are free of charge. However school districts will generally conduct evaluations only under certain mandated conditions. Before a student can receive an evaluation they may need to be: performing at a level below the average for their grade (the definition of “average” may be anything above the 25th percentile); have “failed to respond” to classroom instruction for an undefined period of time (Tier 1 in Response to Intervention); and have failed to respond to a Tier II general intervention which need not have been customized to their specific learning needs. Thus a student whose verbal ability is above the 95th percentile yet who is reading at the 26th percentile may fail to qualify for school testing as they are considered to be performing within the “average range” for their grade. Valuable time can be lost in waiting for the student to fail – the “failure to respond” criteria under Tier I of the Response to Intervention model. Tier II interventions may not be specific enough to meet the student’s needs – again resulting in the loss of valuable time. Even if a child qualifies for a school evaluation, there are potential drawbacks. Due to time and cost constraints, and the usually lower level of experience school psychologists have with bright/gifted students, the evaluation is not likely to be as thorough and insightful as the type of assessment I conduct. Most importantly, school evaluations tend to focus only on the student’s weaknesses and not on their strengths and interests. This presents just one side of the picture – defining the student by their weaknesses or disabilities. The school evaluation may not be completely independent as factors within the system can influence conclusions and recommendations. When a school conducts an evaluation the findings become part of the child’s permanent school record. Teachers and staff may end up defining the student by a negative shorthand label such as “oppositional defiant” or “ADHD” without considering the whole child. If the student tests as having a lower IQ than expected, reduced expectations for achievement can influence how the student is treated.

In contrast, an independent, privately contracted psychoeducational assessment gives parents all of the information they need to help their child realize his or her potential in a confidential manner. With this information in hand it is possible to work cooperatively with the school to see what they are willing and able to provide, while supplementing what they cannot do outside of school.

What’s special about the assessments conducted by you compared to other testers?

In a nutshell, I am better at working with twice-exceptional, gifted, and bright students because I am a specialist in this population. Many psychologists who perform evaluations are generalists: clinical psychologists whose training was focused on understanding and treating psychologically-based emotional distress or dysfunction (e.g. depression, anxiety) among individuals of all ages through psychotherapy. They may have limited expertise and training specifically in psychoeducational assessment, in working with school-age children, in learning disabilities, with educational issues, and especially are likely to have limited experience with bright and gifted students.

In contrast, I am a Ph.D.-level school and licensed clinical psychologist with extensive training and clinical experience focused specifically on the identification and understanding of the problems that can interfere with learning among bright children. My training has included research in giftedness, talent development, academic motivation, dyslexia, math disability, and ADHD. The large number of gifted and bright children with learning challenges I have seen and advised gives me a large data-base of relevant experience. I am an expert in this niche field and dedicate considerable time to staying up-to-date on current research, educational trends, schools, camps, and other programs of interest. By focusing my training and my practice in this area, I have developed a distinctive competence relative to other psychologists.

Do I need a “neuropsychologist” to assess my child? You aren’t one, are you?

For many consumers of assessment services there is a lack of clarity on the difference between a “neuropsychologist” and a “psychologist,” and whose advice would best serve their child’s needs. Neuropsychological tests are simply tests that have been designed to measure information processing functions linked to particular brain structures or pathways. These include tests of memory (e.g. WRAML and CMS), language (e.g. CELF and CTOPP), executive function (e.g. D-KEFS and NEPSY), attention (e.g. Conners CPT and CATA), effort (e.g. Green’s WMT), and visuo-spatial function (e.g. Beery VMI and Jordan). These tests can be administered by any psychologist who has been trained to administer them. I employ such tests frequently and have been trained to do so. The ways I employ them do not differ from the ways a neuropsychologist would in a healthy child for purposes of understanding why they are having difficulty in school. Thus I employ “neuropsychological tests” and can describe what I do as “neuropsychological assessment.” However I am not a credentialed “neuropsychologist.” There are several different and sometimes competing certification programs for neuropsychology, most of which require a one-year Post-Doctoral Fellowship (typically in a hospital setting) focusing on brain disorders (e.g. epilepsy, dementia, cerebral tumors) and their rehabilitation and remediation. I did not pursue this kind of advanced training because I do not work with populations of people who tend to have such problems. When a family approaches me who does appear to have a problem of this type I can refer them to someone with the right expertise to help. An evaluation by a neuropsychologist would likely be appropriate if a child is experiencing severe developmental problems, epilepsy, or has acquired brain damage such as traumatic brain injury, hypoxia, or a cerebral tumor. Most families, fortunately, are not dealing with problems of this type. Instead, they just want to understand why their bright child is having difficulty with aspects of learning and school, and what to do about it. In such cases I feel that the knowledge and experience of a school-trained clinical psychologist who specializes in bright students is likely to be more valuable than the knowledge and experience of a hospital-trained neuropsychologist specializing in brain disorders.

What if we don’t live near your office?

I am happy to provide any help and guidance I can by phone or Skype, but I cannot assess a child remotely. Because of the dearth of professionals specializing in twice-exceptional and gifted learners, many families must travel outside their immediate living area for an assessment by a specialist such as myself. I have worked with families from Vermont to Wyoming as well as from Canada, Europe, South America and Asia. Families visiting from a distance generally need to spend two days in the New York area to make effective use of my services. Follow-up and ongoing services can be conducted via remote technology if it is not convenient for the family to return for face-to-face feedback sessions.

Do you provide assessments for testing accommodations for the SAT, GRE, MCAT, LSAT, and other standardized tests?

Yes, I am knowledgeable and experienced in conducting the comprehensive and specific type of assessment required for a student to be considered eligible for testing accommodations on standardized tests. My reports and recommendations have been accepted for the SSAT, the College Board PSAT, SAT, and AP exams, and by the Educational Testing Service (ETS) for the GRE exam. Because my reports are very thorough and I am familiar with what the testing organizations want, none of my students who have applied for accommodations have (as of yet) been denied.

How do I decide whether to go forward with you?

If you are thinking about an assessment for your child and would like to talk with me to see if I might be a good fit for your family, please reach out (e-mail is best) and we can schedule a time to talk on the phone or in person. I do not charge for this type of consultation as you are evaluating whether my practice will meet your family’s needs.

Do you provide general consultations? 

Yes. I welcome the opportunity to talk with anyone about issues I may be able to help with. My consultation rate is $300/hour, which is charged in 15 minute increments and billed to a credit card. If parents would like me to review background information prior to a conversation I must bill for that time as well (but I am a quick reader).

Do you work with adults?

Yes. I love working with adults who are interested in understanding their strengths and weaknesses in order to make the most of academic opportunities or embark on a new career path. In such cases we tend to focus on understanding the interaction of cognitive abilities, interests, and affinities. This is because the goal is often to identify areas in which the individual is both talented and has an interest. It is never too late to understand one’s self better, and empowered adults continue to grow throughout their lifespan.

Do you assess individuals whose needs are primarily behavioral or psychiatric?

No. A psychiatrist or clinical psychologist specializing in psychological issues would be better qualified to conduct an evaluation focusing on primary problems in areas such as depression, anxiety, eating disorder, etc. However, I do assess emotions, behavior and social-emotional status as they relate to the ability to learn and succeed in academic settings and my learning plans include recommendations regarding behavior and social-emotional functioning. For many bright or gifted learners, psychological sequelae are common secondary side effects of primary learning issues and need to be addressed.

How far ahead do we need to schedule an assessment? 

It depends on how many assessments I have in the pipeline. As a general rule, I am booked at least 4-8 weeks in advance. In the event of an urgent need on the family’s part, I will do everything reasonably possible to accommodate needs including meeting on weekends.

How long after testing does it take to receive a written report?

I am able, with rare exceptions, to commit to a maximum four week turnaround from the last assessment date with the student to delivery of the final written report to the parents. This assumes that all the forms and questionnaires I requested of parents and teachers have been returned to me in a timely fashion as I need this information to write the report. If I think there is a possibility it may take me longer than 4 weeks to turn a report around I will discuss this with the family to make sure it would not pose a problem.

What is the cost of a comprehensive neuropsychological assessment? 

The fee is $6,000. Families who wish to schedule an assessment are required to provide 50% payment ($3,000) in advance to reserve the first appointment with the balance of ($3,000) due upon the completion and delivery of the written report. I do some work at a reduced or no fee rate for families who cannot afford my services.

What is the cost of a gifted and achievement assessment?

$3,000. Same terms as above.

What is the cost of consultation?

$300/hour, billed in 15-minute chunks.

Should we give the report to our child’s school? Can you write a separate report for the school that leaves certain things out? 

Unless you tell me you would prefer that I do otherwise, I write the report for two anticipated audiences: parents, and service and accommodation granting organizations. This results in a comprehensive report describing everything I found that is relevant to your child’s development – including background information and diagnoses. The decision of whether to share this report with your child’s school is yours. If you are seeking services or accommodations for your child, you will in all likelihood need to share the full report. If you are not requesting services, and wish to share only selective information with you child’s school, I can write an additional, edited or summary report guided by your wishes. Because report-writing is time consuming, I will need to charge my hourly rate for this service.