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Pod Cast

The Sensory Show 034: What Is Psycho-educational Testing?

with Dr. Charlene Messenger

Published by Kelli Arnone

August 16, 2009


FOR COMPLETE INTERVIEW:  www.thesensoryshow.com


Dr. Charlene Messenger was so gracious to come on the show this week and explain to us in layman’s terms what’s involved in having a child complete psycho-educational testing and how this can be beneficial for many struggling children.  She does a lot of psycho-educational testing in her private psychology practice and works with children of all ages and their families, in various capacities.  She has an extensive background of working in the school system for 13 years and now in private practice for 18 years. I really encourage you to visit her amazing web site:  www.brighterpathways.com to find out more about her and all the services she provides, and to get a wealth of helpful information on common questions such as: testing options for gifted and learning difficulties; common disorders that can be diagnosed and treated; and how to address emotional issues (just to name a few).  Dr. Messenger is no stranger to children with sensory processing difficulties, so our main focus on this episode is related to unraveling the complexity of Psycho-educational testing for children who may have sensory and/or other learning or behavioral difficulties.


Assessments:  Dr. Messenger offers a comprehensive battery of testing to provide families and schools with the most information on each child.  This she calls “an 8×10 glossy picture of your child”.  She also offers a mini-assessment which she considers more of a “Polaroid picture of your child’s strengths and weaknesses”.  This is a new and cost effective way to figure out what is going on for a child in order to provide useful tips and strategies for them to be more successful in all environments.  Dr. Messenger always observes a child when completing testing in order to report on behaviors and interactions noted when on a one-to-one basis, in a casual environment.  It is also important for her to receive additional information on each child she’s assessing to get the overall picture of the child’s performance.  This often includes additional documentation such as teacher checklists, parent checklists, standardized testing results from other professionals and reports from other professionals that have assessed the child.


She primarily tests children in the pre-K to adolescent age range and occasionally assesses college students with known learning difficulties, and toddlers, with 2 year olds being the youngest, if parents have concerns at this age.  There is so much that is changing quickly (developmentally) at this age, that she focuses her assessments on “general patterns” of strengths and weaknesses as a child’s skills may appear to be “uneven” when looking at all areas of development.


Intervention:  Dr. Messenger provides the following types of services to children and their families once testing has identified the key areas of concern:


   * Behavioral management and discipline strategies appropriate for each child

   * Remediation plans for processing problems (i.e.- memory difficulties or the processing difficulties associated with attention deficit disorders or sensory symptoms)

   * Parent and school staff education

   * Counseling which includes talk therapy and play therapy

   * Parent counseling to teach strategies to help their children

   * Social skills training (individual sessions and sometimes group sessions)


Of particular interest to me during this interview is the Play Therapy that Dr. Messenger offers.  For those unfamiliar on how much fun this sounds, let me share!  She does a lot of art therapy with paintings, sand play & puppet shows to set up scenes with dolls, figurines and/or animals which are used to depersonalize the characters involved (like the child, the family or the school environment).  This technique can help children feel comfortable in expressing how they feel and help to make breakthroughs in their progress sometimes 3 times faster than other methods of intervention.


Dr. Messenger is also a firm believer in coaching the parents as she models techniques she would like them to continue to work on at home since parents do need to set the tone and be a good example at home.  Dr. Messenger is a kid at heart and a barrel of fun!  She is great at tuning-into these kids in a fun and playful way.  She has an excellent book out called Secrets of the 3rd Little Pig and is working on some new self-help materials/games for parents and kids to use at home.  Stay tuned to her web site for upcoming info!  www.brighterpathways.com


Thank you so much Dr. Messenger, we look forward to having you back next week to go into further detail on some of the specific areas that are tested during a Psycho-educational evaluation.