Psychologist performing an assessment of Specific Learning Disability

Services for children: assessments

Why do we assess?

  • To establish if the child has a Specific Learning Disability. In some cases, this will be limited to a particular subtype such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia or dyspraxia. In most cases children will present with elements from different subtypes.
  • To assess each child’s individual pattern of strengths and weaknesses. This is essential as it will explain why a child struggles with a particular aspect of learning. It also helps teachers develop an individualised programme that will suit the child rather than putting him/her through a predetermined programme which may not suit his/her particular way of learning.
  • To make recommendations on the best way to teach and support the child in the classroom.


How do we assess?

  • At the centre we use the Pattern of Strengths and Weakness (PSW) model of assessment, as it is the most efficient in providing all the information needed.
  • Step one: does the child show evidence of a delay or deficit in one or more academic area (reading comprehension, writing, spelling, maths)?
  • Step two: does the child show a delay or deficit in one or more of the basic processes?
  • Step three: is there a proven connection between the identified deficit in basic process(es) and identified academic weaknesses?

An older model of diagnosis, based on the discrepancy between ‘potential’ and ‘achievement’ has largely been discredited.

This is due in part to the difficulties inherent in separating and measuring these constructs.

The old model gives little information for the purpose of remediation: it tells us if a child is underperforming academically, but not why.

How do I organise an assessment?

Please complete the Intitial Inquiry form.


Image result for receptionist cartoon images

Our receptionist will ring you ring you between

between 9-4:30 Monday to Friday, within 3 working days, 

to discuss further  issues and make your appointments

Our receptionist may:

  • Ask general questions about your child
  • Ask about the issues you are concerned with
  • Ask about any past assessments (so we can avoid unnecessary duplication)
  • Explain the costs and possible discounts (subsidies depend on income)
  • Make an appointment for you and your child
  • Explain the assessment process
  • Send you a questionnaire for you to complete about your child
  • Send you a questionnaire to take to your child’s school/teacher
  • Ask you for a sample of your child’s writing
  • Answer your questions



The Centre tries to keep the costs of assessments as low as possible. Some clients are eligible for additional discounts through our sliding scale scheme and/or additional subsidies to access intervention services (such as tuition, therapy, JSMS fees) thanks to grants. Please talk to our office about costs.

What happens during an assessment?

(Before: Please feel free to visit the centre beforehand if your child is anxious in new situations. You may be able to meet the psychologist as well. While the psychologist will explain to both you and your child what will be done in the tresting session, they will work with your child alone).


First part: Most children enjoy this session as it involves no reading and writing. The activities are varied and “not like school”.

The children do assessments such the Wechsler Intelligence Scale. This shows the child’s strengths and weaknesses in different areas.

It is typical for a student with a specific learning disability to perform well in some areas but not in others. This student will have a second session to do the Specific Learning Disability Battery.

Students with a mild intellectual disability or a significant learning delay will perform very low in all areas. The psychologist will make suggestions about what we can offer you or suggest other agencies which may be better equipped to help you and your child.

Second part: The student does a comprehensive screening battery. This covers areas that have been identified, by research as involved in SLD. It may include areas such as co-ordination, spatial and sequential organisation, visual perception for symbols, short term memory, phonological awareness, naming speed and letter/sound correspondence; as well as handwriting, reading, spelling and/or maths as necessary.

The tests administered will vary somewhat according to the age of your child, presenting problems and performance on earlier items.

As a result of the Specific Learning Disability Battery, the psychologist will be able to

  1. identify the barriers to learning
  2. identify the strategies the student presently uses to read and write
  3. identify the strategies the student needs to learn to progress.

    For example:

    A child with poor auditory memory will find it difficult to retain verbal instructions.

    A child with poor spatial organisation may get lost easily in a large school and have difficulty presenting work on a page.

    A child with poor phonological skills will find it hard to sound out words.

    A child with poor visual memory may find it difficult to recall letter patterns.

  • Additional screening tools will also be suggested if deemed necessary to further investigate potential difficulties. This is usually at no extra cost to you, unless involving another full assessment, such as an occupational therapy assessment, or, for high school students, testing required by NZQA to qualify for Special Assessment Conditions.
  • Tests yield quantitative results. These are scores that can be compared to children of similar age. The tests also yield qualitative results: from observation of how a child approaches and solves a problem.
  • On its own, a score/result on a task does not tell much. It is the careful integration of all the results, observations and background information that will allow the assessor to draw conclusions and make recommendations.

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What happens next?

  1. At the end of each session the results will be discussed with you.
  2. You will be sent a written report.

    What is in the written report?

    • Detailed results of all the testing
    • Recommendations for teachers trained in the teaching of students with SLD
    • Recommendations for the student’s school to accommodate their learning disability.
  3. Teachers with training in the teaching of students with Specific Learning Disabilities, will be able to use the information in the report to design an individualised programme for the student.
  4. School age students may find their school can offer some specialised tuition at school. Please share the report with the school’s Learning Support Co-ordinator or Special Needs Co-ordinator and ask for advice.
  5. The Seabrook McKenzie Centre has a number of specialised tutors affiliated with it. If you have a formal report from us, we may be able to refer you to a tutor in your locality.
  6. Seabrook McKenzie Centre can offer interventions for specialist teaching. If this is appropriate they will be discussed with you.

Follow up options:

Tutors qualified in teaching students with specific learning disabilities

Three week intensive sessions

Jean Seabrook Memorial School


Follow up options:

Three week intensive sessions

Jean Seabrook Memorial School

Tutors qualified in teaching students with specific learning disabilities.