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This week’s blog was contributed by Maegan Sady, PhD, ABPP-CN. Maegan is a project director in PAR’s research and development department in addition to being a licensed psychologist and board-certified neuropsychologist. She worked as a pediatric neuropsychologist for nearly a decade before joining PAR. 

 

As we emerge from the pandemic, the need for flexibility in assessment is here to stay. The only way to begin to combat socioeconomic and technological disparities is to offer more options, but how do we do it? Several themes on flexible assessment have emerged from what we learned during the pandemic, and PAR is ready to help. 

 

Shifting formats 

Many psychologists have adopted a hybrid, in-person/telehealth assessment model, necessitating careful deliberation over personal and professional implications. Which tests can be given remotely, and what evidence is needed to make that decision? Which clients are a good fit for teleassessment? Which tests can be given while wearing personal protective equipment (PPE)? If we sit six feet away from our client, how do we indicate where to start on the response page? How do we assess patients who cannot travel and do not have high-speed internet? In essence, how can we answer every referral question without compromising our ethical obligations to our tests, our patients, and each other? 

Thankfully, timely guidelines emerged from the American Psychological Association; the Inter Organizational Practice Committee, which focuses on neuropsychology; and a new book, Essentials of Psychological Tele-Assessment. More recently, journal articles are beginning to present viable models for teleassessment and hybrid practice, both generally and for special populations (e.g., older adults, pediatric medical patients, historically underserved populations). Evidence is building that testing remotely or with PPE can be valid for many tests and within many populations. A few articles even address the impact of teleassessment on trainees, with recommendations for supervisors. 

 

Digital tools are more flexible 

Whether you’re testing someone face-to-face, from the next room, or fully remotely, electronic materials make life easier. Digital versions of more than 150 test manuals allow you to access administration and normative information from your home office and clinic any day of the week. Digital stimulus books, available for some of PAR’s most popular tests, allow you to cut back on the number of items you’re transporting and cleaning. They also make it easier to switch to a new test in the moment. To provide full remote administration options, we modified or specially designed eight performance-based tests for remote administration, and indirect evidence supports the remote utility of multiple others. 

To use these tools most effectively, you can find white papers and video demonstrations for digital and remote administration on our website. Our digital materials do not confine you to a single device type, and our E-stimulus books do not require Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. 

 

Screening as a model of care 

With longer waitlists, pressure to assess more patients in less time, and more complex presenting problems, screening approaches are becoming more valuable. Screening can assist with triage, and doing so within a telehealth format has been shown to reduce wait times, increase satisfaction, and lead to more timely intervention and referral. Questionnaire-only assessment can be an efficient way to make treatment recommendations for patients with primarily emotional or behavioral concerns. More than 60 rating scales are available on PARiConnect as well as in print, meaning this evaluation approach can save time whether it’s executed remotely or in-person.  

Screening in the context of a full evaluation allows you to cover more domains in less time. With 15 screeners/short forms of rating scales available on PARiConnect and several more in print, you can quickly add a measure of suicide risk, substance abuse, trauma, or depression to your battery. You can also use one of our performance-based screening tests to efficiently determine whether mental status, intellectual ability, or academic performance requires a closer look.  

 

New presenting problems 

In addition to new formats, testing is also changing in terms of content. Psychologists know all too well that the past two years have magnified or introduced multiple forms of stress and trauma, including anxiety, grief, effects of systemic racism, and food and housing insecurity. As a result, experiences of PTSD, depression, substance abuse, and parenting stress have increased. Adding a few extra measures to your test library is a good way to ensure you’re able to assess for a wide range of presenting issues. 

 

Validity 

With new procedures come new potential threats to validity. Practitioners must consider the integrity of testing remotely, in PPE, and under the general stress of a pandemic, in addition to more traditional considerations around effort and applicability of tests. There are creative ways to mitigate these threats, and we must document our efforts in our reports, citing limitations in interpretation where necessary. 

 

Poised for success 

In spite of challenges, psychologists have persisted. Testing settings are fluid, clinical conclusions have more caveats, and the list of areas for future research is longer than ever—but patients continue to depend on you. We have our work cut out for us, but together we can make psychological assessment more accessible, meaningful, and innovative. 

 

Learn more about our digital assessment options

 

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This week’s blog was contributed by Melissa Milanak, PhD, PAR’s clinical assessment advisor–national accounts. Melissa is a licensed clinical psychologist and internationally recognized academic. She has extensive clinical experience providing therapy and conducting assessments with a diverse array of patient populations. 

It comes as no surprise we’ve seen a steady increase in mental and behavioral health concerns as our society continues to face challenges resulting from a global pandemic and ongoing social justice issues. This leaves many mental health providers questioning what they can do to positively impact those affected by this mental health crisis. Some patients and clients will have a clear presentation of symptoms and diagnosis. Many others may underreport, not realize there is any concern, or simply be on a slow decline, where small decreases in functioning go undetected over a prolonged period. This is compounded in those who have been isolated (whether they live alone or recently lost a companion), meaning they lack an accountability partner or someone to notice potentially harmful changes in mindset and behavior.  

As these stressors persist, even the most resilient individuals are showing an increase in burnout and fatigue, a decrease in healthy behaviors like prioritizing quality sleep, and more frequent reliance on unhealthy coping strategies like an extra drink after work to try to unwind or induce sleepiness. 

As individuals’ anxiety goes up, their mood goes down—and unhealthy ways of coping (such as drinking) increase. This in turn impacts and reduces the restorative abilities of sleep and can impair psychological factors such as memory, focus, concentration, and physical recovery. This cycle perpetuates as patients and clients feel more exhausted but continue to struggle to achieve relaxation and sleep. 

Mental health providers need support in their efforts to stay connected with patients and clients. You may need to track mood and anxiety levels to detect early signs of symptoms, to allow for preventive strategies and interventions, and to provide ongoing progress monitoring. 

To assist you in these efforts, PAR recently launched a new assessment product line, ChecKIT. With ChecKIT, you can quickly and regularly send industry gold-standard assessment measures for mood (Patient Health QUenstionnaire-9 [PHQ-9]), anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder-7 [GAD-7]), alcohol dependence (Michigan Alcoholism Screening Test [MAST]), and depression (Geriatric Depression Scale–Short Form [GDS-SF]) to clients through a secure, HIPAA-compliant link. Tests are easy to complete, even on a mobile phone. 

Though collecting qualitative reports from patients and clients is incredibly valuable, ChecKIT solutions augment provider sessions, allowing for more frequent monitoring. This enables you to effectively and efficiently identify which patients and clients may need follow-up sooner and to identify a disconnect between subjective experience and reporting and assessment scores. 

Learn more about ChecKIT today!  

 

Looking for additional mental health resources? Visit our mental health resources page

 

 

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This week’s blog was contributed by Theo Miron, PsyS. Theo is a licensed specialist in school psychology and a nationally certified school psychologist. He spent nearly 18 years providing psychological services to public school students in Minnesota, Arizona, and Texas. 

School psychologists in the U.S. report that completing student assessments is the task they perform most frequently. These psychoeducational and psychological tests are based on the basic principles of measurement theory, standardized testing, and normal distributions. Practitioners receive extensive training in measurement theory—maybe even to the extent that their dreams are filled with visions of the normal or bell curve. 

The normal curve is a fundamental concept psychologists use to help measure and explain student performance; that is, how a student functions in comparison to other children of the same age or grade level. We psychologists love to throw around the numbers associated with standard scores, percentile ranks, T scores, and scaled scores, knowing our fellow psychologists and well-versed teachers will know exactly what we’re talking about. Unfortunately, though, measurement theory is a relatively obscure field, so this type of language may puzzle parents, students, and clients. 

During my first few years as a school psychologist, I struggled to find an effective way to explain these types of results. As a visual learner, I thought adding visual aids to my results meetings might help explain the information more clearly. So one year, I harnessed my inner artist and drew a nice normal curve with standard deviations clearly marked out. I then headed to the copy machine and generated a hundred more. During results meetings, I’d break out my box of colored markers and a ruler and start mapping out the standard scores from the different tests I had given, with the normal curve as the back drop. Once done, I’d have a few marked-up normal curves for each measure the student had taken. 

Using these visual aids during results meetings helped both parents and teachers start to understand what the different scores meant. Not only did I receive some nice compliments on my “art projects,” but I also started noticing that more parents had questions and comments about the results. One parent explained she’d sat through several of these types of meetings over the years, but mine was the first one where she completely understood what the scores meant and how her child compared to other students his age. 

These days, you can keep your art supplies in your drawer. Simply log on to PARiConnect, our online assessment platform, scroll to the Quick Links section in the bottom right corner, and click Interactive Bell Curve.  

This new interactive tool allows you to enter relevant student data, and then add scores for up to three different tests on the same normal curve. You can enter the name of the specific assessment, the type of score you’d like to report (standard, scale, T score, or percentile), and up to 10 index or subtest raw scores. The system plots each score across the normal curve using vertical lines color-coded to the specific tests entered. When finished, you have a few options to explain results to parents, teachers, and clients: present “as is” on-screen, print out a paper copy, or print to a PDF file that can be presented (and shared) digitally. 

The interactive bell curve is a free feature available to every PARiConnect user, and it can be used for any test on the market—not just those published by PAR. So put those markers away, log on to PARiConnect, and try it out yourself. 

Learn more.  

Interested in or have questions about other assessment products for schools? Visit our school resources page

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This week’s blog was contributed by Terri Sisson, EdS, educational assessment advisor–national accounts. Terri spent more than 20 years in public schools as a licensed school psychologist and is a past president of the Virginia Association of School Psychologists. 

I know you’ve been there…you are in one of your schools, have finished an assessment, and are on a deadline for writing a report. Just when you are about to score an assessment, you realize the manual is in your home office! What should you do? No problem…PAR has you covered! 

If your district or organization has purchased e-Manuals from PAR—or received them during the pandemic—you can now find them in your PARiConnect account. Simply log in to PARiConnect, find the Quick Links section in the lower right corner, and click on Digital Library—there you will find all your e-Manuals. When your district has digital content in its PARiConnect account, everyone who has a log-in will have access. Digital access makes it easy to organize and find the information you need. 

Here are some of the convenient features of the e-Manuals you’ll find in PARiConnect’s Digital Library: 

  • Table of contents: Once you click on the e-Manual you wish to read, you can easily use the linked table of contents to quickly jump to the section or page you need. 

  • Bookmarks: Bookmark pages for easy reference by simply clicking the bookmark tab—and quickly find the pages you use most frequently. 

  • Highlight: Use the highlighter to mark important text. 

  • Hyperlinks: The text of the e-Manual contains hyperlinks to relevant tables and appendices—no need to flip through pages. 

  • Search bar: Click on the magnifying glass to search specific words or terms. 

If you’re not sure where to find the information you need, the search feature makes finding it simple (and fast). We know COVID-19 has changed the way we work. There is more flexibility, and more people are working from home. It’s imperative to have access to your e-Manuals from wherever you are. Using the PARiConnect Digital Library makes it easy to access all your manuals in one convenient place. 

To learn more or access, visit pariconnect.com

 

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This week’s blog was contributed by Darla DeCarlo, LMHC, PsyS, PAR’s regional manager–educational assessments. Darla is a certified school psychologist who spent more than 30 years providing professional services in a variety of settings.  

School personnel have been navigating chaotic times for almost two years, and psychological services departments have had to make some difficult decisions. Positions have been eliminated, staff has changed, and psychologists have had to juggle added tasks within their department (and/or schools) while grappling with existing duties. With all of this added responsibility comes added pressure. 

One common concern among school psychologists is finding time to train on assessment tools. Introducing an entire staff to new test options, training new staff and interns on existing instruments, 

and familiarizing staff on what’s available can be confusing and time-consuming. Incorporating the free PAR Training Portal as part of regular monthly staff meetings can provide solutions to these problems. In just 30 to 60 minutes, an entire staff can learn more about a PAR tool—from instrument overview and development to scoring and normative data. It’s a perfect way to provide needed training while preserving staff members’ valuable time to take care of district business. Staff who can’t attend can access the presentation online 24/7, ensuring staff members are on the same page when it comes to assessment training. The PAR Training Portal also includes recorded topical and author webinars, and the training courses and presentations are updated frequently. 

When psychological services departments are dedicated to improving staff knowledge to keep up with changes in school psychology, it can increase staff efficiency and build confidence. In addition, participating in trainings helps reinforce group goals, shows the staff they are valued, and improves morale. And who doesn’t want that for their staff? 

Visit partrainingportal.com to get started. 

 

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This week’s blog was contributed by Eric Culqui, MA, PPS, PAR’s educational assessments advisor–regional accounts. Eric is a licensed school psychologist with more than 14 years of experience. He’s a NASP-certified crisis response trainer and first responder. 

Across the nation, many schools have opened their doors to welcome students back for face-to-face instruction. After nearly two years of quarantines, remote learning, and potential health scares, many educators are concerned with the overall health of their students. It’s imperative for educational institutions to have a measurement tool to identify emotionally at-risk children as they transition back to the school environment. 

The Feifer Assessment of Childhood Trauma (FACT) Teacher Form is a multipurpose rating scale designed to convey how stress and trauma impact children (ages 4–18 years) in a school-based setting. This edition allows for immediate use of the instrument by educators while data collection and normative development of the full instrument, which will include a Parent Form and Self-Report Form, continues through the current school year. 

Designed for use by educational diagnosticians, school counselors, school psychologists, school nurses, community mental health providers, school administrators, and pediatricians, the FACT Teacher Form is completed by a classroom teacher or other educator familiar with the student’s typical behavior and day-to-day functioning. It’s designed to quantify the impact of traumatic experiences on school-based functioning to generate specific interventions, not to identify a particular source or subtype of trauma. 

The FACT Teacher Form consists of 79 items and is administered and scored on PARiConnect, PAR’s online assessment platform. It takes approximately 10 minutes to complete. Higher scores on the clinical scales indicate increasing symptoms of stress and trauma—information critical for triage and intervention. 

Items were written based on the behavioral, emotional, and academic difficulties that arise when students are in a state of physiological and/or psychological dysregulation due to trauma and stress. 

Understanding the struggles and trauma of our school-age children is critical to providing them appropriate supports and interventions. The FACT Teacher Form (and upcoming Parent Form and Self-Report Form) provide educators with the tools necessary to identify and assist students most in need. 

Learn more about the FACT Teacher Form.  

 

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Already the most reliable platform in the industry, PARiConnect continues to grow by adding features that complement your online practice.

One of our newest additions to PARiConnect is the introduction of the interactive bell curve, where you can personalize the interactive bell curve, input multiple scores, quickly assess and visually capture how a client scores in relation to others, and easily explain assessment results to clients/parents. The interactive bell curve can be accessed within the PARiConnect Quick Links section.

Another new feature is the Digital Library. The Digital Library is an online location within PARiConnect that stores all e-Manuals purchased from PAR in one convenient place. Simply log into your PARiConnect account to access all your materials. Once you are logged in, you can find the Digital Library under the Quick Links section. Now you can easily access your materials from most internet-connected devices.

Plus, we’ve added new assessments to the platform, like the Dementia Rating Scale—2™ (DRS-2™), Brief Visuospatial Memory Test—Revised™ (BVMT-R™), the Hopkins Verbal Learning Test—Revised™ (HVLT-R™), the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test® (WCST®), and the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test® 64-Card Version (WCST-64™).

Don’t have a PARiConnect account? Register for free and get 3 free assessments and reports.

Want to learn more? Join Daniel McFadden for a free webinar on the Digital Library and the ChecKIT family of products on February 10. Register here!  Can’t make this one? We have other PARiConnect tutorials and webinars located on our Training Portal.  Sign up or login for free.

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This week’s blog was contributed by Carrie Champ Morera, PsyD, lead project and content director, and Theo Miron, PsyS, regional manager–educational assessments.

Why should psychologists and other clinicians assess for emotional disturbance (ED) in the school setting? Parents and caregivers of 8.3 million school-aged children (ages 4 to 17 years) have sought help from school staff or mental health professionals about their child’s emotional or behavioral difficulties. Approximately 7.5% of children ages 6 to 17 years used prescribed medication during the past 6 months for emotional or behavioral difficulties. Assessment of ED is necessary in the school setting to help children obtain the emotional and behavioral support services they need to be successful.

Over the past 20 years, the number of students served within special education has steadily increased, while the number of students being served under ED eligibilities has steadily decreased. For example, during the 2000–2001 school year, 6.29 million students received special education services with 7.6% of those students identified as having an ED. Although the population of students receiving special education services grew by almost one million children to 7.13 million over the next 18 years, only 5% were identified as having an ED during the 2018–2019 school year.

How can we improve ED identification and help children obtain the services they need to be successful in school? It is the school’s responsibility and a school psychologist’s professional role to find children who are struggling emotionally and behaviorally, identify them through the evaluation process, and then connect them with appropriate services and interventions so they can begin to heal and make educational, social, emotional, and behavioral progress. 

When completing assessments for ED, we need to carefully consider and adhere to specific eligibility criteria while distinguishing the difference between social maladjustment (SM) and ED. Practitioners also need to consider DSM-V-related diagnoses as well as the impact of trauma, adverse childhood experiences (ACES), and the pandemic on the child’s functioning. It is also imperative to be cognizant of racial disproportionality in determining eligibility for ED services (see NASP Position Statement: Racial and Ethnic Disproportionality in Education).

Assessments of ED need to be comprehensive and include multiple tests and information from a variety of sources. Clinical interviews with the student, caregivers, and teachers, as well as observations of the student in the natural environment are paramount. Trauma, ACES, and the pandemic also need to be considered in the assessment of ED. Childhood adversity is a broad term that refers to a wide range of circumstances or events that pose a serious threat to a child’s physical or psychological wellbeing, including child abuse, neglect, divorce, bullying, poverty, and community violence. Adverse experiences can have profound consequences, particularly when they occur early in life, are chronic, and accumulate over time. Trauma is an outcome of exposure to adversity while adversities are the cause of trauma. Trauma affects everyone differently, depending on individual, family, and environmental risk, as well as protective factors.

Repeated or prolonged trauma in addition to the effects of the pandemic can have a litany of adverse outcomes on our children in the areas of cognition, brain development, behavior, emotions, mental health, physical health, and relationships. These factors need to be considered in a comprehensive evaluation for ED.

Since the start of the pandemic, we have seen a significant increase in kids struggling with both emotional and behavioral difficulties. This increase may lead to an uptick in the number of ED-related assessment referrals that come across our desks and the number of students who require special education services. This leads us into how we assess children for an ED and the benefits of using the Emotional Disturbance Decision Tree (EDDT).

Dr. Bryan Euler, the author of the EDDT, has worked as a school counselor, diagnostician, lead school psychologist, and a clinical psychologist. While working in the Albuquerque public schools, Dr. Euler teamed up with PAR to create the EDDT to provide a standardized approach to the assessment of ED. It was designed to directly address the framework of the federal ED eligibility criteria; for every component of the federal ED criteria, there’s a corresponding EDDT scale or cluster. The scales within the assessment are written to address these broad domains thoroughly, then help school psychologists apply the specific criteria to make informed decisions on both eligibility and programming.

The EDDT includes all the relevant aspects of the federal ED criteria. It contains scales and clusters that address each of the specific ED criteria. The structure of the EDDT walks the practitioner through each area of the federal ED criteria.

  • Section 1 reviews the important exclusionary items to address “an inability to learn that can’t be explained by other factors.”
  • Section 2 Part A examines the 4 important characteristics we look for in ED (building/maintaining relationships, inappropriate behaviors/emotions, depression factors, and physical symptoms and fears).
  • Section 2 Part B serves as a screener for characteristics of both ADHD and schizophrenia/psychosis.
  • Section 3 assesses the characteristics of social maladjustment.
  • Section 4 measures the level of severity, where we examine the magnitude of the symptoms and characteristics the student is exhibiting. 
  • Section 5 helps determine the level of educational impact that these issues may be causing in school.

Bryan Euler, PhD, describes the benefits of the EDDT and the importance of multiple informants, including the student’s perspective, here.

There are several best practices to keep in mind with the EDDT: Include the viewpoint of multiple raters (teacher, parent, and/or self) from different settings (school, home, and community). Use the EDDT as part of a comprehensive evaluation to determine ED eligibility. In addition to the EDDT, be sure to include qualitative information such as interviews (from the student, parents, and/or teachers) and observations across school settings to supplement the data received on the EDDT.

Carrie Champ Morera, PsyD and Theo Miron, PsyS will present on the EDDT at the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) annual convention in February. In their presentation, Assessing Emotional Disturbance in Schools Using the Emotional Disturbance Decision Tree (EDDT), they will explore the features and trends in ED and investigate the structure and use of the EDDT. If you attend NASP, feel free to stop by the PAR booth to learn more about how PAR can meet your assessment needs.

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PAR is excited to announce the release In-Person e-Stimulus Books for the Neuropsychological Assessment Battery® (NAB®) modules!  

The NAB Attention Module, NAB Executive Functions Module, NAB Memory Module, NAB Spatial Module, NAB Language Module, and NAB Screening Module In-Person e-Stimulus Books are convenient and more hygienic alternatives to paper stimulus books and cards. They are designed to be used via tablet during face-to-face administration. Be sure to download our new white paper prior to administering for guidance on how to use e-Stimulus Books. 

Did you purchase a NAB kit or paper stimulus book prior to November 3, 2021? We’re pleased to offer the In-Person e-Stimulus Book (for in-person administration via tablet) to you at no charge for a limited time! Just call 1.800.331.8378 or email us at CS@parinc.com with your request.   

PAR offers many more In-Person e-Stimulus Books to provide you with the flexibility and confidence you need when administering tests. Check out our e-Stimulus Books web page to learn more. 

 

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An Interpretive Report for the Dementia Rating Scale–2™ (DRS-2™) is now available on PARiConnect. The DRS-2 measures mental status in adults with cognitive impairment and assesses an individual’s overall level of cognitive functioning.

The DRS-2 Interpretive Report provides:

  • Age-corrected subscale scores, an age- and education-corrected DRS-2 Total Score, and percentile subscale scores.
  • Interpretive text that describes the client’s overall performance and subtest performance.
  • A graphic profile of the client’s performance.

Save money and valuable clinical time by letting PARiConnect handle scoring and interpretation of your DRS-2 administrations without the investment of purchasing the entire software program.

Don’t have a PARiConnect account? It’s easy to sign up—plus you get three free administrations and three free reports! Learn more.

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