When schools shut down in 2020 due to the pandemic, millions of children, parents, and teachers found their worlds upended. Without kids in school, school psychologists were unable to test students who had been referred for special education services. Initial evaluations and re-evaluations piled up. Students, many of whom needed academic accommodations and interventions, were unable to receive the help they needed.
“We paused [testing], like everyone else in the country,” said Tina S. Nguyen, PhD, a school psychologist with Washington, D.C., public schools. “Initially, we thought it would be a few weeks. But eventually, we realized we couldn’t just not do these assessments.”
The scenario was similar for Tiombe Bisa Kendrick-Dunn, SSP, MS, NCSP, the district psychology chairperson for Miami-Dade County, Florida, public schools. “We did no evaluations at all between March and July ,” she said.
Both school districts began using the Reynolds Intellectual Assessment Scales, Second Edition Remote (RIAS-2 Remote), which was published in July 2020.
Developed specifically to support school psychologists and clinicians who need to test students and clients from afar, the RIAS-2 Remote features minimally modified and digitally packaged components. It’s administered using a videoconferencing platform, and a 2018 study showed equivalency with the paper-and-pencil version.
Nguyen had used the RIAS-2 prior to the pandemic, so, for her, “it was a no-brainer to continue to use it,” she said. “We couldn’t determine eligibility without the information. The RIAS-2 Remote allowed us to evaluate these kids. Otherwise, we would have had to table [the evaluations] or do them without all the components.”
Norma Castillo, MEd, assistant director of special education for the Clint Independent School District in El Paso, Texas, also ordered the RIAS-2 Remote that summer. With a backlog of referrals to work through and new referrals coming in, she needed a trusted tool that her team could use to reach students and get them the services they needed.
“Without the RIAS-2 Remote, we would have waited [to test],” Castillo said. “I didn’t feel comfortable using a test that wasn’t meant to be used in any other way and have the diagnosticians write in their reports that they used a test the way it wasn’t meant to be used. The nice thing about the RIAS-2 Remote is that you don’t have to do that. It’s RIAS-2 Remote. It was great.”
The quick administration time for the RIAS-2 (less than 30 minutes for intelligence assessment) can help school psychologists reach more students in less time and work through their backlog of evaluations.
“I have so many assessments to do,” Nguyen said. “It’s easier for me to get through them with the RIAS-2 Remote. It’s a time-saver.”
Kendrick-Dunn said the RIAS-2 allows her to complete more evaluations per day. “I have used it more than I typically would for children who have been referred for the gifted program, specifically because of the time,” she said. “Other tests can take 90 minutes to 2 hours. I can do the RIAS-2 in half that time.”
“It’s quick,” agreed Rachael Donnelly, MA, AC, NCSP, a school psychologist with Anne Arundel County, Maryland, public schools. “There are other things I could be doing, like working directly with students or in consultation with teachers.”
In addition to being faster, the RIAS-2 also has fewer motor demands and language requirements, making it a more accurate test of intelligence. This was one of the authors’ goals during development.
“It is not necessary to include motor-dependent tasks to assess intelligence accurately.” said co-author Cecil R. Reynolds, PhD. “Intelligence tests should emphasize thinking, reasoning, and problem-solving.”
“The RIAS-2 is just as good a measure of cognitive ability and overall full-scale IQ than any other test that maybe has a million manipulatives that may impede or impact the validity,” Donnelly said. “It does a good job of measuring intelligence purely.”
With straightforward administration and clear directions, school psychologists also find that the RIAS-2 is easier for students to understand, giving them confidence that results are valid.
“I never have any fears that a student’s response is because they don’t understand what I’m asking them,” Nguyen said. “That is helpful. It’s clear their score is their score because they [do or] don’t know the answer, not because they didn’t understand what to do.
“On other intelligence tests,” she added, “[if] there’s a subtest that the kids don’t understand. They bomb completely. The examples confuse them. I’m grateful for the RIAS-2. It’s simple, straightforward direction.”
More than two years post-pandemic, most students are now back to in-person learning. However, school psychologists continue to be overwhelmed and understaffed—and an uptick in mental health and academic concerns means more referrals and more evaluations.
With a faster administration time, the RIAS-2 and RIAS-2 Remote can help them continue to work through their case loads quicker and meet the needs of all the children they serve.
“If the student for some reason is not able to come to school, it’s okay because they can do a portion of the evaluation remotely now,” Castillo said. “It’s another piece of mind.”
“I’m glad that we [will continue to] have the remote option,” Kendrick-Dunn said, “so we can make the best clinical decision based on the needs of the child.”
Learn more about remote assessment and using the RIAS-2 in one of our free PARtalks webinars available on the PAR Training Portal. Learn more about the development of RIAS-2 from coauthor Cecil R. Reynolds, PhD, in this video.
This week’s blog was contributed by Carrie Champ Morera, PsyD, NCSP, LP. Carrie is a licensed school psychologist and the lead project and content director at PAR.
During in-person assessment sessions, you're in control of setting up the physical environment to make it conducive to success. When you work with children and adolescents via telehealth, specifically for teleassessment, you provide not only clinical services but also guidance to prepare younger clients for their remote sessions. Failure to do so can interrupt telehealth treatment or teleassessment, decrease remote participation and engagement, and jeopardize the ideal conditions needed to establish rapport and build a therapeutic alliance.
Here are 10 tips to consider as you design and maintain a working teleassessment environment with children and adolescents.
Before your first remote session with your student, let them know what to expect. Replicate what you would do during an in-person session.
Before beginning teleassessment, ensure your client has all the materials they need. We developed a checklist to help you get started, available here.
Provide the client with a moment to adjust after entering the assessment space. Take your time. Children may need some time to orient themselves to the virtual space.
Assess the environment. Ensure your client is in a quiet and comfortable environment, has a clear working space, and has minimal distractions. Be proactive and develop a safety plan.
Establish boundaries and expectations. Expect the child or adolescent to come prepared for the session as if they were meeting you in person.
Consider factors unique to teleassessment—for example, age. For younger children, testing sessions may need to be shorter depending on the type of task the test requires.
Openly discuss technology and platform challenges. Discuss and plan for any challenges with internet connections and anything relevant to the platform you are using.
Discuss any concerns about teleassessment. Though many individuals are comfortable with technology and using devices in general, they may be fearful or lack confidence about engaging in telehealth.
Consider your physical environment and telehealth setup. Mimic your in-person setting as much as you can. Maintain neat dress, minimize distractions, display a clean background, use sufficient lighting, and have your technology devices and materials ready.
Relationship is key! Go back to the basics. What helps you establish rapport when you're in person? Apply some of the same strategies when using telehealth.
We’re excited to announce the publication of another instrument to add to your digital tool kit! The Identi-Fi Remote, a digital adaptation of the paper-and-pencil version, is an appealing and accurate test of visual organization designed specifically for testing your clients when you’re apart.
Related article: Now available: Identi-Fi
The Identi-Fi Remote has several distinct advantages:
We’re happy to welcome a new member to the Feifer family of products. The only remote dyslexia screening tool currently available, the FAR Screening Form Remote is a digital adaptation of our trusted dyslexia screener, designed specifically for testing your students when you’re apart.
Visit the PAR Training Portal for an in-depth demonstration of FAR Screening Form Remote administration, hosted by Dr. Feifer.
To learn more or to order, click here.
School psychologists are facing a school year full of unknowns. PAR reached out to three different professionals to find out how they are adapting and what advice they have for others as they embark on a very different kind of school year.
Tamara Engle-Weaver, MS
Certified school psychologist, Lancaster-Lebanon IU 13 Sensory Impaired Program, Pennsylvania
I have classrooms located in more than one school district. Our districts are creating their own plans for the school year. Some are doing hybrid; some are face-to-face. Given that our classrooms are intermediate unit special education classrooms, they will most likely be operating 5 days per week with face-to-face instruction.
I plan to use a lot of technology this year. I will be trying to utilize virtual methodology as much as I can to reduce the amount of time I am in the classroom. I don’t feel the schools will be encouraging additional bodies to be in the classrooms. I will try to create social skill videos for my students that teachers can present at their leisure.
When you are on an airplane, they tell you to take care of yourself before you help the person you are with. I think that will be critical this year because there will be many students and staff who will be struggling with all aspects of coping with this virus. If we are not in a healthy mental state, we will not be able to help others achieve one either. We all need to do our best to care for ourselves and be compassionate and patient with others.
Maria Isabel Soriano-Lemen, PhD, RPsy
Director, Center of Psychological Extension and Research Services, Philippines
We are doing 100% online classes this year here in the Philippines. I usually ask students to work with a partner to come up with a psychological report that includes these areas of functioning: cognitive, psychological, emotional, behavioral, interpersonal, and interpersonal. So that requires them to work with different tests. I am at a loss at how to teach students to score their test results. I’m also concerned with access to testing materials and how students will be supervised. At this time, I really don’t know what to do. Classes will start in November.
Heather Bravener, DEd
School psychologist, Duncannon, Pennsylvania
At this time, parents have been given the choice to enroll in either the district’s cyber program or attend school for face-to-face instruction 5 days a week. We are a small district with three buildings on the same campus with graduating class sizes of approximately 140. The area’s COVID numbers are currently in the low range, which allows for the reopening of school with face-to-face instruction while implementing recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus.
My colleague and I are determining how to best complete assessments with students for the upcoming year in light of the pandemic. Considerations include wearing a mask, use of a plexiglass divider, a pencil for each student to use and then take with them, using a plastic screen to cover the manual, and use of disinfectant wipes. We are also considering the use of digital assessments.
Once schools closed in March, I had to balance completing my job at home while supporting my daughter during remote learning. It was quite a challenge and I can empathize with parents out there who are struggling to assist their child in learning.
As school psychologists, we are in a unique position where our roles may change significantly this fall. Flexibility will be key!
Related: Find out how the Pandemic Anxiety Screener for Students–12 (PASS-12) can help!
No matter how unparalleled 2020 has been, your students still depend on you to get the help they need. We want to reassure you that PAR is here to help you meet this challenge.
Our goal is to give you the support you need to help your students. That’s why we continue to develop products to assist you in delivering that help.
We have recently introduced In-Person e-Stimulus books. These tools allow for easy, safer administration of stimuli via an iPad® or tablet during in-person testing sessions. Designed to be convenient and user-friendly, these digital tools provide flexibility and confidence in testing.
We recently released In-Person e-Stimulus books for the RIAS-2 and RIST-2 that are now available to order. In the future, watch for In-Person e-Stimulus books for other products, including the FAR and the FAR Screening Form. Visit our e-Stimulus page for updates.
When you need assistance this school year remember, PAR is here to help you. We thank you for your devotion to helping others, and for your support.
Dr. Carrie Champ Morera, project director, and Daniel McFadden, director of Customer Support, were thrilled to join Dr. Jeremy Sharp from The Testing Psychologist podcast to discuss telehealth.
They chatted about topics to consider regarding remote assessment, addressed concerns such as technology issues and cultural factors in remote administration, talked about PARiConnect, and provided information on how PAR continues to support clinicians during the COVID-19 crisis.