Testing & Assessment

TESTING AND ASSESSMENT

Fort Lauderdale Counseling and Assessment offers comprehensive psychological assessment services for individuals ranging from early childhood (preschool age) through adulthood. Assessments range from brief screenings to full neuropsychological batteries, and are completed in a warm, confidential, and caring environment. We are aware and highly sensitive to the fact that going through the assessment process may be stressful and challenging for some. Our goal is to provide a relaxed environment for children and adults alike, where we may identify strengths and weaknesses unique to each individual, and to ensure that the testing process is engaging in order to allow each individual the opportunity to perform their best.

Psychological testing provides information for diagnosis, therapy treatment planning, academic programs, testing accommodations, medication treatment planning, and for a better understanding of the etiology of behavior. For children, academic achievement, ability, and intelligence tests may be utilized as a tool to assist in school placement, in determining the presence of a learning disability or a developmental delay, or in identifying giftedness. The most comprehensive level of testing, the neuropsychological assessments, examines how a client's brain functions and why there may be problems in school, at home, with friends, or with overall success.

Formal assessment is led by Dr. Richard Taborga Psy.D., a highly skilled and experienced clinician with diverse training in the testing and assessment of individuals of all age groups. Dr. Taborga’s philosophy and approach to assessment is one that values a flexible, individualized, collaborative, meaningful, strength-based strategy that recognizes the needs of each individual. This means that test batteries are approached from the perspective of the client, constructed on a case-by-case basis, honor the desires of the client and/or parent, and clearly answer referral questions in a way that translates test scores into daily functioning. Additionally, because relying on test data alone to inform educational and treatment decisions is limited, emphasis is placed on the need to involve community partners (i.e. teachers, tutors, coaches, physicians, specialists) in assessments to gather information from multiple sources as well as a diverse number of environments (i.e. classrooms). This process allows the evaluator to integrate information across multiple sources making for more informative and accurate results. To further make results more reliable and to promote their optimal level of performance, clients are seen across several sessions and environments to obtain a comprehensive sample of their behavior and skills. If a child or adult requires shorter test sessions across a greater number of days to demonstrate true capacities, then extra time will be made to accommodate the client’s needs.

REASON FOR REFERRAL

Why Psychological Assessment May be Needed?

It sounds so serious; “Psychological Testing, Assessment or Evaluation”, but it really isn’t and there’s nothing to fear. In many ways, psychological testing and assessment are similar to medical tests. If a patient has physical symptoms, a primary care provider may order X-rays or blood tests to understand what's causing those symptoms. The results of the tests will help inform and develop a plan for treatment. Psychological evaluations serve the same purpose. Psychologists use tests and other assessment tools to measure and observe a client's behavior, thoughts and emotions to arrive at a diagnosis, qualify for needed services, and guide treatment.

ASSESSMENT REFERRAL MAY INCLUDE::

  • Diagnostic Information and Differentiation
  • Medication Intervention (e.g., ADHD, Bipolar, Depression)
  • Classroom Accommodations (e.g., Learning Disability or ADHD)
  • Psychoeducational
  • Classroom Accommodations (e.g., FCAT, SAT, LSAT, GRE, GMAT, MCAT, Bar Exam)
  • Identification of Learning Style (e.g., cognitive strengths and weaknesses for both children and adults.)
  • Personality
  • The development of Insight related to Personality Characteristics that may be contributing to current distress in social, occupational and/or emotional functioning.
  • Gifted Evaluation for Program Placement
  • Understanding and Treatment Recommendations
  • Behavior Management and Parenting Strategies
  • Related to Behavioral Difficulties, Level of Depression, Risk of Self-Harm or Harm to others
  • Medical Information to Aid in Recovery (e.g., Bariatric Surgical procedures)
  • Autism / PDD

ASSESSMENT PROCESS

Psychological testing is a common method used to assess for the presence of various psychological, intellectual, and learning difficulties that may be impacting one's ability to perform at their optimal level. It involves both educational and psychological evaluations and is available to children and adults for a variety of presenting problems. Tests are individually administered, personalized, and comprehensive in order to obtain detailed information.

In addition to providing information related to various areas of functioning, test results can be utilized for accommodations in the classroom, on standardized tests (e.g., SATs, LSATs or GMATs), and in the workplace, as well as for diagnosis and treatment.

Testing Process For Psychoeducational/Psychological Evaluations:

Session 1: Client and/or Parent Interview

During the first session, the parent(s) (or adult client) will meet with the clinician to discuss the reason for referral, as well as to obtain background and early childhood history information pertinent to the evaluation.

Sessions 2 to 4: Testing

Depending on the client’s age, testing is divided into 2 to 4 sessions, ranging from 2 to 4 hours in length per session. The client will be provided with breaks throughout testing.

Session 5: Feedback of Results

Upon completion of testing, the clinician will score, interpret, and write a report detailing all of the results of the evaluation. Typically, the feedback session is scheduled 2 to 3 weeks after the last testing session. During this session, results are reviewed and recommendations are discussed.

Test Results and Feedback

No client or parent should ever feel dissatisfied at the close of the assessment process. Test results provide information to obtain the assistance and guidance necessary to achieve a person’s highest potential. Reports are readable and tailored to specific audiences. Our goal is to help clients feel a sense of relief and gain a much richer understanding of the mechanisms that have caused "road blocks" in the past, with hope for overcoming those obstacles in the future. The end product of the assessment process is the "feedback session" and delivery of the test report.

Test Report

Test results are provided in a document outlining the test materials utilized, scores, results, and recommendations. Reports are written in a flexible, concise, individualized manner, capturing the essence of the patient and answering the initial questions. Written reports provide active, relevant, and individualized recommendations that are geared towards maximizing the test-taker’s strengths. The most essential component of the report, the recommendations, is formulated after careful analysis and integration of multiple pieces of information. Recommendations are provided to help clients and/or parents, as well as those professionals that are currently or will be working with the client to be able to easily understand and implement various strategies.

Feedback Session

Feedback sessions allow test-takers and/or parents to meet with the clinician that conducted the evaluation so that they may provide relevant information, answer questions and concerns, as well as provide feedback related to strengths and weaknesses. It is important to us that results are meaningful and well understood.

After Testing is Complete

Finally, after the testing is completed, the goal is to link clients to the appropriate medical and educational resources that may be most beneficial. Most importantly, the testing relationship does not end at the feedback session. We understand that many questions may arise following feedback, and we are available to consult with other professionals, to explain results again, to attend IEP meetings, or simply offer support.

PSYCHOEDUCATIONAL TESTING

Psychoeducational Evaluations are typically conducted when a student (child or adult) is exhibiting difficulties, which are impacting academic and/or occupational performance. This type of evaluation will help the individual, parents, and/or teachers learn about an individual's particular learning profile. Learning strengths and weaknesses are examined, and the identification and diagnosis of possible learning disabilities (such as reading, math, and writing) is discussed.

Psychoeducational Evaluations are also conducted when there is a need for academic accommodations, such as extended time in class and on standardized testing. This type of evaluation includes testing in the following areas:

  • Intelligence/Intellectual Functioning (IQ test)
  • Academic achievement (reading, math, and writing)
  • Attention
  • Cognitive Efficiency
  • Language Processing
  • Visual processing
  • Memory and Learning

Social and Emotional testing

Information from multiple informants, such as parents, teachers, therapists, and employers, is also requested in order to obtain a more comprehensive history of the individual. Once the evaluation is concluded, the student and/or parents will be provided with a comprehensive report detailing test results, diagnostic information, as well as recommendations for the student, parents, and teachers.

Achievement Testing

Achievement tests determine what the student has already learned and compares if he or she is more advanced than peers in the same grade. These assessments may be academic specific (i.e. Math or Language Arts) or standardized (such as SATs, ITBS, SRA, and MATs). They should not have a ceiling so students are able to show all of what they know. Tests specifically designed for the gifted population include Test of Mathematical Abilities for Gifted Students or Screening Assessment for Gifted Elementary Students (SAGES).

PSYCHOLOGICAL AND EMOTIONAL EVALUATIONS

Psychological and Emotional Evaluations provides information about overall psychological/emotional adjustment and the underlying reasons for an individual's psychological/emotional distress. Results of these evaluations can aid in diagnostic clarification and provide helpful information for psychiatrists, primary care physicians, therapists and schools helping the individual towards uncovering the most effective and efficient forms of treatment. Findings can also be very helpful towards self-discovery, personal growth and the development of insight. These evaluations may include the administration of self-report measures, parent and teacher questionnaires, projective measures and personality tests.

GIFTED TESTING/EVALUATION

Let’s start with some general information regarding your special little student’s rights, because we believe that a well informed parent is an effective advocate for their child. An EP is a written plan for each child who is identified as eligible for gifted education describing the student’s educational needs and the services that will be provided to meet those needs. Districts continue to have the responsibility to provide students in kindergarten through Grade 12 who are gifted with an appropriate EP. The EP is to be developed by the district based on procedures that must be specified in each district’s Special Programs and Procedures (SP&P) for the Provision of Specially Designed Instruction and Related Services to Exceptional Students document and be consistent with the requirements of State Board of Education Rule 6A-6.030191, Florida Administrative Code (F.A.C.). The EP should provide detailed information that is useful to school personnel and to the student’s parents. It should identify the special needs of the student related to the student’s areas of giftedness and should identify the services that will be provided to ensure the student will progress appropriately. Learn more about Florida State Laws and Regulations from the Florida Department of Education at http://www.fldoe.org/academics/exceptional-student-edu/gifted-edu.stml

The term 'gifted and talented' when used in respect to students, children, or youth means [those who show] evidence of high performance capability in areas such as intellectual, creative, artistic, or leadership capacity, or in specific academic fields, and who require services or activities not ordinarily provided by the school in order to fully develop such capabilities.

Tests should be aligned within the characteristics of gifted and talented students within a specific domain area. The variety of characteristics within the federal definition—intellectual, creative, artistic, leadership, and specific academic fields—require more than one assessment to identify. Quantitative instruments such as those listed below use scores to describe the student's performance in relation to others or the degree to which a student possesses a particular characteristic in relation to a standard level of performance.

Gifted testing is conducted to determine if a child meets the gifted criteria in order to enter this type of academic program in a public or private school. To identify intellectual giftedness, we administer and intelligence test or IQ test. IQ (Intelligence Quotient) tests measure various cognitive abilities, such as verbal reasoning, visual/spatial reasoning, memory, and processing speed. These tests yield Full Scale IQ scores, and also, cluster or index scores separating the different areas. An IQ test is not an academic test, but a test of cognitive functioning. The following are IQ tests used to assess for giftedness.

  • Wechsler Intelligence Test for Children-Fifth Edition (WISC‑5)
  • Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence- Fourth Edition (WPPSI‑IV)
  • Woodcock Johnson‑IV

Upon completion of the IQ test, parents/caregivers are then provided with a comprehensive report detailing test results and recommendations during a feedback session.
Gifted Testing : The Process

Total of 2 Sessions:

  • Session 1: Parent Interview and IQ Test Administration
  • Session 2: Report Presentation and Feedback Session

First, parents/caregivers meet briefly with the psychologist to providing relevant background information.

Subsequently, the child/adolescent is given the Intelligence test (IQ), which can take anywhere from 90-120 minutes.

After we’ve obtained the needed information, we get to writing! A report detailing the results of this intellectual evaluation as well as recommendations regarding school placement is available for parents within 2 weeks after IQ testing.

Note: Rushed reports are available if needed.

To Test or Not to test, that is the question!

So, now that you're an expert on giftedness, should you have your child evaluated? Deciding to test your child for a Gifted program is a personal decision. There is no right or wrong answer. The student should not feel pressured into taking the test.

What happens if my child doesn’t meet the IQ requirement for the Gifted program?

Absolutely Nothing☺!!! He or she is still a precious and smart little joy! Many parents and students are happy with regular or advanced (honors) classes. Also, depending on the age of the children, some parents do not tell them the test is specifically for the Gifted program. Regardless of the outcome, we are sure that after the evaluation, parents will have a better understanding of their child’s cognitive strengths and weaknesses.

What is the required score for a Gifted program?

Miami-Dade and Broward Counties have different criteria. Nationally speaking, a student meets the criteria if he or she obtains a Full Scale IQ score of 130.

How much does it cost?

Our rates are average. The fee includes test administration, scoring, interpretation, report writing, and a feedback session to discuss the results. As a reminder: Gifted evaluations are offered for free in the public school system.

ADHD TESTING

More information from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/adhd/index.html

Research the Laws in your area regarding IEP for children identified to have ADHD

Many young students, as well as college and graduate-level students, experience difficulties focusing, sustaining attention, and feel overwhelmed by the demands of school and/or work. When people feel chronically disorganized, easily sidetracked, mentally scattered, slow to get started on tasks, and procrastinate to the point that life becomes filled with anxiety, it may be time for an evaluation.

Frequently, individuals may be undiagnosed or wrongly diagnosed or "labeled" by physicians and mental health professionals who do not conduct a comprehensive evaluation that includes psychological testing of ability level, achievement, and emotional functioning. At Fort Lauderdale Counseling and Assessment we conduct thorough evaluations that include neuropsychological tests of attention, memory, and executive functioning (i.e., the ability to organize, sequence, plan and act) that provide additional valuable information about problems of attention and impulsivity.

There are many reasons why an individual might experience problems with attention, and a proper evaluation will provide you with specific information about your diagnosis. We assess people who are interested in gaining comprehensive answers about their condition. In some cases, results from our evaluations can serve as the basis for providing accommodations (e.g., extended time, distraction-free rooms, etc.) for standardized testing. In all cases, all of our written reports are tailored with recommendations that are specific to the client’s needs. Recommendations are clear, meaningful and are geared towards helping you to understand areas in need of improvement while helping you to maximize your abilities based on your strengths.

Couples Assessment Battery (CAB)

Give your relationship every possible advantage! The “Couples Assessment Battery” is a unique and comprehensive assessment battery designed to provide clients and clinicians with valuable information to aid in the development of a deeper understanding of your partner and the interactions between you.

The benefits of assessment-based interventions for couples have been well documented and proven to be efficacious in helping couples to:

  • Understand and address various problem areas.
  • Increase awareness of individual, as well as a couple’s strengths and limitations.
  • Improve partner communication and problem resolution
  • Develop insight related to personality and attachment differences impacting the relationship
  • Improve Intimacy
  • Prevent future relationship problems

In addition to the aforementioned benefits, a couples/marital assessment can help identify individual, interpersonal, and environmental factors that may affect intervention outcomes, determine which mode of treatment seems most appropriate for the presenting couple (i.e., primary, secondary, or tertiary), and assist with creating shared goals for all involved with the therapeutic process.

Emotional Support Animal (ESA) Letter

Emotional support animals (ESA) are a great help for many people. The world can be overwhelming at times, and having a familiar companion makes it a little easier to handle.

ESA's are not the same as service animals and are subject to different regulations than trained service dogs. However, they have some rights regarding pet policies and similar rules, such as those in place in certain condo associations. Updates to federal and state laws require that people with emotional support animals visit a mental health professional and show that their mental illness has a substantial impact on their daily lives. Our licensed, experienced, and qualified mental health professionals are often able to provide appropriate documentation within 2 weeks after meeting with clients. We require at least 2 meetings.

If you live in Florida and you're wondering about the process of registering an ESA, particularly how to get an ESA letter, we hope that the following information will provide you with a guide to doing so.

Qualifying for an Emotional Support Animal Letter in Florida

The requirements you need to meet in Florida to qualify for an emotional support animal letter are similar to other states. You will need to get a letter from a Florida licensed mental health professional in order to qualify.

These are the basic Florida emotional support animal letter requirements for ESA owners:

A licensed mental health professional needs to determine that you have an emotional disability.

Your mental disability is in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders- Fifth Edition

The identified condition substantially limits your ability to participate in at least one major life activity.

  • The professional has to determine that an emotional support animal would help treat the condition or ease your symptoms.
  • You need to get an emotional support animal letter which can be thought of as a prescription for an ESA.
  • The letter must come from a licensed mental health professional.
  • Your letter must be on your therapist’s official letterhead.
  • The letter must include your therapist’s license details, issue date, and state.

Florida ESA Laws

An emotional support animal registration is not required in Florida. All you need is a legitimate ESA letter.

Once you have fulfilled ESA requirements and you have received your letter, you have certain rights. However, there are two major limitations:

  1. An ESA doesn’t have the same public access privileges as service animals.
  1. If your animal is not a domestic animal, if it misbehaves or is a danger to anyone, you can lose your privileges.

So where are you covered?

In Florida, individuals with mental or emotional health disabilities have the right to live with their ESAs. If you’ve fulfilled the Florida emotional support letter requirements and you can provide proof to landlords, they cannot deny accommodation unless they have a valid exemption, such as if your ESA poses a danger to others. Denying accommodation of your ESA could get them in trouble under the federal Fair Housing Act and state laws.

Landlords can verify your ESA by asking you to produce a valid ESA letter. If you are able to do so, they cannot deny access, charge a pet deposit or a fee.

Emotional Support Animals in Florida Condos

By law, Florida Condo Associations cannot deny your emotional support dog.

With the growth in using animals as comfort animals, many Florida Condo Associations have been making it difficult for ESA owners to live with their emotional support animals. Some Florida Condo Associations have attempted to deny legitimate emotional support dogs by claiming that ESAs do not have rights or call them “fake service dogs.”

Emotional support animals have rights to live with their owners in Florida Condos that normally do not accept pets. The Fair Housing Act gives you the right to live with your ESA, regardless of your condo association’s rules. ESA laws always trump condo association laws.

Do You Qualify for an Emotional Support Animal in Florida?

Of course, the final answer to this question needs to come from a licensed mental health professional. However, you can see right now whether you meet the basic criteria for an ESA.

You might qualify for an ESA in Florida if you have one or more issues listed below:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • PTSD
  • Sleep issues
  • Learning difficulties
  • Phobias
  • Panic disorders
  • Personality disorders

Please note that this is not an extensive list; This is just an overview of the major conditions present in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. If you have one of these common issues and believe that an animal can give you comfort and help ease your symptoms, you might meet Florida emotional support animal letter requirements.


Americans With Disabilities Act

Emotional Support Animals are NOT Covered by the Americans With Disabilities Act

The most important thing to remember, which is true across the nation, is that the ADA - which covers trained service animals in public accommodations such as restaurants - does NOT cover emotional support animals. Service dogs and similarly trained animals have been specifically trained to perform certain acts for their owners, and said owners are usually physically unable to do specific tasks without them. As such, while housing and condominium associations may allow your ESA to live with you without being subject to pet policies, public areas are not legally obligated to allow you and your ESA inside.


The Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act DOES Cover Your Emotional Support Animal - To an Extent

The Fair Housing Act, which covers this in its scope, recently updated the requirements to issue an emotional support animal letter. A licensed mental health professional can only issue an ESA letter with "personal client knowledge" of their client's disability and active commitment to therapy or counseling. Essentially, you need to attend multiple sessions.

The Fair Housing Act also typically means that landlords and condo associations cannot charge your ESA's pet fees. They are not subject to the same rules. However, there are exceptions, and landlords can object on certain grounds. Be sure to review your condo association's rules and regulations before moving in.


The Air Carrier Access Act Covers Travel, With Stipulations

The ACAA is another federal regulation that allows both service animals and emotional support animals on flights. You'll need legal documentation, like your legitimate emotional support animal letter. Individual airlines may have their unique requirements, but your ESA letter, signed by a licensed mental health professional, is the most important thing.

You must also provide your valid letter to the airline at least 48 hours before your departure. This ensures they can get everything processed, and also assign you the proper seats. Most emotional support animals are allowed to sit in your lap for your flight duration, as long as they are on a leash.

 Airlines may also ask for:

  • Additional forms
  • Added doctor's note
  • A guarantee of behavior form
  • Veterinary documentation

Some airlines also have size limits due to the aircraft's capacity, so make sure you discuss it well in advance!

 Other Rules And Coverage You Should Know

  • ESAs are not required to be specially trained in Florida, which is why they are not considered the same as service dogs. However, some basic behavior training is never a bad idea! This is especially true in traveling situations, and can also help deal with condominium associations or homeowners associations. 
  • Misrepresenting pets as emotional support animals, service animals, and providing a fake document now qualifies as a misdemeanor crime in Florida, punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. Be sure to obtain your letter from legal sources, and only if you qualify.
  • Emotional support animals are not covered in workplace laws, so even a valid ESA letter may not be enough. However, employers may allow them in the workplace at their discretion. Talk to your HR department to see if they'll allow your emotional support animal in after you give them a copy of your ESA letter or a discussion with a mental health professional.

Avoid Scams!

So now that you know the rules and requirements, and you believe you may qualify for an emotional support animal letter, the tricky part is avoiding scam websites where you can buy an ESA letter without contacting a licensed mental health professional. Unfortunately, these sites are very common, and it may be challenging to determine a true mental health clinic from a phony certificate provider.


Contact Us to Start the Process!

The process may seem long and complicated, but it's ultimately for your protection. Now that you understand the regulations, rights, and requirements for emotional support animals, your next step is to reach out to us and schedule an appointment with one of our licensed professional.

FEES AND TERMS OF PAYMENT

Fees vary depending on the extent and type of evaluation. Typically, half of the testing fee is required prior to the first session, and the balance is due following the last session. You will be provided with a detailed invoice and/or will complete a commonly accepted insurance claim form upon request.
Test results are provided as a hard copy during the feedback session and belong to the individual that provides payment and consent. Clients/Parents may share, use or choose not to disclose information.. Fort Lauderdale Counseling and Assessment respects and supports your decision 100%