Essentials of Processing Assessment

A Cross-Battery Approach to
Assessment of Psychological
Processing Disorders
Milton J. Dehn, Ed.D.
Winter 2011
Schoolhouse Educational Services
[email protected]
Copyright Notice; Copyright, 2010
The content of this PowerPoint presentation
and accompanying handouts is
copyrighted by Schoolhouse Educational
Services, LLC and Milton J. Dehn. It is not
to be reprinted, copied, or electronically
disseminated without permission. To
obtain permission, contact Milton J. Dehn
at [email protected]
Workshop Topics
Processing overview and MN’s criteria
Processing and learning
Organizing a processing assessment
Cross-battery testing and analysis
Interpreting results
Determining eligibility
Evidence-based interventions overview
What is psychological
1. Brain’s processes, operations, functions
2. Any time mental contents are operated on
3. When information is perceived, transformed,
manipulated, stored, retrieved, expressed
4. Whenever we think, reason, problem-solve
5. Can’t learn and perform without processing
6. Doesn’t include knowledge base, skills, or
what is stored in long-term memory
7. Topic limited academic learning processes
Problems with Past Processing
Not enough known about processing
Not sure how to test processing
Assessment too informal (grad. example)
Over emphasis on low level processes
Memory seldom assessed
Some ineffective interventions
Now Is the Time
1. Better understanding of psych processes and
their relations with specific academics
2. Neuroscience and neuropsychological
evidence on brain and learning
3. Neuropsychological influence on assessment
4. Research on processing, memory, academics
5. More assessment of memory
6. New research on interventions
7. Better assessment options
Why Processing Assessment is a
Good Idea
1. Process. deficits underlie (“cause”) SLD
2. Identifying a processing deficit
differentiates SLD & slow learning
3. Understanding of the learner
4. Interventions for the processing deficits
5. Identifying processing deficits provides
direction for academic interventions
6. Assessment benefits the learner
Processing and RTI
1. RTI purists are not current; too behavioral
2. Processing model consistent with problemsolving and early intervention
3. Evidence-based processing interventions
4. Why do “blind” general academic interventions
5. Different causes of disabilities
6. Processing and academics are compatible
7. Which academic interventions succeed?
1. Those that address processing problems
“Resistance” to Intervention
• Successful achievement depends on adequate
psychological processes
• Process deficits impede learning
• A processing deficit can cause an academic
intervention to fail---example
– When severe; When not addressed
– When intervention options limited
• Processing testing can determine whether
failure to respond to RTI is due to a processing
deficit, adding more support for LD placement
Processes and IQ
1. Processes underlie intelligence
2. Processing versus content (e.g. verbal)
3. Global IQ versus specific processes
4. Processing problems can pull down IQ
IQ-Achievement Discrepancy
Model and Processing
Discrepancy model misses some SLD
Deficient processing “pulls down” IQ
Poor achievement “pulls down” IQ
With processing, use a consistency
approach, not a discrepancy approach
– Low process + low academic skill = SLD
– NOT high process + low academic skill
Psychological Processing Model
1. Cognitive psychology theory of learning
2. Input – output memory model of
processing Link
3. More parallel, complex, and integrated
than can be represented
4. Neuroscience supports model: these are
brain-based processes
5. Memory functioning is the core
Psychological Processing,
General Characteristics
There’s a flow of information
Mostly automated
Parallel, complex, and integrated
Executive functions exert control;
affected by effortful, conscious control
• Some input is internal from memory
• Neuroscience supports cognitive model
What the Brain Needs for Learning
• Attention
• Organized information
to input
• Both visual and
• Metacognition and
• Repetition
• Sleep, glucose,
Brain Lobes and Processes
• Frontal Lobes: Attention, Exec. Functions,
Fluid Reasoning, Working Memory
• Temporal Lobes: Long-Term Memory,
Auditory, Short-Term Memory
• Parietal Lobes: Fine motor, Working
Memory, Auditory, Phonological,
• Occipital Lobes: Visual
• The Hippocampus, absolutely essential for
MN SLD Definition
“Specific learning disability means a disorder
in one or more of the basic psychological
processes involved in understanding or
in using language, spoken or written, that
may manifest itself in the imperfect ability
to listen, speak, read, write, spell, or do
mathematical calculations, including
conditions such as perceptual
disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain
dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental
MN Processing Criteria
“The child has a disorder in one or more of
the basic psychological processes which
includes an information processing
condition that is manifested in a variety of
settings by behaviors such as inadequate
…. (next slide)
MN Processing Criteria
….acquisition of information; organization;
planning and sequencing; working
memory, including verbal, visual, or
spatial; visual and auditory processing;
speed of processing; verbal and nonverbal
expression; transfer of information; and
motor control for written tasks.”
(list is not exhaustive; essentially covers
all major aspects of information
See Handout
Minnesota SLD Criteria
• A basic psychological processing deficit
must be documented across multiple
settings using a variety of sources under
the IQ severe discrepancy option or the
inadequate rate of progress (RTI) option
• Two prior interventions required
• Observation required
Dehn’s Recommended Processes
for SLD Assessment
1. Attention
2. Auditory Processing
3. Executive Functions
4. Fine motor Control
5. Fluid Reasoning
6. Language Processes
7. Long-Term Memory Recall
8. Phonological Processing
9. Processing Speed
10. Visual-Spatial Processing
11. Working Memory
(See Handout)
Frontal lobes
Cognitive levels of attention; not arousal
Types: Selective, focused, divided, sustained
Necessary for acquisition
The problem is attentional control
Lack of inhibition
Under executive control
Interest of material is a factor
Attention weakness often part of SLD
Learning: A necessary prerequisite for all learning and
Auditory Processing
• Ability to perceive, analyze, synthesize,
and discriminate auditory stimuli, e.g.
• Phonological processing may be a
• Learning: Perceiving and comprehending
instruction; being able to understand
words with background noise
Executive Functions
• More to do with performance than skills
• Involves management of cognitive functions and
psychological processes and also skills
• Complex; difficult to assess as a whole
• Includes planning (easiest to assess)
• Organization depends on executive functions
• Effectiveness depends on self-monitoring, selfregulation, and metacognition
• Related to use of learning strategies
• Learning: Knowing how much you need to study
Executive Control Processes
• Self awareness (metacognition)
– Awareness of strengths and weaknesses
– Awareness of the task requirements
– Awareness of which strategies work
• Self regulation (metacognition)
– Monitoring; evaluating; planning
– Detecting errors, problems
– Deciding which strategy to use
– Fixing the problem
Fine Motor Control
• Is it perceptual or motor?
• Seems related to attention
• Does it interfere with learning or just
written performance?
• Interventions for it do not improve learning
but may improve performance
• Learning: Be able to copy letters
Fluid Reasoning
• A higher level process (close to IQ)
• Inductive and deductive reasoning
• Learning: problem-solving, math
reasoning, comprehension
Language Processes
• Not the content (vocabulary) or the written
output but the oral processes
• May acquire knowledge but have difficulty
expressing it
• Retrieval may be part of the problem
• Learning: Oral expression of thoughts,
Long-Term Memory
• Not specifically part of MN criteria but
important part of info. processing &
• Some students learn well initially but can’t
retain; others learn poorly but retain well
• Difficult to measure
– Not known what has been learned
– Intervals in tests not long enough
• Deficits due to hippocampal damage
Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN)
• Naming facility for commonly known
• Highly predictive of early reading
• May be associated with slow long-term
retrieval speed or slow processing speed
Phonological Processing
• Processing of phonemes, e.g. blending
• Phonemic awareness is part of
• Related to language and literacy
• Related to phonological short-term
• Learning: Recognizing rhyming words,
segmenting words into phonemes
Processing Speed
• How quickly information flows through the
processing system; a matter of efficiency
• Too slow: info. lost, process not completed
• Speed increases significantly until adolescence
– Adolescents 2x faster than 8 year olds, 3x than 4
• Related to retrieval speed, RAN
• Learning: Rapidly computing and retrieving the
answer to simple math calculation, reading
• Case example
Visual-Spatial Processing
• Ability to perceive, analyze, synthesize,
manipulate & think with visual patterns
• A strength in most LD cases
• Visual and spatial can be differentiated
• Not that correlated with academic learning
in general
• Orthographic is stronger
• Learning: Distinguishing between shapes
Orthographic Processing
• A subtype of visual processing
• Has to do with processing of letters,
symbols, and words
• Should be assessed
– For example, PALS
Working Memory
• Includes short-term memory
• Processing while retaining information
• Four units of information at a time
• Very important for learning & performance
• About half of LD students have a deficit
• Involves executive functions
• Needed for language development (ESL?)
See monkey video
Working Memory
Includes auditory and visual processing
Includes sequencing
Related with processing speed
Is the interface between input and storage
Some information in working memory is
retrieved from long term memory
• The most common processing weakness
• Automaticity increases capacity
Types of Working Memory
• Verbal
• Visuospatial
• Executive
• Episodic
Activated long-term memory items
Learning: Being able to take notes while
Long-Term Memory Systems
• Episodic: memory for events,
autobiographical, context, details
– Learning is initially episodic, then semantic
• Semantic: facts, knowledge, vocabulary
– Abstracted from episodes
• When tested, divided into visual and
verbal (both episodic during standardized
memory testing)
• Implicit: unconscious, includes procedural
Long-Term Memory Processes
Retrieval---most directly measureable
Learning: Knows a fact but can’t recall
when needed without prompting
• Fast at first, then slows down
• 50% forgotten within 24 hours
• Some retain well within 30 minutes or 1st
day but then have very poor retention
• Is it lost, or not retrievable at moment?
• Interference: proactive and retroactive
• Recognition versus free recall
Often ignored
Evidence from TBI and amnesia
Takes time
Unconscious mostly
Movement from medial temporal
lobe/hippocampus to cortical areas
6. Episodic to semantic
7. Much of it occurs during sleep
Strategy or Processing Deficit
1. Effective strategies enhance processing
2. LD students are deficient in use of
3. Difficult to assess and differentiate
4. Learning and using strategies requires
more processing until they become
automated (WM Catch 22)
5. LD due more to processing deficits than
lack of strategies
Development of Processes
• Early gradual development followed by
long-term plateau: auditory processing,
visual processing, long-term memory
• Rapid early development followed by
gradual decline after age 25: processing
speed, short-term memory
• Basic functions develop earlier; higher
level, such as executive (frontal lobes),
Processing the Workshop Info.
• Explain to a parent what psychological
processing is, in general
• Then explain one of the 10 processes to a
Processes and Academic
• See Chart
• Relationships established through
• During assessment look at processes
related to area of academic concern
• Discuss these evidence-based links in
your reports to justify placement
Highest Influence of Processes on
Academics by Grade
• Early elementary: Phonological, visual,
auditory, rapid automatic naming, STM,
sequencing, fine motor control
• Late elementary and beyond: Executive,
working memory, long-term memory,
• All grades: Processing speed, attention,
verbal expression
SLD by Processing Subtypes
• Visual-Spatial Deficits: Math calculation
and math problem solving
• Processing Speed Deficits: Reading
comprehension, written expression
• Working Memory Deficit: Math calculation,
Written expression
• Attention: Written expression
• Source: Hain, Hale, Kendorski
WISC-IV Profile for Reading
Disabled Sample
Perceptual Reasoning
Processing Speed
Verbal Comprehension
Working Memory
WISC-IV Profile for Math
Disabled Sample
Verbal Comprehension
Working Memory
Processing Speed
Perceptual Reasoning
What is a Processing Disorder?
 Disorder---a group of symptoms involving
abnormal behaviors or a disruption in
physiological functioning
 Not many official processing disorders
 E.g. CAPD, aphasia, amnesia, dyspraxia
 A disorder involves deficits
 Deficit---a lack or shortage of something
• Weakness---lacking normal ability
Evidence of a Processing Deficit
• It’s not specific to one environment
• Both an intra-individual weakness and a
normative weakness (deficit per Dehn)
• A normative weakness is a score below 90
• Intra-individual: score is 12 or more points lower
than IQ or mean of assessed processes
• A low score in a process is not necessarily a
deficit indicative of LD, unless it’s also an intraindividual weakness
– E.g., very low IQ have inherent processing problems
Deficits Indicate Disabilities
Deficits (double weakness) are rare
They have an underlying neurological basis
They impair learning
Students with below average IQ are less likely
to have
5. Deficits more predictive of need for LD than an
ipsative weakness alone.
6. Below average processing (normative
weakness) is still a processing weakness that
impacts learning and benefits from intervention
When Does a Processing Deficit
Support an SLD Diagnosis?
• When it’s a double weakness deficit
• When the process is one that is related to
the academic skill deficiency
• When a process is significantly higher than
related academics, it’s not SLD but some
other cause of poor skills (example)
• When both the academic skill and process
are similarly low (consistency approach)
Consistency Approach
• With processing, use a consistency
approach, not a discrepancy approach
– Low process + low academic skill = SLD
– NOT high process + low academic skill
Normative Weaknesses Only
• Normative weaknesses that are not also
ipsative deficits may still be indicative of
processing deficits that are impeding
academic learning and causing a learning
disability, as long as there is a pattern of
strengths and weaknesses
• Normative weaknesses that are not
ipsative weaknesses should targeted for
Discussion: Processing the
Workshop Information
1. How would you explain to a parent what
psychological processes have to do with
1. For example, what is working memory and
why is it important for learning
2. Pick 2 or 3 processes that you consider
the most important for academic
learning, in general, and explain why
Processing Assessment
Connecting to academic concerns
Interrelated processes
Informal methods lack validity
Not found in one convenient battery
Doing it efficiently
Having enough expertise
Connecting with interventions
Records Review
1. Any medical or health conditions
2. Developmental delays
3. Look for indications of same behaviors that
could be observed
1. Difficulty memorizing arithmetic facts could be a
working memory deficit
2. Difficulty blending could be phonological proc.
3. Low fluency could be processing speed problem
1. From middle school up, do interviews
1. E.g., “Do you often forget what was just
2. Teachers: Ask about observable
behaviors, then ask their hypothess
3. With parents, use home environment
1. “Does your child have difficulty rhyming?”
See examples
1. Some processes more observable than
others, e.g. memory is more observable
2. There’s no one-to-one correspondence
between a behavior and a process
3. Each behavior depends on multiple
processes; try to narrow it down
1. E.g., poor organization could be due several
(organization is not a specific brain process)
See examples
Observations of Working
Abandonment of activity
Reserved in group activities
Short attention spans
Poor monitoring of work quality
Loses place in complicated tasks
Examples of evidence-based behaviors
associated with WM deficiencies Link
• See also LTM observations
Observations During Testing
• Corroborates scores
• Examples:
– Speed
– Retrieval
– Needing directions repeated
– Attention
– Fine motor
Cross-Battery Method
1. Administer specific subtests/factors only
2. Mix tests/batteries to cover all the
processes (at least those of concern)
1. Limit to 2 or 3 batteries
2. Should be normed about the same time
3. Avoid redundancies
4. Ideally, 2 subtests per process
5. Analyze results together by computing a
cross-battery mean
Cross-Battery Criticisms
1. Only some subtests are administered
2. Tests may have been normed at different
3. Different subtests with same names
measure different tasks & vice versa
4. There are no norms for the cross-battery
5. It relies mainly on subtest analysis
Dehn’s Approach to Cross
Battery versus Flanagan’s
1. Not limited to CHC factors
1. CHC factors are too broad; some processes
need to be differentiated, e.g., phonological
from auditory and visuospatial short-term
memory from visuospatial
2. Not Quantitative reasoning, and crystallized
2. Analyze scores at the factor (twosubtest) level whenever possible
3. Use a hand computation analysis sheet
4. A more neuropsychological approach
Hypothesis Testing Approach
1. Collect preliminary data
1. Records review, observation, interview
2. Identify referral concerns
3. Generate processing hypotheses
(suspected processing problems)
4. Select batteries/tests/subtests
1. Cover all hypotheses
2. Avoid redundancies
Selective Testing
1. Not necessary to administer entire
2. Focus most on hypothesized deficits
3. Know the factors/subtests that measure
4. Apply a cross-battery approach
5. See selective testing table for cog. &
Completing the Processing
Assessment Planner
1. Enter academic learning referral concerns
2. Look at Table 1: Processes and learning
3. Enter hypothesized, suspected processes
4. Select assessment method
5. Look at selective testing tables
6. Select battery
7. Select specific subtest or factor
Case Study: Hannah
• Concerns:
– Struggles in math, reading comprehension,
and written expression
– Does poorly on classroom exams
– Difficulty learning new concepts
• Background: adopted; slow speech dev.;
retained in K; learning problems since K
• Strengths: Oral expression, vocabulary
• Completed Planner Example
Cross-Battery Analysis of Scores
1. See Processing Analysis Worksheet
2. Get factor scores from test manual when
3. Exclude non-processing factors and subtests
4. Compute clinical factor scores by averaging
1. First convert scaled scores to 100/15 metric
Compute processing mean or use IQ
Calculate difference scores
Determine weaknesses and deficits
Do pairwise comparisons
Examples of Logical Processing
Visual vs auditory
Phonological vs STM
Attention vs Executive
Auditory vs verbal expression
Verbal expression vs fine motor control
Case Study Hannah’s Results
Full Scale IQ = 89
Basic Reading Skills = 95
Reading Comprehension = 81
Mathematics Reasoning = 82
Case Study: Hannah
(finish example)
Identify normative weaknesses/strengths
Identify ipsative weaknesses/strengths
Identify deficits and assets
Which processing hypotheses are
supported and which are not?
1. Look back at planning sheet
Case Study: Hannah
1. Use Hannah’s data
2. What are her processing deficits?
3. Do they link with her learning and
achievement problems?
4. Does her processing profile explain her
academic learning problems?
5. Does she qualify for the processing
component of LD?
6. Does she qualify for LD overall?
Assessing Processing with
• Processes assessed by Wechslers
– Processing speed
– Visual processing---compute clinical factor
– Working memory (not WPPSI-III)
• Need to supplement with other scales
• Processing interpretation will be based on
processing factors only; exclude Verbal
Comprehension Index
Wechsler GAI Score
• General Ability Index
• A traditional measure of IQ based on 6
core subtests
• Recommended for IQ-Ach discrepancy
when processing speed or working
memory are pulling down FSIQ
• However, do not use for determining
processing strengths and weaknesses
WISC-IV Integrated
16 additional process subtests
Requires regular WISC-IV administration
Based on Kaplan neuropsych approach
To parse out the cognitive processes that
underlie subtest performance
5. Select subtests based on hypotheses
6. Emphasizes subtest and intrasubtest
WISC-IV Integrated
• Best for in-depth working memory testing
• Processes measured by process subtests:
– Visual processing
– Planning/executive processing
– Long-term retrieval
– Short-term memory (registration)
– Working memory (manipulation)
• Visual
• Auditory
WISC-IV Integrated Interpretation
1. Compute clinical factor scores
Short-Term Memory
Visual Short-Term Memory
Auditory Short-Term Memory
Working Memory
Visual Working Memory
Auditory Working Memory
2. Use processing analysis worksheet
• Ideal: measures several processes Link
• Works well as CB supplement to other
• Has at least 2 subtests for most processes
• Processing analysis worksheet needed
• Co-normed with WJ III achievement
WJ III COG Interpretation Options
1. Use Compuscore Intra-Cog. Discrepancy
1. Use 1 SD as ipsative significance indicator
2. Use Predicted Achievement/Achievement
1. Predicted achievement is based on the processes
that are most related to the skill
2. The process scores are weighted
3. Look for consistency or even lower achievement
3. Use processing analysis worksheet if other
1. Omit Comprehension-Knowledge
Assessing Memory
• Should be a priority with LD referrals
• Intellectual/cognitive scales not enough
• Many different types of long-term memory
– Semantic is primary for academic learning
Authors: Adams and Sheslow
Published by Wide Range, 2003
Ages 5-90
Has a new Working Memory Composite
In 1990, WRAML was 1st well normed test
battery for memory assessment in children
• Normed on sample of 1200
• Assess memory subcomponents
WRAML-2 Composites
General Memory
Verbal Memory
Visual Memory
Working Memory
Verbal Recognition
Visual Recognition
General Recognition
• Neuropsychological test (SPs with
• 2007, Pearson
• Authors: Korkman, Kirk, and Kemp
• Ages 3-16:11
• 34 subtests across 6 domains
• Based on Lurian tradition of looking for
subcomponents that may underlie
impairment of system
NEPSY-II Processes in 6 Domains
Attention and executive functioning
Memory and learning
Social perception
Visuospatial processing
Testing Processes with
Achievement Tests
• WJ III Achievement
• Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive
• Parent, Teacher, and Student Forms
• Ages 5-18; 86 items
• Normed in the state of Maryland only
• Has a global executive composite score
• Two Indexes: Behavioral Regulation and
The Brief’s Scales
Emotional Control
Working Memory (weak scale)
Organization of Materials
Children’s Psychological Processes
Scale (Dehn)
• Available fall of 2011
• Scaled score for each of the 11 processes
discussed today
• Teacher rating scale, about 130 items
• Entirely online, except manual
• Will provide documentation of patterns of
strengths and weaknesses
• More MN subjects needed
Other Tests
• Includes rating scales, self-report scales,
specialized process tests, etc.
• Learning Efficiency Tests (LET-II):
• See List
General Interpretative Guidelines
for Processing Assessment
1. A deviation from a reference point
1. IQ
2. Cross-Battery mean
3. Related pairing (not best evidence of deficit)
2. Normative versus ipsative
1. With both, impairments more likely
3. Qualitative information
4. Corroborating information
Interpretative Guidelines
5. Go beyond test labels; reclassify
6. Consider disability profiles
7. Link to achievement deficit
8. Consider influence of related processes
9. Consider strategy deficiencies
10. Okay to focus on subtests/subprocesses
11. Consider interventions
12. Consider other causes
The Influence of Other Factors on
Process Test Performance
• Poor processing performance maybe due
to lack of strategy development
• May be due to lack of exposure and
opportunities, e.g. phonemic awareness
lower in lower SES
• Temporary medical conditions, e.g.
• Brain process may be deteriorating
Report Writing
1. Do not report on a test-by-test basis;
rather process by process
1. Integrate data from other sources
2. Explain how the processing results were
analyzed, including processing mean
3. Distinguish between normative and
ipsative weaknesses
4. Define each process See Example
Case Study: “Jacob”
Age 13; 7th grade
Foster care; special ed placement
3 months premature; failure to thrive
Early elementary IQ of 70; recent IQ of 95
ADHD diagnosis; poor organization
Social skills problems
Difficulty completing homework
Moderately high test anxiety
Case Study Continued
Likes to read
Struggles with Math and Written Lang.
Reading Composite – 106
Math Composite – 88
Wr. Lang. Composite – 73
Oral Lang Composite - 87
List your processing hypotheses to account for
low achievement and background factors
Case Study Continued
Finish Jacob’s Proc. Analysis Worksheet
What are his processing deficits?
What are his processing strengths?
Do his processing deficits link to his low
achievement areas?
• Does his processing profile explain his learning
• Does he qualify for SLD in processing?
• What else should be tested?
Determining Psych. Processing
Deficits for MN’s SLD Criteria
Use Jacob’s data
See MN worksheet; go through steps
What are his processing deficits?
Do they link with his learning and
achievement problems?
5. Complete other steps.
Case Study Continued
• Discuss how you will explain to Jacob’s
parents and teachers how his processing
deficits are impacting his academic
• What strengths does Jacob have that
might be utilized during interventions?
• Which processing areas are most in need
of intervention?
Conclusions About Processing
• It can be done well but there are
• Professional judgment is necessary
• Selective, cross-battery testing necessary
• Test the processes associated with the
academic deficiency
• Use the consistency approach
• Explain the link
Should be brain-based; change the brain
Strengthen weakness when possible
Teach strategies
Some are content specific
Some are similar to study skills
Metacognitive aspect is important
Can be part of effective instru
Group Discussion
1. Which assessment procedures do you
plan to use?
2. What recommendations do you plan to
take back to your district for processing
3. How do you view the processing
assessment-intervention link?

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