Teresa Hoffman, Psy.D., is a 2021 graduate of the Psy.D. Program in Clinical Psychology at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Committee:

  • Roger Peterson, PhD, Committee Chair
  • James Sparrell, PhD, Committee Member
  • Susan Hawes, PhD, Committee Member


psychoeducational assessment, student voice, specific learning disability, assessment as intervention, interpretative phenomenological analysis

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Emerging adults with specific learning disabilities (SLD) are interviewed to understand the student experience of the psychoeducational assessment process that is codified by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 2004 (IDEA). The assessment practice is well established to qualify students for special education and related services (SERS) to ensure every child in the United States has the opportunity for free and appropriate education. An overview of the general psychoeducational assessment practice and specific assessment for SLD is supplemented by the literature regarding best-practices for psychological assessment with children/adolescents to set the context for a process that is encountered triennially for students identified with disabilities. The aim was to address the gap of knowledge regarding the student’s experience of the psychoeducational assessment process through interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). The findings show that student experience evolves over time from confusion to an understanding that is largely sourced from experiential learning and supportive family members. Themes of experience include stigma; difficulty associated with the testing itself; positive and negative encounters with general education teachers; positive relationships with the special education team; lack of connection to the psychologist/assessor; and feeling powerless, overwhelmed, and inaccurately represented by the results. The conclusion of this study is that for some students, like those who participated in this study, the benefits outweigh the costs of psychoeducational assessment. In addition to obtaining the necessary accommodations and resources for academic success, the students are shaped by the process and develop important insights about themselves. Furthermore, while comparison with general education peers is often distressful, students find that relating to special education peers is beneficial. The implication of this research is the need to continue including student voices and attending to relationship building, improved communication, and increased collaboration during the psychoeducational assessment process.


Teresa Hoffman

ORCID Scholar ID# 0000–0001–7216–3405