Eleanor Bubb

Educational psychologists play an important role in the assessment for personal injury when, in particular, the individual concerned:

  • is of preschool age;
  • is of school-going age;
  • is of post school-going age, in some form of further education or training at time of injury;
  • was still at school at the time of the injury and has since left school;
  • was in tertiary education at time of injury or was going to continue to tertiary education if the accident had not occurred;
  • is an adult at the time of injury, has resulted in their changing careers or missing out on previous employment opportunities.

In cases like these educational psychologists are often asked to determine the individual’s educational needs after such a personal injury, e.g. if the nature of the injury requires a realignment between the individuals’ post-injury ability and their intended educational and/or career goals. These scenarios are often encountered when a child or adult has sustained a traumatic brain injury.

Assessments may also be requested following a number of other events (including personal traumas and the like) that may impact on schooling and/or the successful attainment of training objectives. In this regard it is relevant for the psychologist to understand the inherent potential pre-and post the injury so as to appropriately intervene in the development a suitable plan educational/career alternative. A few examples of significant life events include PTSD, brachial plexus injury, orthopaedic injuries and so forth.

Educational psychologists who assess children affected by brain injury should have a clear understanding of and/or training in child neuropsychology. This is important because of the subtle nuances of test interpretation and long-term prognosis following these types of injuries. Certainly, one needs to acknowledge the difference between assessing a child for a developmental learning disability or determining the level of cognitive functioning post a traumatic brain injury. Consequently, all psychologists should understand these differences, be able to explain them, and use their test results as well as findings from other multi-disciplinary team members to indicate how the injury will influence the long-term educational outcome of the client.

Educational psychologists direct their findings towards the following:

  • Describe the individual’s cognitive and educational potential at the time of testing
  • Ascertain how the accident under discussion may have influenced these functions.
  • Establish the schooling or educational placement best suited for the individual.
  • Determine the possible level of education the individual may attain.
  • Discuss pre-accident levels of educational potential.
  • Discuss pre-accident cognitive potential.

To be able to discuss the above factors the educational psychologist needs to purposefully select an appropriate assessment battery to test his/her hypotheses.

Examples of information sources may include:

  • A full history as per the intake interview
  • A complete IQ test with the scatter analysis of scale scores to determine relative strengths and weaknesses
  • A scholastic evaluation
  • Further evaluation may include assessments to determine functioning in the following domains:
  • sensory motor
  • visuospatial, visuoperceptual, visuo-constructional
  • attention
  • executive functioning
  • processing skills
  • language development
  • reasoning
  • emotional and personality assessment
  • malingering

The educational psychologist may also obtain collateral information on the individual’s functioning which may include:

  • Analysis of schoolbooks, both pre- and post-accident.
  • Analysis of school reports, both pre- and post-accident.
  • Any assessments done at school or by other experts, both pre- and post-accident, which will provide information pertaining to the child’s educational progress and intellectual functioning. Examples here are occupational and/or speech therapy assessments; school readiness assessments; group tests taken at school, educational psychology assessments.
  • Interviews with teachers, both pre- and post-accident, if the child is or was of school- going age.
  • Medical history documentation.

In the end an overview of both pre- and post-accident probable educational achievement levels may assist the psychologist to develop the most appropriate intervention strategy to overcome the difficulties encountered.


Bubb, E. (2016). Personal injury claims. In V Roos, J.G. Scholtz and C Wessels (Eds). An Introduction to Forensic Psychology (Chapter 6, pp. 111 –  153).  Wierda Park South, South Africa: Verbum Publishers https://www.vanschaik.com/book/561dee7cc3ca1/

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