What types of evaluation and assessment tools are used for children suspected of having learning problems?

A major problem in the evaluation and/or assessment of children diagnosed with autism is the deficit areas, particularly that of language, that are targeted on most norm-referenced evaluations. Therefore, scores yielded as a result of standardized testing MUST BE interpreted with caution when determining cognitive and language skills, in particular, for children with autism.  There are other types of assessments that are often conducted, which fall into the category of criterion-referenced tests. The distinctions between these tools follow:

What is a norm-referenced test?

 This is a type of test that bases the outcomes on comparisons among the target population. Based on the standard bell curve, individuals receive percentile rankings which place him or her in a position relative to the other test takers within the specified population. A norm-referenced test provides information relative to others within that population, and usually assesses more general information. 

What is a criterion-referenced test?

This is a type of test that provides information related to whether or not the individual has learned the material. A criterion-referenced test allows the examiner to make statements about the specific behaviors of the individual being evaluated relative to specific subject matter.  A good example of a criterion-referenced test is an end of chapter review for American History, or a math test at the end of the unit.