We have had a number of parents contact us with questions regarding psycho-educational testing for their children. Medical doctors or teachers may be recommending this for your child, and as a parent you may be caught in one of three binds:
- You are new to the process, you want to understand what is happening to your child and you want to get your child the help they need ASAP.
- You have tried to get your child tested, but your child's school is resisting and you have been trying for months or even years - in the last few months we have met 14 parents who have been trying for over a year.
- You got the testing you requested, the report has many recommendations and you are still trying to figure out how to help your child.
Last week, Mark sat in a meeting with a private school principal and her staff - the guidance counselor was recommending that they request that 32 parents have their children assessed, and the principal asked Mark if he had any questions.
"Just one", Mark commented, "once you get back the reports, will you do anything differently?"
The answer was stone silence. Mark added that at $2,500 per student, the total cost would be $80,000 for these tests.
The Role of Testing/Assessing
We see assessments as playing two roles:
1- Public schools have historically used assessments to determine if your child qualifies for special education funding and programs - this may be changing as states move towards a Response to Intervention process - which requires multiple interventions be tested,and if your child needs more help they can qualify for special education. For most children with learning difficulties special education services can help, and we have four suggestions:
a. Un-timed tests and key tests be taken in a smaller, less distracting setting.
b. Special programs can be helpful - while some parents and students do not like the special education label - we have found it is very beneficial to the student and their progress.
c. The goal of inclusion into regular classes is right in many cases. For the students with the most potential, they will be successful in more advanced classes - once they master reading comprehension. They can often do best in a more challenging environment if they are taught to their strengths! Also, their fellow students are more attentive and less distracting.
d. Federal laws require the student to be assessed within 60 days of receiving a formal request for a student to be evaluated by a child study team. - Unfortunately the law gives States the right to have different standards. Florida allows the schools 60 school days, and this can take much longer, especially if the summer months are involved - our recommendations in public schools are to:
i. Write a formal letter to the school requesting a "Child Study team be formed as soon as possible to evaluate my child"
ii. You check with your school district or state department of education on the requirements
iii. You check back with the person you submitted the request to within 2 weeks to make sure every thing is on track.
iv. Check back regularly.
For private school students, you can to do the same thing through your local public school, but the benefits are less. - You may be able to get speech or related services through your public school, but otherwise the testing may be of limited value. Private schools are under no obligation to do anything special. We have found that overall these schools have been open to help--they just need some suggestions. That is a wonderful opening for dialog! They really don't want to lose you!
2- Assessments can also play a role in helping parents, teachers and administrators know how to help the child. The key factors we find in helping the child are to understand how they learn best; what their learning strengths and challenges are; and whether there are underlying attention, auditory and/or vision issues. From our experience, students with learning challenges:
a. Often learn best when they see and experience information. Have assignments modeled for them.
b. Have visual perception issues - they may skip words or lines when reading, reverse numbers or letters and/or have difficulty copying off the board or overhead projector.
c. Often have attention issues - it is important to realize these students can often hyper-focus on that which is interesting and have difficulty paying attention to that which is not engaging.
d. Often develop anxiety and/or self-esteem issues. Learning how to de-stress is essential.
e. Do best when all these issues are assessed and addressed, with an integrated approach, where appropriate.
While we see many students with:
-- Learning and attention issues and some with
-- Learning and vision issues.
-- Half of our students have learning, attention and vision issues and many have anxiety challenges, too!!!!
Whether you are new to the process, in the middle of the process or completed it and still frustrated, we recommend:
- Working with your child's school and making sure your request for a child study team is completed in writing. Continue to check that the process is on track.
- Work as partners with the special education team and your child's teachers - too often these meetings result in a tense relationshipand that does not lead to positive progress.
- Have both parents attend the meeting. Bring an advocate or professional where necessary - and be sure they are collaborative in nature. You want everyone to be working FOR your child.
- If your child is a 4th grader or above-- be sure s/he attends. This is a safe place for your child to voice his/her concerns and if you are asking for support your child has to be the one that buys into it.
In our March Newsletter we will have an article on maximizing the results from the Child Study Process
If you have ANY questions about this process, please contact us and we will do our best to help.
In terms of getting a private assessment, we recommend using professionals who understand the complexities of learning differences, visual perception challenges and attention issues-- but most of all-- relates to your child. Just because your friend's child liked that professional does not necessarily mean your child will do as well. Set up a meeting before the actual testing takes place to be sure there is a personal rapport there. The results of these assessments are too important.
To start with a better foundation, we have developed an On-Line Assessment, you can view for Free at On-Line Assessment
For a $57 investment you can do the assessment with your child and get a 30 minute debrief.
As one mom said: "I learned more from this assessment then I did from a $2500 evaluation".
For a Free Look go to On-Line Assessment