6 ways kids might respond to an evaluation result

By Lexi Walters Wright

You may be familiar with the possible outcomes of an evaluation. But how might your child feel when you share the evaluation results? Here are some common emotional reactions kids have and helpful things you can say in response.

1. Confusion

In addition to not understanding the results, your child may be confused and worried about something else. How will this change things? Will your child have to leave the regular classroom? Will everyone know?

You can ease any concerns by explaining possible next steps. “You’ll probably start seeing a tutor after school. And instead of going to art class, you might go to a reading specialist. So you won’t be leaving in the middle of class.”

2. Anger or frustration

Your child may think it’s unfair to have challenges when other kids don’t. Kids may react by saying: “Why do I have to be the one who has this? I’ll never be as successful as everyone else.”

Feeling angry or frustrated is a normal response. You can help by acknowledging your child’s feelings: “I understand why you’re angry. But everyone has struggles sometimes. And we have a plan to make sure you get the help you deserve.” You can also explain the possible treatments or that may be in your child’s future.

3. Depression or apathy

Depending on how kids feel about themselves, they may take the results as “proof” that they aren’t smart. Or they may be shocked and have a different sense of who they are. Either way, the news can bring on a sense of helplessness. But taking action can often help.

Tell your child, “I know this feels really hard right now. But these results are really just a compass, giving us direction for ways to help you. We’ll do this together, little by little.” Also consider sharing lists of successful people with learning and thinking differences.

4. Denial

Kids typically don’t want to be “different” from their peers. So your child might react by saying, “They don’t even know me! I’m just having a little trouble.” It may feel uncomfortable or even threatening to have challenges pointed out.

You can help by saying, “This is really hard to hear. I understand that. But these results don’t change who you are: All they do are give us some information about how we can help you. And we’ll always include you in the discussions before we make decisions.”

5. Guilt

When kids learn they may need outside help, it can trigger feelings of guilt. Your child may be concerned about money (“But aren’t tutors really expensive?”) or how these needs might affect siblings (“Will you have to miss Ted’s game to take me?”).

You can reassure your child by saying, “We’re all in this together. There may be times when money is tighter, but we wouldn’t trade you — or change you — for the world. If your brother needed help, we’d do the same for him.”

6. Relief

For some kids, finding out they have learning or thinking differences can be a relief. Your child may say, “Finally! I knew something was different about me!” Evaluation results can confirm that these perceptions were accurate.

You can support your child’s insights by saying, “It’s a relief for us, too, because now we have information to help you.” Emphasize that the diagnosis, if your child has one, isn’t a “one size fits all” label, and that you’ll work with the support team in and out of school to get the services your child needs.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Lexi Walters Wright is the former Community Manager at Understood. As a writer and editor, she helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Donna Volpitta, EdD is the founder of Pathways to Empower. Her work draws on the latest research in neuroscience, psychology, and education.