My daughter is in third grade and is struggling in school. How can I know if her difficulties are serious enough to have her evaluated?
You’re not alone in wondering about this. Many families struggle with the same question. Unfortunately, there’s really no way to define “serious enough” when you’re talking about school struggles. But if you’re worried enough to ask the question, there’s probably a good reason to look into the evaluation process.
I wouldn’t say this if you were just curious about your child’s abilities. Evaluations take quite a bit of time and effort, and they can be stressful for some kids. And you might have concerns about getting your child extra help in school.
The first step is to discuss your concerns with the school or an adult you trust. That person might be your child’s health care provider or a friend who’s been through the process.
Here are some questions that can help to guide your decision:
1. What led you to ask this question now? Is it a reaction to something specific that happened recently? Did your child’s teacher suggest that you get an evaluation? Or has your child brought up concerns about school? Thinking about this ahead of time can help you describe your concerns to the school or to your child’s health care provider.
2. How long have you been concerned? Have you been worried for a while, or are your concerns very new? All kids struggle in school from time to time. Sometimes those difficulties don’t last more than a month or two. Extra help and support from a teacher or parent can get things back on track.
Sometimes, though, kids keep struggling long beyond that. If that happens, an evaluation could be a good next step.
3. How are your child’s challenges getting in the way at school? Be specific when answering this question for yourself. Is your child struggling with a certain subject, like reading or math? Is your child struggling socially or having trouble concentrating in class?
4. Are the challenges affecting your child outside of school? Have you noticed the same kinds of difficulties at home, too? Have you heard about the same kinds of challenges from multiple teachers? Or maybe your child struggles in the same areas from year to year, even with different teachers.
These questions can help you think about whether to request an evaluation. No matter what you decide, just by asking about the possibility of an evaluation, you’re already being a good advocate for your child.
Learn about what can cause trouble with reading, writing, math, and focus. And find out what questions to ask teachers if your child is struggling in school.
About the author
About the author
Bob Cunningham, EdM has been part of Understood since its founding. He’s also been the chief administrator for several independent schools and a school leader in general and special education.