Once you’ve decided to get your child evaluated, it’s important to talk to her about the process. You don’t want her to be anxious or confused when someone shows up at class to take her for the testing. Here are ideas to get the conversation rolling, depending on how old your child is.
Discuss what’s fun and what’s hard at school. Start out by talking about what your child enjoys. Then ease into the question: “What’s hardest about school?” It doesn’t matter if your child identifies the issues you’re most concerned about. She can mention anything that’s challenging. The point is to let her know that the evaluation will help you and her teacher find ways to help.
Explain the process. Point out that the evaluation isn’t really a test but a series of activities. You can also tell her that some of them will be fun. Make it clear to your child that she won’t get a grade and can’t possibly fail—even if she doesn’t know the answers to some of the questions or how to do an activity. But also encourage her to try hard because the evaluation will help everyone understand how she learns best.
Talk about the team. You can tell your child that the “school has a great teacher whose job is to help the other teachers understand how they can teach you best. She works with a few other people at school, and you might get to see them too.” Let your child know that she may be pulled out of class and that it’s OK with her regular teacher.
If your grade-schooler is concerned about being pulled out of class—or has other concerns related to getting evaluated—here are ways you can respond.
Middle-Schoolers or High-Schoolers
Older kids are usually aware of their learning and attention issues and why they’re being evaluated. They also probably know that the process could end with them getting special education services. It’s important to address any concerns your child has about what might happen. Here are some things you can say:
- Your child, you and the teachers will get information that will help you all understand why she’s struggling in school.
- The school may provide the support and services that can help her succeed at school. Those could include different kinds of instruction, changes to her work or accommodations like extra time for tests.
- The school will know if your child should be working with other teachers or specialists who are trained to help kids with her type of weaknesses.
Try to remember that the goal of your talks is to make your child feel comfortable about an evaluation. She should understand that this is the best way for you and her teacher to come up with a plan that will give her the help she needs. You and your child may also need to talk through her concerns about having learning and attention issues. If you have that conversation, here are some pointers.