By Lexi Walters Wright
You may be familiar with the possible outcomes of an evaluation. But how might your child feel when you share evaluation results with her? Here are some common emotional reactions kids have and helpful things you can say in response.
In addition to not understanding the results, your child may be confused and worried about something else. How will this change her life? Will she have to leave her regular class? Will everyone know?
You can ease her 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.”
Your child may think it’s unfair that she has challenges when other kids don’t. She 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 like a victim is a normal response. You can help by acknowledging her 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 accommodations that may be in her future.
Depending on how she feels about herself, your child may take the results as “proof” that she isn’t smart. Or she may be shocked and feel that she’s not the person she thought she was. 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 attention issues.
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 her 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.”
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 her needs might affect her siblings (“Will you have to miss Ted’s game to take me?”).
You can reassure her 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.”
For some kids, finding out they have learning or attention issues can be a relief. Your child may say, “Finally! I knew something was different about me!” Evaluation results can confirm that her perceptions were right all along.
You can support her insights by saying, “It’s a relief for us, too, because now we have information to help you.” Emphasize that her diagnosis, if she has one, isn’t a “one size fits all” label, and that you’ll work with her support team in and out of school to get the services she needs.
Developing a good relationship with your child’s teacher will make it easier for you to share concerns and work together to help your child succeed. Here are some tips for building a partnership.
At the end of an IEP meeting, you may be asked to sign a draft of the IEP. If you disagree with any part of the IEP, you don’t have to sign right away. Try these tips to make your case.
Lexi Walters Wright is a veteran writer and editor who helps parents make more informed choices for their children and for themselves.
Donna Volpitta, Ed.D., is coauthor of The Resilience Formula: A Guide to Proactive, Not Reactive, Parenting.
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