Deciding on evaluation

Are My Child’s Struggles Serious Enough for an Evaluation?

By Whitney Hollins

I’m worried about my daughter’s struggles in school. But how do I know if they’re serious enough to ask for an evaluation?

Whitney Hollins

Adjunct Instructor, Hunter College

You’re not alone in wondering about this. Many parents struggle with the same question. Unfortunately, there’s no exact answer. But there are a few things to consider that can help you decide whether to get your child evaluated.

Is your child struggling with schoolwork? Think about whether she can complete her homework independently. Homework is meant to be a review of skills taught in the classroom. If your child can’t do her homework without a lot of help from you, she may not understand what’s being taught at school.

Is your child’s teacher concerned? Think about parent-teacher conferences and other conversations you’ve had with her teacher or other members of the school staff. Have they mentioned any issues in the classroom? If the teacher feels that your child is falling behind, you may want to consider an evaluation.

Does your child complain about school? Think about how your child has been reacting to school lately. Does she often claim to be sick so she can’t go to school? Does she say things like “This class is too hard” or “I don’t get it”? Look at her face when she’s working. Does she seem frustrated or zoned out? If your child is trying to do the work, but is still struggling, it may be time for an evaluation.

Did the school request an evaluation for your child? Sometimes schools notice kids struggling before their parents do. Did you get a note from the school asking for your permission to have your child evaluated? If so, contact the school and ask for more details on why the staff thinks your child needs an evaluation.

After you consider these things, you may want to talk to the teacher again. She should be able to tell you what type of interventions are being used in the classroom to help your child be successful. Ask for details on your child’s skill level and how it compares to the work typical of her grade level. This can give you a better sense of the severity of the problem.

If your child isn’t very far behind her peers, you may want to request additional interventions before you decide to get her evaluated. A tutor may also help. But if you feel your child is falling too far behind, an evaluation could open the door to more services and support, including individualized instruction if she needs it.

Deciding to get your child evaluated is ultimately your decision. But it’s not one you have to make alone. Consider the opinions of your child’s doctor, teacher and other adults who know her. Decision Guide can help you think through this too.

If you decide to pursue an evaluation, there are steps you can take to prepare for it. And if you choose not to get an evaluation, there are other ways you can help your child. But keep in mind that time is of the essence, so try to address the issue as soon as possible.

About the Author

Portrait of Whitney Hollins

Whitney Hollins is a special education teacher and adjunct instructor at Hunter College.

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