“We think your child should be evaluated.” Hearing these words from a pediatrician, teacher or school counselor can be upsetting. But having your child tested for learning and attention issues is an important step toward helping her manage her challenges. It’s also an opportunity to help her make the most of her education.
If it’s done at school, the evaluation process will take place over a few days. Your child will take a number of tests that will identify the areas she’s struggling in. Although they don’t provide a diagnosis, test results may determine whether she has a specific learning disability.
The school can’t force you to have your child tested. But there are benefits to doing it, whether the results qualify her for special education or not. Here are some of the key advantages:
Testing will tell you what your child can and can’t do well.
For example, she may score in the 10th percentile for math problem solving. But she may score in the 70th percentile for basic math skills like addition and subtraction. This will give you a clearer idea of where she needs support, and where she can work more independently.
Testing will give your child a better understanding of herself.
Parents often worry that sharing results with their child will hurt her self-esteem. But a school counselor or evaluator can explain the results in terms your child can grasp. And your child may be relieved to understand why she struggles. She may finally be able to explain to peers that she isn’t “stupid” but has difficulty doing certain things, like reading words on a page.
Testing can mean your child gets additional support.
A team at school will review your child’s test results. It will then decide whether she’s entitled to special education services and supports at school. If so, the team will outline those services in an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or 504 plan. If not, the team may recommend that her teachers try some informal accommodations. It’s rare that an evaluation result in no extra help. Whatever the case, added support will make school less frustrating for your child.
Testing may provide legal protection.
If your child qualifies for an IEP or a 504 plan, the school will be legally required to provide support that allows her to function academically. Learn more about the specific type of protections they provide.
Testing can give you more control over what happens at school.
As a parent, you can use data from an evaluation to advocate for your child. For example, you may want her to have more support in language arts. Showing that she is in the 10th percentile for reading is more convincing than saying “She has trouble with reading.” If your child has an IEP, you can have a say in what instructional approach your child needs and in setting goals.
Testing will help you make better choices for your child.
Knowing more about her strengths and weaknesses can help you make educational choices that work for your child. That can include types of classes, teachers, schools and instructional approaches. Testing may also help you make more informed choices about afterschool activities and summer camps. And it can give you a greater understanding of who your child is and how to help her make the most of her potential.
A school evaluation can be empowering for both you and your child. Learn about the evaluation process and about what the results can entitle your child to. It’s also important to know about informal supports that can help your child succeed at school.