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What Every Parent Needs to Know About Testing for Learning and Behavioral Problems

September 9, 2013

When is testing Indicated?

 Testing can be helpful when:

  1. Students are either not performing to their anticipated abilities or have exhibited a sudden, and unexplainable decline in grades;
  2. Teachers and parents are unable to understand what factors are interfering with students’ achievement and learning;
  3. Behavioral problems appear that are unusual for a particular student or have been resistant to change;
  4. Students are being tutored and have not made adequate progress or tutoring is being considered and a remediation plan needs to be developed.

 

What kind of testing is indicated?

 Comprehensive assessments are usually of two types:

  1. Psycho-educational evaluations include measurements of students’ cognitive abilities and achievement.
  2. Neuro-psychological evaluations include areas assessed in a psycho-educational evaluation, but also include a thorough measurement of students’ executive functions (i.e. memory; processing speed; planning and organization; attention and concentration; activation/initiative; effort; verbal/auditory and visual processing; emotional regulation; etc.)

However, the actual composition of either of the above evaluations may vary from examiner to examiner and it is important to understand what tests and domains will be assessed. Consequently, when speaking to professionals, ask them to explain in easy to understand language exactly what they are testing for and what will not be assessed. For instance, many of the issues encountered in students with ADHD, Aspergers, and learning disorders that do not meet the criteria for a specific learning disability are due to executive functioning deficits that may not be discoverable with a psycho-educational evaluation like those performed at many schools that only includes an intelligence and an achievement measure.

What can I expect as a result of testing?

Testing findings should be explained to parents (and students) in terms that they can understand and specific, concrete recommendations that can be reasonably implemented by teachers should be the end result of an evaluation. Recommendations should be tailored to the specific students and not generated by a computer program that offers general strategies that could apply to everyone. Do not be fooled by the number of recommendations made and, instead, focus on the quality of those proposed and their applicability to your student.

The professional you choose should have first-hand knowledge of how schools operate in order to make recommendations that are likely to be carried out by schools, and a thorough knowledge of the laws that regulate students’ eligibility for support services.

What can I expect in navigating meetings with the school?

Professionals who understand the laws and how schools work should be available to help you to advocate for your student. This may occur by explaining how to speak to school personnel about the findings of the evaluation and the recommendations or may involve accompanying you to meetings to help you to navigate the special education process at your school.

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