Understanding My Child’s Complex Learning Profile
Something’s not right. Your child is smart, inquisitive, but struggling. Maybe he’s having trouble communicating, or consistently overreacts when things don’t go as planned, or is falling behind in school. Maybe she shuts down in a group or isn’t learning to read. All kids develop at different rates and in different ways, but you are concerned that these challenges aren’t just a bump in the road. Instead, they appear to be a persistent problem that could impact your child’s overall well-being. Could evaluations be needed?
How do you understand what is going on? More importantly, how do you create a plan to address your child’s difficulties? Having your child evaluated is a critical step to help answer questions and provide you with the best course of action.
Depending on the age of the child and the presenting behavior, you may receive a recommendation from a pediatrician or teacher for a particular type of testing. Or you may decide yourself that you need more information and seek out professional help. Here are a few things to keep in mind along the way:
1) The evaluation process is just that – a process.
You may be involved with a number of professionals who are looking at various aspects of your child with the goal of understanding the whole picture. This could include anything from a physical exam to classroom observations to specific psychological and educational testing.
2) Ask questions. What tests are being used?
Will the evaluator be available to observe your child in the classroom or talk to your child’s educational team? How long will it take to get back the test results and the evaluator’s report? The more you know about the process, the more you will be able to help prepare your child.
3) Consider neuropsychological evaluations.
If your school agrees to an evaluation, your child will receive educational testing by a special education teacher or learning specialist. Your child may also meet with a school psychologist or social worker for IQ testing and a social/emotional assessment. But for Complex Learners, neuropsychological testing is important. A neuropsychologist is trained in the cognitive functions that impact behaviors. A neuropsychologist will be able to identify specific components of your child’s learning profile. This will give you a roadmap to understand school performance and help predict your child’s strengths and struggles.
4) Understand who pays for evaluations.
If you are working with your school district they will cover costs and determine the details of how the evaluation is happening. In general, however, schools will not cover the cost of a neuropsychological exam, so you would need to find a private evaluator. Neuropsychological evaluations can cost thousands of dollars, although many insurance companies will cover part of this expense. Weighing the cost-benefit of this option is important. A quality neuropsychological evaluation, while expensive, can uncover the right diagnosis for your child, and the best interventions to help overcome difficulties at home and school.
5) Get a plan from evaluations, not a label.
The goal of an evaluation is to understand the whole child and create the best course of action to address specific difficulties. You may be worried that a diagnosis will label your child and lead to poor self-esteem, but the right diagnosis can be a relief. It can give you the information needed to ensure your child receives the supports that work. It can give you the language you need to talk about your child’s strengths and challenges and help your child understand who they are as a learner and a person – a wonderful, unique, capable person who can achieve his hopes and dreams.
For more help with evaluations, check out Understood’s article on Evaluation Basics.
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