In the last two blog posts we discussed some of the basics considerations with regards to assessment (Assessment Basics Part I Assessment Basics Part II). 

Among the points included:

  • Longer, more complicated reports are not necessarily better.
  • Assessment reports should be practical and understandable.
  • Assessments provide a snapshot at a moment of time.
  • Assessments identify whether there are “cracks in the foundation” that need to be understood.
  • Ideally, you should be guided on what to next with your child.
  • There should be commentary on the independent, instructional and frustration ranges

In this, the last post in the series, we focus on the issue of “the diagnosis” as a part of the assessment process.

People are rightfully interested in whether the assessment offers a diagnosis on learning disorders such as dyslexia, or other learning disabilities.

For me, as someone who is performing the assessments the challenge is what I call the “not-a-broken-bone” dilemma.

Common learning disorders all occur on a spectrum from very mild issues to more moderate and severe.  I know it is comforting to parents (mostly) to be told that the child does, in fact, have dyslexia (or ADHD), but understand that it is rarely a clear-cut, “yes-no” proposition.

Even after giving a broad battery of tests that are designed to offer such commentary, I still  find it challenging because there is no exact cut-off or place on the continuum that says “yes” or “no,” “has it,” “doesn’t have it.”
Ideally, with a good assessment there is a weighing of variables, a collective combination of both quantitative and qualitative data that adds up to provide a diagnostic profile leading a clinician to say with pretty good assurance that “Yes, your child has dyslexia,” for example.

This weighing of variables means there is clinical judgment involved.

Just yesterday, for example, I evaluated a college student who read somewhat inefficiently, who reported that she had trouble “focusing while reading,” yet in my judgement, after weighing a host of variables, I didn’t see her as “dyslexic.”  (I did see her as having a lot of anxiety, along with indicators of mild ADHD, along with her inefficient reading style.)

When the diagnosis is warranted giving the struggling a name helps to encapsulate it and feel more manageable and less overwhelming to parents and kids.  Once the name is given, there is typically an implied course of action.

Regardless, if your child has had an assessment, make sure that whether there is a formal “diagnosis” or not, you have a frank discussion with the clinician as to what he/she sees as the appropriate next steps.  Since there are many variables involved with these steps, the recommendations need to fit in with the reality of the child’s (family) situation.

Variables such as cost of treatment, availability of appropriate interventions in the child’s community, and the family’s scheduling logistics are all examples of to consider.

Takeaway Point

It’s not a broken bone.  Make sure you know the constellation of strengths and weaknesses identified in the assessment.  Maintain a “next-step thinking” mentality.


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