In this day and age of ready information at your fingertips, what I find is that parents are frequently armed with confused notions or misinformation that they’ve gotten from all kinds of sources.

For example, there frequently is a great deal of confusion or misguided notions about evaluations or assessments.

To address this, over the next two weeks we are going to cover some of the essential questions you should be asking of an assessment.  These are the questions that should be “knocking around in your head,” when you are having your child evaluated.

As we go through these questions, please keep in mind that I am talking below about testing done outside of the schools with a private clinician (e.g., psychologist) or a learning specialist.

Essential Questions:

Does my kid have a problem or not?  An evaluator should be able to answer in broad terms, “Yes, I concur your child has an issue(s),” or “No, I don’t see any areas of concern.”  It’s a “yes” or “no” proposition.  Notice, the first question is not, does my child have dyslexia? Or is my child ADD?  Those are not the most important first questions to have answered, even though they seem to be front and center most of the time.

Where do the problems lie?  A comprehensive psychological/psychoeducational assessment covers a lot of different areas.  Some of these include:

  • Verbal abilities
  • Nonverbal thinking skills (like spatial thinking)
  • Reasoning/Problem Solving
  • Working memory
  • Word recognition
  • Reading fluency
  • Word reading efficiency
  • Spelling/Writing.
  • A tendency toward distractibility
  • Ability to sustain mental effort
  • Frustration tolerance
  • Anxiety
  • Social skills
  • Self-esteem

There are many more that can be added to the list, but these are some of the top ones.  The point is that difficulty in any one of these can be causing a child to struggle depending upon the task at hand and what’s being asked of him.

How mild, moderate, severe is the problem(s)?  An evaluator (clinician) will be using a combination of the quantitative and qualitative (observable) results to answer this question. It’s not all the numbers and having a good clinical “eye” in answering this question is essential.  The better clinicians will not solely rely on scores, as it is possible that a child scores adequately (i.e., average) while still showing signs of struggling depending upon how they managed the task or activity.

If it’s a reading problem, what type is it?    I know that there are more scientific people out there who have all kinds of ways of delineating or subdividing the reading process, but that’s not what I have found helpful.  For those who have read my stuff, you know that I have two essential categories of reading difficulty – Type I or Type II.  Type I readers are the ones struggling with decoding, reading fluency, reading efficiency.  The Type II readers have no problems with decoding or reading fluency, but they comprehend poorly.  It is essential to know which type of reading problem your child has, as the interventions are very different for each. (Keep in mind that if you Google “Type I” or “Type II Reading problems” you probably won’t find anything, as it doesn’t exist in the real world – I made it up.)

Do other professionals need to be brought in?  Depending upon where the problem(s) lie, you may need to bring in other disciplines for their input.  For example, if the rating scales and the history are pointing in directions that suggest ADHD/ADD, a consultation with a developmental pediatrician would be a good next step to get additional information. Similarly, there are a number of different specialty areas that might need to be brought in depending upon what the findings indicate.

Takeaway Point:

There’s a lot going on with a good evaluation.  Be ready to ask the right questions.

Next week we will build on these questions to give you a little more understanding of the things that should be knocking around in your head when it comes to an evaluation.