By Renee Colclough Hinson, Ph.D., and Barbara Potts, Ph.D., Staff Psychologists at Trinity Center
As parents, we all want the best for our children, and we may be wondering if we are doing everything possible to provide the best educational opportunities in the right environment. Perhaps a teacher or school counselor has raised a concern about a struggle your child is experiencing with learning a certain concept. Perhaps educational testing at your child’s school has revealed a learning issue, and you want to take the next step. Or as a parent, you may feel that something is not “quite right” about your child’s learning situation. Trust your instincts. You may be the best person to help identify what learning vulnerabilities or gifts a child may have.
Have you or any of your friends experienced this common scenario?
During the third quarter of kindergarten in public school, Emily started wondering why her son Brad wasn’t reading as well as the other kids in class. She checked with the teacher who assured her that the reading would come by the end of the year. When Brad enters first grade and is still not reading very well, the teachers assure her and her husband that he is on grade level, and there is nothing to worry about — he just has to work harder. The next year, when all second graders are tested for the Academically Gifted program, Brad’s test results indicate a much higher IQ or ability score than his achievement — which indicates a learning disability, such as dyslexia. By now, Brad is also starting to intensely dislike school and dread going each day. Every morning is a struggle and causes conflict and family stress.
With a child like Brad, a psychological/educational evaluation will often reveal an above average intellect, while uncovering a learning disorder. An evaluation by a private psychologist once parents start suspecting a difficulty can help them quickly get the child the help he or she needs, so they don’t lose ground in school and fall behind — and it will help alleviate the family’s stress.
To follow are some signs that may indicate a learning disability in preschool or elementary school age children, according to the Learning Disabilities Association of America. If your child consistently exhibits several of these signs, you should consider having him or her privately tested.
Pre-school: Have you noticed that your child has:
• pronunciation problems?
• difficulty finding the right word?
• difficulty making rhymes?
• trouble learning numbers, alphabet, days of the week, colors and shapes?
• trouble concentrating?
• trouble interacting with peers?
• difficulty following directions or learning routines?
• difficulty controlling pencil, crayons, scissors?
• difficulty with buttoning, zipping, typing skills?
Grades K-4: Does your child. . .
• have trouble learning the connection between letters and sounds?
• confuse basic words? (run, eat, want)
• make consistent reading and spelling errors including letter reversals (b/d, inversions (m/w), transpositions (felt/left), and substitutions (house/home)?
• experience difficulty learning basic math concepts?
• have trouble learning about time?
• take a long time to learn new skills?
• have trouble remembering facts?
Psychological/Educational testing with a private psychologist typically begins with an interview and then the administration of an ability or IQ test, such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, Fourth Edition (WISC-IV). The IQ test, along with an achievement test such as the Woodcock-Johnson III Tests of Achievement. (WJ-III) or the Wechsler Individual Achievement Test, 2nd Edition (WIAT-II) will answer important questions about your child’s academic issues.
Having your child privately evaluated will map out all of your child’s strengths and weaknesses with regards to learning. An evaluation can determine everything from giftedness to whether or not a child has a learning disability in reading, written language, mathematics, receptive language (listening) and expressive language (speaking). Personality tests may also be used to assess how school may be affecting your child’s emotional state or self-confidence.
Having this kind of information about your child’s learning styles and abilities will help you and your child’s teachers know how to help your child learn in the best ways. There is a continuum of services available within public schools that are designed to honor learning styles that are more atypical, from extra assistance as needed to specialized classrooms. Private schools may also be better able to meet your child’s needs with their curriculum.
The takeaway: You know your child best. If you feel something is not “quite right” about his ability to keep up in the classroom or if she seems bored and reluctant to go to school, listen to your instincts. A psychological/educational evaluation can go a long way in helping you set the path for a successful future for your child.