If your child is struggling in school, chances are you’re wondering why they’re having so much trouble. You might have heard the term “evaluation” before, in reference to a professional looking into your child’s academic and behavioral history to identify what’s getting in their way. An evaluation can be the first step to getting you the answers and tools you and your child need to move forward successfully. It can provide you with relief as a parent, clue your child’s school and educators into what’s going on, ensure extra attention is given to your child to help them learn and grow, and give you ideas and tools to use at home.
An evaluation is the critical first step toward getting help for your child in school, by first determining what exactly they are struggling with. But how do you know if your child needs one?
For starters, there is certainly no harm in getting an evaluation done, while missing an important diagnosis could impede learning and cause future struggles for years to come. If you are in any way concerned about your child’s academic or social skills, an evaluation is worth your while. Here we look further into the different kinds of evaluations, and what an evaluation really entails.
Basics of Evaluations
Evaluations will cover a range of different areas to help determine the type of support your child needs. They will look specifically for known difficulties that make a child eligible for various special education services. There is no one specific test that is a catch all for every student, but rather a series of tests that unfold based on what your child struggles with the most.
In the academic realm, most evaluations will test for oral language skills, word recognition, decoding, spelling, phonological (sound) processing, reading comprehension, and vocabulary. Tests for dyslexia focus more on reading comprehension skills, while tests for dyscalculia will assess a child’s ability to perform mental math. A test for ADHD might look very different from these two, and might require a psychiatric evaluation as well.
In almost all scenarios, evaluators will rely on multiple streams of information, often including but not limited to a child’s performance on standardized tests, interviews with the child and/or parents, and observations of the child in a class setting.
Types of Evaluations
There are a couple of ways to go about getting an evaluation for your child. You may have access to a free evaluation through your school district, or opt to work with a company like Marker Learning for a private evaluation. You might also get an IEE, or an Independent Educational Evaluation, involving an outside professional paid for by the school. The process will be a little bit different depending on the route you choose or the route that is most financially accessible to your family, but in all circumstances the process begins with your request for an evaluation, in the form of a written letter to the school.
Testing conducted by professionals affiliated with your child’s public school could be an excellent place to start, and may be sufficient for many students. But if you're not getting the support you need, you can opt to go the private route. The benefits of private testing include faster turnarounds while maintaining quality, and a personalized approach. Marker Learning offers private evaluations at 1/4 of the cost of standard private evaluations by delivering assessments via telehealth.
Preparing Your Child For Evaluation
To prepare for an evaluation, the best place to start is to familiarize yourself with the type of evaluation, and to ask questions with the person conducting the evaluation. Doing your research about learning disabilities, even if it’s just a simple Google, will make you feel more relaxed throughout the process because you’ll know exactly what to expect.
Learn about who will be on your child’s evaluation team if you get evaluated through the school. The school psychologist may be the one to administer the test itself, but a number of important people will be involved from classroom teachers to special education teachers. Get to know them and their role in the evaluation process.
Ask Questions to Find Out What You Can Expect
You have the right to know exactly what the evaluation process will involve, and to learn more about the person testing your child. Here are a few questions you may want to ask as a parent leading up to the evaluation:
By asking questions, you will feel more confident and clued in about the process and more empowered along the way to advocate for your child and their specific needs. There are no silly or irrelevant questions, as it is imperative that you feel that you have a handle on the situation.
Receiving a Diagnosis
Once the evaluation is over and there is a diagnosis of a learning disability, several programs come into play. If your child is in public school, things will look a little different than if they are receiving a private education. This is because public schools must be in accordance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, put into place to ensure that all children have the right to an education that best suits their unique needs.
Either way, you will likely be put in touch with a team of educators and other highly trained professionals who will work together to create an education plan for your child, often called an Individual Education Plan or IEP. Your role in this will not only be to support your child’s education at home, but also to nurture them emotionally as receiving a diagnosis of a learning disability can be a confusing and stressful event for any child to contend with.