Navigating Testing for Dyslexia, ADHD, and Other Learning Disorders

alarm-clock-apple-back-to-school-2781814When should I be concerned?

Children with learning disorders or ADHD often go unnoticed in their early schooling years until their grades are often reflective of consistent struggles.  If you notice that your child is having difficulty with learning, in any subject, even in kindergarten, it is always my recommendation to have a learning assessment done.

What is a Learning Assessment?

A learning assessment (or psychoeducational evaluation) is done through a psychologist who is certified to do educational testing.   It will identify the way that your child learns best, areas of strength, and areas in which he could use help .  This type of testing can assess whether your child is struggling with a reading, writing, or math disorder, processing speed difficulty, or attention and focus problem.  It can tell you about his auditory or verbal comprehension and how that translates to performance.  Psychologists often assess symptoms of anxiety, depression, behavioral issues, and level of insight.

The testing generates very useful information, both for you and your child’s school.  It is complete with recommendations for classroom accommodations (changes that can be made in school to help your child succeed and learn best).  Testing is provided by local centers at your request or through a pediatrician referral.   It can also be provided by your child’s school and is administered by a school psychologist who is certified to do this type of testing.  Generally,  parents have to request this and a teacher also needs to see evidence that your child is struggling in some regard.  It can often take more time to attain through the school, as school psychologists have a much larger number of cases that they handle.   School testing, in most states, is free of charge.  Local testing centers’ charges generally vary based on location.

What can you prepare for?

Generally, psychoeducational testing is lengthy, and it lasts several hours.  Your child’s history is usually collected first, through a meeting with you or through forms sent home to you.  Teacher reports are also reviewed.  Your child is then seen by a psychologist for several hours, during which testing will be performed (think of multiple choice question type format).  After testing is completed, a separate session is generally scheduled for the psychologist to review the report with you.  The report can then be used by the school for the purpose of helping your child, if you wish.  Some parents then choose to pursue an IEP or a 504 plan for their child based on this information.  These are plans that are developed between parents and teachers to set goals for a child’s academic year, to monitor progress, and to list methods of intervention if a child struggles.  For others, the evaluation information is helpful to seek out appropriate treatment in the event that the child is diagnosed with ADHD, anxiety, or a mood disorder.

How can I prepare my child the day of the testing?

Make sure that your child has eaten beforehand and slept well the night before.  Continue any medication that your child takes.  If your child has ADHD and takes a medicine for it, be sure to give the medicine as usual.

Be sure to let your child know that the test is not graded and isn’t about how well he performs.  There is nothing negative that can come out of it, only good and helpful information!  Explain that all children learn differently, some by hearing and others by seeing, and teachers love to know how to help.  If he asks what kind of questions may be asked, you can let him know that there may be questions about math, reading, writing, and even about feelings.

When the test is over, your child is likely to want to relax.  Plan something fun and enjoyable afterwards!