Thoughtful Parenting: How can I help my child experience academic success?
It is always rewarding to witness a child’s success in the classroom. Parents and teachers want children to thrive and succeed. When a child is not succeeding in school, the causes of his or her challenges need to be identified. At this point, parents can request eligibility testing for special education services at school or pursue a private learning evaluation.
Special education eligibility testing through the schools can help identify whether a child has a specific learning disability and determine if a child qualifies for an Individualized Education Plan, but not all children struggling academically meet the criteria for this type of testing. If a child is not performing significantly below grade level, he or she will not qualify for an IEP.
A private learning evaluation is a great option for families, because it can provide the following information.
- The likely source of the learning challenges, as well as the child’s strengths
- Identification and documentation of eligibility for appropriate interventions and supports that enable a student to succeed in a number of settings, including the following.
- General education classroom
- Assessments (state testing and classroom tests/quizzes)
- College entrance exams (ACT/SAT)
- College courses
A private evaluation has some distinct advantages. Parents get to choose the evaluator and determine when the evaluation gets scheduled. Parents and the evaluator can determine whether to administer a comprehensive evaluation, or they may choose to focus on a specific area of concern. The school does not have to agree that testing is necessary, and evaluation results do not automatically become part of a child’s school record, though it is often helpful to share results from a private evaluation with the school.
A private evaluation can reveal a learning disability that was not identified by the school, such as a reading disability known as dyslexia. It may also reveal the need for further testing in areas outside the evaluator’s specialty, such as speech and language; social/emotional needs; or behavioral needs, such as ADHD. In these cases, the evaluator will refer families to the appropriate professionals.
After the testing session, the evaluator will conduct a follow-up meeting with parents and child, when appropriate, and provide a written report that includes background information, testing data, interpretation and recommendations. Parents decide what they want to share with their school and if they want to request that the school implement a 504 Plan, which documents the student’s learning disability and appropriate accommodations and supports to enable the student to experience success within the general education classroom.
During this meeting, the evaluator will review the following information with the family.
- Assessment data/scores.
- Student strengths and challenges and interpretation of how these may affect performance in the classroom.
- Suggestions of supports and accommodations for school.
- Recommendations for supports for the student outside of school.
If parents notice their child is struggling in school, they should not wait to ask for help. The sooner interventions are in place, the more successful a student will be in the long run. Begin by talking with your child’s teacher at school about any concerns. If the school does not recognize the student as a struggling learner, it may be time to pursue an outside evaluation.
It is important for parents to advocate for the best educational opportunities for their child. A strong evaluator, who has a experience in special education, clinical settings and private practice, can educate and support parents and recommend appropriate instructional methodologies, accommodations and supports that would level the playing field and allow a child to experience success.
Joy McIntosh received her M.A. in special education from the University of Denver and has experience as a special education teacher and learning specialist at the Children’s Hospital Colorado, administering psycho-educational evaluations and providing reading remediation for students identified with dyslexia. She recently moved to the Steamboat area with her family and is excited to become involved in this great community. She provides assessment and advocacy services for Steamboat Reading.
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