Wondering if your child should be evaluated for a social or learning difference?
Educators are not trained to diagnose students with disabilities, but our experience being around children every day means that we often can recognize those who might need a deeper look into their social skills, attention, or processing abilities.
Teachers indicate these signs in report cards or will take extra time to send notes home showcasing your child’s behavior. While pediatricians might also see signs, they cannot accurately diagnose for attention or other cognitive disabilities because they can’t spend days with your child to perform psychological testing. For that, you would go to a specialist.
You might want to have a specialist look at your child’s behaviors if they:
- have been saying they are bored in school;
- prompt reports from teachers about distracted or attention-seeking behavior.
- frequently have a tough time with peers;
- cry often or are unusually angry or worried; and/or
- are highly disorganized or are not grasping math, writing, or reading at grade level.
At what point do you pursue an evaluation for social or learning differences?
First, rule out distractions that might be taking away from a child’s learning experience. Maybe they are distracted by multiple desk options or by a piece of clothing or headwear that is too much fun not to keep touching.
Distractions that might interfere with learning include:
- accessories that make noise with movement;
- light-up sneakers;
- endless choices of what tools to use (e.g., a dozen colors of markers vs. the basics);
- water bottles at hand to play with;
- hunger from missing a meal;
- cell phones nearby, waiting to be checked;
- little toys they might fiddle with in their pockets;
- desk knick-knacks;
- scented markers with irresistible scents; and
- lack of sleep.
That last one can make a huge difference; please see my previous blog post on the importance of sleep.
Or is there more to the problem?
Having a child evaluated by a neuropsychologist is truly the only way to get to the heart of what is interfering with your child’s success. These professionals administer a variety of tests to gather data about social behaviors and cognitive abilities. (Information about testing required by the College Board for accommodations is available here.)
This evaluation digs deep into your child’s strengths and weaknesses, and provides home strategies, along with a list of recommendations for the school.
You might think that you don’t want your child “labeled” or that it’s not a big deal if they have some “quirks,” but by giving those quirks a name, you can provide your child with the support, treatment, and opportunities they might need.
Proper attention could empower your child in the classroom. Socially, they get better at making friends and solving conflicts in a healthy way. Cognitively, a student might be directed to a specialist who assists them with their specific disorder (e.g., math, reading, speech). Your student might also be eligible for extended time at school, including standardized tests such as the ACT, SAT, and AP tests.
The earlier a student is diagnosed, the more likely they will be approved for accommodations later in life.
If you are interested in learning more about where to pursue a neurological evaluation for your student, contact your insurance provider or feel free to reach out to me in the counselor’s office.
- “Are My Child’s Struggles Serious Enough for an Evaluation?” (understood.org)
- Signs of Autism (autismspeaks.org)
- Signs of Anxiety (washingtonpost.com)
- Signs of a Learning Disorder (mayoclinic.org)
- Signs of ADHD (verywellmind.com)
By Jennifer Stec
Ms. Stec is our school counselor.