I feel very strongly that if we put in place certain practices, more children with undetected learning disabilities would be identified early and receive appropriate treatment. There’s a lot of education that needs to be done about the different learning challenges that students face. And that’s why I’ve started this podcast.
Welcome to Diverse Thinking Different Learning. I’m Dr. Karen Wilson and we are moving right along with episode 2 today. In episode 1, we discussed the importance of uncovering why a child is struggling. The first step in doing just that is the assessment. Why does a child need an assessment? What does an assessment involve? What does an evaluation tell parents and educators? Let’s dive into what an assessment looks like and why it is more than just testing.
[1:01] – In episode 1, Dr. Wilson talked about what it looks like when kids struggle. This episode is all about the assessment process.
[1:29] – The reasons you seek an assessment will vary per child, but you see their difficulties are hindering their success. This will find what is causing the challenge to help determine what needs to be done.
[2:38] – It is never too late to evaluate a child when you see that they are struggling and need some support. An assessment helps you get to the root of the difficulties.
[3:35] – Some struggles can be overcome by implementing appropriate intervention.
[4:12] – The assessment is so much more than testing. Testing is a part of the process, but the assessment actually begins with a parent interview. Family history and parent observations give a lot of insight and can help determine various risk factors.
[6:13] – A child’s early developmental milestones will also be discussed to find if the challenges the child is having now may have been observed early on as well.
[7:23] – Dr. Wilson also explains that the assessment involves gathering information from other sources, especially from teachers.
[8:38] – Observations will take place within the classroom and during a testing session, but Dr. Wilson explains that behavioral observations will begin when they first enter the office.
[10:04] – An assessment should also involve the child’s perspective. It's not only about getting information from parents and teachers. The child will be asked about their struggles.
[12:01] – There are several domains that are being assessed during the testing session. Domains may vary depending on the test, but Dr. Wilson breaks down the domains you will find in a comprehensive evaluation designed for determining the root of the problem.
[12:27] – One such domain is Intellectual Functioning. This typically asks the child to complete tasks that they have never been asked to complete before. This causes them to pull from past experiences and use their problem solving skills to complete the tasks successfully.
[14:09] – Another domain that is typically assessed is Academic Achievement in the areas of Reading, Writing, and Math. Oftentimes, this is when the learning difficulties are first noticed.
[15:35] – When assessing academics, Dr. Wilson explains that some tasks will be timed and others will be untimed which helps determine an appropriate intervention or accommodation.
[16:21] – Another domain that’s assessed is Attention and Concentration which can greatly interfere with learning processes.
[17:15] – Memory is also looked at as that is critical in a learning environment. Can the child pull information from memory? Does the child have a stronger visual memory than verbal memory?
[18:39] – Another process that is looked at is Executive Functioning which will be explained in greater detail in a future episode. It is an umbrella term that includes organization, planning, and an individual’s ability to work towards a goal.
[19:19] – Language Functioning is also assessed which includes expressive language and receptive language. How do they express themselves? How do they understand others?
[20:14] – The evaluation also looks at Visual Spatial and Visual Motor Functioning which helps us understand how the child perceives information that he or she sees. This also includes motor skills, like holding a pencil.
[21:23] – Something important to keep in mind is that children and adolescents are social beings. They will often have an emotional response to their struggles. An evaluation will also look at anxiety and depression.
[23:15] – In parent and teacher questionnaires there will be questions about stomach aches and headaches and determine if there is a pattern.
[23:50] – Behaviors in which a child acts out, such as defiance or breaking rules, are also looked at as these could co-exist with the learning difficulty or a way for the child to cover up the struggle.
[24:45] – In contact with the child’s parents, Dr. Wilson also explains that media use will be asked about which could be affecting sleep, attention, and has a connection with depression.
[26:46] – Exercise is also looked at as it can enhance mental health and brain growth. Is there a connection between the child’s amount of exercise and their challenges?
[27:18] – Once all of this information is gathered, Dr. Wilson can use it to determine if there is a disorder, what the disorder is, and can then develop an appropriate intervention.
[28:51] – The information from this assessment also helps a parent or educator be more patient and gives them guidance on how to help them.
[30:23] – An assessment is only the first step. It determines the reason for the struggle and once we have that information and gives us a roadmap to help the child to overcome their struggles so that they can thrive.