Does Academic Testing in Public Schools Provide an Accurate Diagnosis?
Any parent with a child truly struggling academically in school questions the possibility of whether or not their child has Learning Disabilities. Especially noticeable in the elementary grades, the child that continuously lags behind is suspect, and probably will eventually be tested. Responsible parenting means recognizing that sometimes, there may well be an impediment to a child's ability to learn. This page is designed to provide you with literature and links to help you determine whether or not you need to seek private diagnostic evaluation of your child's ability to learn.
Most public school systems have guidelines established by the state stipulating when testing is warranted based on a students inability to perform academically. Check your local or State Board of Education web sites for those guidelines. Parents must remember that although it's difficult to accept the possibility that a child may indeed have a Learning Disability, the primary objective has to be to take whatever action is necessary to help that child. If possible from a financial aspect, private diagnosis will usually provide more detailed information about difficulties a child may be experiencing. Contact your family physician, or pediatrician for more information and recommendations of private facilities that may help.
Quite often however, many children are mislabeled as LD students. Many other factors can contribute to a child's difficulties in school. Dyslexia, hearing difficulties, eyesight problems and speech impediments are among a few of the obvious other possibilities. More difficult to diagnose are issues like severe shyness, stress, anxiety attacks and even bullying can affect a child's willingness to participate actively in class. There are an abundance of other factors that may be the underlying cause of a student falling behind the rest of the class. Explore the possibilities. Talk to the child, his or her teacher, and do the research required to go through a process of elimination to make sure your child is properly diagnosed.
How Parents Can be Advocates for Their Children with Learning Difficulties National Association of School Psychologist (NASP Communiqué, Volume 28, No. 3)
Parents are often the best educational advocates for their children, especially children with a learning disability. True advocacy is a largely positive process, which should build on your child's strengths and challenges. As your child's best advocate, you are in a unique position to identify and implement positive changes. The Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities (CCLD) has developed the following tips to help parents champion their child.
1. Know the rules
All public schools abide by specific laws and regulations, which provide special services for children with learning disabilities who qualify for such services. The criteria for eligibility varies from state to state, but all schools must adhere to a minimum federal standard. To find out the laws in your state and your rights as a parent, contact your local school district office, or state Department of Education.
2. Get to know the people who make decisions about your child's education
Connect with educators and administrators in both casual and formal settings. Talk with your child's teacher on a regular basis. If possible, volunteer in the classroom and help out with school functions. If you have concerns or problems that a teacher can not or will not address, be willing to follow the chain of command through the school, and if necessary, to the district office. Remember that you as a parent have the right to request that the school evaluate your child if you think he or she may have a learning disability. Be sure that your request is in writing.
3. Keep records
Parents should maintain an organized file of educational records and assessment information. Take notes during telephone and face-to-face meetings, and ask for people's full names and contact information when communicating by phone or by email. In addition, keeping less formal examples of children's academic progress, such as homework papers, artwork, and writings, may be useful in establishing patterns and documenting both abilities and challenges.
4. Gather information
Read books and articles on learning, attend conferences, and join a parent support group or affiliate organization in your area. Get comfortable with education acronyms and jargon. Ask professionals lots of questions, and don't be afraid to ask for clarification if their answers are confusing or complicated.
5. Communicate effectively
Come to meetings prepared, and know the specific outcomes you want. Be clear, calm and direct when speaking and put things in writing whenever possible. Listen, and take time to think about pertinent information. Consider when documentation or data might help your case, and present it in an orderly and readable format. While assertiveness and persistence are crucial, anger and aggressiveness can work against you and can damage important relationships.
6. Know your child's strengths and interests and share them with educators
By highlighting a struggling child's capabilities and talents, you not only help professionals know your child as a whole person, you can also assist in identifying learning accommodations.
7. Emphasize solutions
While there are no miracle cures or magic bullets for learning disabilities, it's important to stress the positive, and to help identify ways to improve your child's experience. Once appropriate programs have been identified and agreed upon, make every effort to encourage follow-through.
8. Focus on the big picture
Simply put, don't sweat the small stuff. Knowing the specifics of a law may be important on one level, but constantly arguing technicalities can ultimately waste time and inhibit rapport. Try not to take things personally, and always consider both sides of the story. Details are important, but don't let them get in the way of negotiating the best educational experience for your child.
9. Involve your child in decision making as early as you can
Learning disabilities are a lifelong issue. Mastering self-advocacy skills is one of the keys to becoming a successful adult. Resist the natural urge to pave every road for your child, and respect and support your child's need to take informed academic risks.
LD Online Website: http://www.ldonline.org
Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities, Micheline Kennedy Carter, (202) 326-8710 or
The International Dyslexia Association: (410) 296-0232 or (800) ABCD123
National Center for Learning Disabilities: (212) 545-7510
Division for Learning Disabilities, Council for Exceptional Children (CEC): (800) 328-0272
Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA): (888) 300-6710
National Association of School Psychologists: (301) 657-0270 or http://www.naspweb.org
The Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities (CCLD) is a collaborative public awareness effort of the Learning Disabilities Association of America, The International Dyslexia Association, the National Center for Learning Disabilities, the Division for Learning Disabilities at the Council for Exceptional Children, the Council for Learning Disabilities and the Schwab Foundation for Learning and coordinated by the Communications Consortium Media Center. CCLD is generously supported by the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation.