School Isn’t Going So Well, Now What?

We are all different, and each of our brains is different. As such, different brains have parts that don’t work as well as others, and some brains have parts that don’t work very well at all. It is important to determine for every child where his/her strengths and weaknesses lie so that education can be tailored such that the appropriate accommodations are implemented to ensure success academically and in life.

A psychoeducational assessment is an excellent way to facilitate this. Whereas standardized testing is provided in the school setting, a psychoeducational assessment is a one-on-one evaluation that utilizes a variety of tools to construct a comprehensive snapshot of your child’s academic skills and cognitive abilities. Because it isn’t only about how much your child knows, but how he/she learns and solves problems.

What To Look Out For

Every child finds school to be too much from time to time. It’s completely normal for children to experience difficulties in school, whether it be academically, socially, or behaviorally for weeks or even for months during childhood. If, however, this struggle becomes overwhelming without respite despite classroom accommodations, it may be time for a psychoeducational assessment. These are some of the signs to look out for:

1. While expressing reluctance to go or contempt for school is pretty common, it may indicate a deeper problem if there is a noticeable increase in the frequency or intensity of the protests. If your child becomes more strident about his/her disdain for school, a specific teacher, or class, it is time to get very curious! This may not just be a strong feeling that will soon pass, but a window into a larger problem.

2. When your child begins consistently missing assignments, or grades begin going south, it may indicate that your child is experiencing difficulty in organizing assignments or can’t accommodate learning in the way that the new teacher expects.

3. When a child is expending considerable effort but not seeing the fruits of his/her labor, or invests more time and energy than classmates and yet is consistently pulling lower grades, this is often a sign that there is a learning disability handicapping those efforts and becoming an impediment to success.

4. Calls or emails from the school that your child is disrupting the class are becoming more frequent, which may indicate that your child is bored, lost, or frustrated by either the difficulty or the pace of the presented work. Behavior problems are generally a surefire sign of an underlying learning problem.

5. You just have “that feeling.” Parents know their children better than anyone. If you suspect that your child’s difficulties in school can’t be adequately explained by adjusting to the new school year or some other change, or by the narrative being presented by the teacher or principal, trust your gut. You are probably correct.

What is a Psychoeducational Evaluation?

A psychoeducational assessment is a comprehensive evaluation designed to measure a child’s cognitive processing abilities (including logical reasoning, memory, attention, and executive function skills), the current level of academic knowledge in a variety of subject areas, and social, behavioral, and emotional functioning.

This assessment is a very specific way to define your child’s strengths and weaknesses. This will allow those strengths to be amplified, and the weaknesses to be defined, targeted, and overcome. For many children, the psychoeducational assessment will be the initial step towards either securing a more definite diagnosis or accessing a wide range of support programs or interventions.

Keep in mind that a psychoeducational assessment is an intensive process. It consists of interviews, input from the parents, teachers, and the child, one-on-one testing sessions, and classroom observations.

After the assessment has been completed, the examiner will provide a detailed report outlining your child’s many abilities and needs. And where appropriate you will be connected with those essential services that can help your child, such as occupational therapy, speech therapy, and mental health therapy.

The results enable the psychologist to get a better grasp of your child’s potential. For example, it becomes much clearer if your child is gifted and/or has a learning disability. And this assessment will provide strategies to support what your child needs. Other concerns will be addressed as well, such as ADD or ADHD, anxiety, and a host of other mental health issues.

2 Crucial Considerations

1. Learning Disability vs. Behavioral Issue

It must be noted that an important indication that a child is suffering from a learning disability and not a behavioral issue is that he/she is disruptive at school but not at home. Children suffering from an undiagnosed learning disability often act out in school due to being confused or frustrated, or sometimes to create a distraction to avoid doing the work that is too difficult or appearing vulnerable.

2. Latent Emergence

Oftentimes, intelligent children with learning disabilities figure out ways to compensate for their weaknesses when they are young and wear that mask for years. It isn’t until these children are confronted with a more robust curriculum and workload in middle school or high school that their deficits become more obvious.

Because of this, you shouldn’t assume that your child’s early success in school means a free pass later on. If the resistance or waning interest in school begins to appear when he/she is older, don’t jump to the conclusion that this is due to defiance or laziness. These latent signs may indicate that a psychoeducational assessment is warranted.

Debunking the Myth

Some parents resist getting a psychoeducational assessment for their child out of fear that this means there is something wrong with their child. This is a myth, plain and simple. The assessment isn’t “looking” to find out what is wrong with your child. Rather, it is a way to determine your child’s strengths and challenges in a variety of areas.

These insights can both empower and serve as a roadmap to help your child develop to his/her full potential. Clarity about your child, regarding both strengths and needs, is essential to help your child live the most successful and happy life possible. Isn’t that what every parent wants?