When winter comes, it’s important to check your tires and make sure your vehicle is ready for the season. You want to be safe on the road and feel confident as you’re driving. When you don’t have the right supports or things aren’t quite in order, driving becomes harder. The same thing can be said about school and learning.
Children spend many of their waking hours in classrooms, and they must navigate many things. Children must be proficient in reading, writing, and math; they need to be able to work independently and in groups, manage structured learning and unstructured recess/break times, navigate social interactions and friendships, regulate their emotions and activity levels, express themselves in oral and written form, and learn to advocate for themselves. That’s a lot! It’s not a surprise that confidence and self-esteem would be influenced - positively or not. The harder it is for a child to navigate all the demands and expectations in a learning environment, the higher the chance of increased stress and tension.
One of the ways you can support your child through their academic journey is by having a stronger understanding of their learning profile. A formal learning assessment is called a psychoeducational assessment and is conducted by a registered psychologist with a background in school psychology and child development. A psychoeducational assessment provides information on how a child is learning, their strengths, any potential areas for growth, and how some of this may be impacting their experience and sense of self as a learner and in life. When your child is struggling in school, or even when you are curious to know more about your child, a psychoeducational assessment can provide the traction needed to support a positive academic journey.
The tests in a psychoeducational assessment are standardized and norm referenced; meaning, the information gathered can be compared to other individuals who are the same age as your student. This helps to understand where your child may be functioning relative to others in particular areas measured. Since each of us is unique, it’s expected that each of us learns a bit differently. For some, understanding these nuances can mean the difference between success and failure in a child’s academic journey (like having the right tires on your vehicle for the conditions).
While there are standard components to an assessment, each assessment is unique and directed at answering any questions you and your child’s teacher(s) may have about your child’s learning. Understanding problem-solving and reasoning capacity, how your child takes in and best learns new information, measuring academic skills, the role of memory in learning, and exploring social/emotional/behavioral functioning may all be aspects of an assessment to support a larger, clearer understanding of your child’s functioning. The better you understand your child’s learning profile, the easier it is for you to support your child and the greater success your child can expect to have.
A psychoeducational assessment is a complex drawing together of information from multiple sources to create a more solid understanding of a student’s unique learning profile. A full psychoeducational assessment can take anywhere from 12 to 16 hours (depending on the questions being explored, sometimes it takes more time). Components of an assessment include interviews, document review, in-person testing, data collation and test scoring, observations, and report writing. While it may seem like a lot, it is an investment in your child’s future and a support for ongoing success. Back to the tire analogy, knowing you have the right tools for the conditions helps increase the chance of successfully reaching your goals. With the right tools, it’s easier to feel confident tackling the demands along the way.
The report generated from a psychoeducational assessment creates a roadmap for success. It outlines your child’s strengths and any areas where increased support may be helpful to them. It provides information about your child’s current functioning as well as suggestions to support increased success - now and in the future. The information allows the teachers and the school to better understand your student, and to determine next steps in your student’s learning journey.
If you have chosen to undertake the assessment privately, making the decision to share the report with your child’s school is helpful. School and teachers are part of your child’s ‘team.’ It is important to develop a strong relationship with these professionals to support your child. The more information your child’s school and teachers have available to help them know and appreciate your child, the better it is for your child. This doesn’t mean they will use all the ideas that come from the report. Teachers are the experts on teaching and have an abundance of ideas. Teachers use the information provided from a psychoeducational report and integrate it into what they know about the roadmap ahead of them. Just like when you’re driving, it’s a good idea to check road reports because conditions can change quickly. Knowing the condition of your vehicle and what tools you have available helps you make the decisions you need to drive with confidence.
After you’ve shared the report with your child’s school, your job is not done. You will need to advocate for your child throughout their academic career. Each year, with each new teacher you will need to recreate your ‘team’; this is your child, after all. You need to reconnect and start fresh each year by establishing a functional working relationship with the school and teachers to support the best interests of your child. Though a learning assessment is helpful for positive engagement and support in the classroom, the information that comes from this deeper understanding of your child supports success in other areas of their life, including friendships, extracurricular activities, and in better knowing themselves.
Just like having good winter tires, the more solid and prepared you are in terms of understanding your child’s learning strengths and potential needs, the more comfortable and confident your child will feel as they progress along their learning and life journey.
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