Need testing for learning disabilities?

By Kathy Kuhl     Does your child or teen need testing for a learning disability? Here are a few suggestions from my book Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner. 

Ask yourself why you want testing for your child or teen

  • To figure out what’s wrong and learn how to teach better
  • To qualify for extended time on college boards or accommodations in college
  • To help restore children’s self-esteem.
  • To be reassured you’re not doing a bad job. (Last weekend in a California parent asked me if that was a legitimate reason to have your child evaluated. Certainly. Getting my son evaluated helped me understand his difficulties and respect his efforts. It encouraged me that we were making good progress.)
  • To find a good therapy.

See a doctor you trust to rule out a medical cause for the learning difficulties

See Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner to see why and how to start here.

Different purposes, different symptoms lead to different experts for testing

Need a neuropsychological evaluation?

But even when there are no other issues, learning disabilities can be complex. A full neuropsychological evaluation is what our family opted for.

A neuropsychological evaluation will take one and a half full days of testing. It will include a full patient history given by the parent beforehand, and a follow up meeting to receive results. You’ll also receive a lengthy report with test results and explanations of them.

Realize that the neuropsychologist’s job is to identify learning disabilities, not treat or cure them.  I heard one parent say she wished her fifteen-page report offered more specific advice on how to teach. That’s a common complaint with a neuropsychological report. (That mom was bemused by advice to have the child work in small groups, since she was only homeschooling two boys. But a neuropsychologist explained to me that the comment was probably inserted in case the child was put in school at a later date.)

You may want to take any report to a special education consultant for more advice on how and what to teach.

A few psychologists may be willing to give fewer tests, not the full evaluation. I prefer the big picture, just as I’d want a complete physical if I had a puzzling health problem, but not everyone can afford it.

A university with a graduate school of psychology will offer offer a full neuropsych. evaluation for cheaper, because a grad student will administer them. We went to one near our home for our son’s last tests. It was still expensive, but about $1000 less than going to a private practice.

When a graduate student tests your child, it is only supervised by a licensed psychologist. He or she review the student’s report and audio recordings of the testing being administered. You miss the benefits of an experienced tester, who might think, “That’s an odd combination of results. I’m going to give a test I don’t usually include to tease out that information about how this child learns.”

For much more about testing, read Homeschooling Your Struggling Learner. 

Questions are welcome in the comment section below.

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