Schools, and sometimes preschools, are usually the first to identify when a child or young person may have special educational needs, although that is not always the case. Depending on the issue, it may be the parents or caregivers who suspect that their child is "different" in some way. However, knowing exactly what is going may often be unclear.
As tempting as it may be to explain away issues as a phase or stage, avoidance may make the situation worse for that child in the medium to long term. That is why it is important to identify special educational needs at an early stage in order to provide appropriate help and prevent problems later on in a child’s education.
There is no single “test” or even universally accepted approach to identifying the existence and/or cause of:
- Behavioural Concerns
- Learning Needs
- Special Abilities
The characteristics often differ from one child to another and may manifest in very different ways in adolescents and adults. Features can also be “hidden” in some situations and very much apparent in others. Even determining whether special conditions are required for exam and/or formal assessment situations is not straight forward.
There are hundreds of different screening tools and assessment measures available that assist educators, psychologists, physicians, and others to capture and document the nature of a person’s struggle with behaviour and/or learning. Every practitioner has his or her preference.
So what can you expect from an assessment?
The root of the word "assessment" is from the Latin assidere which means “to sit beside”.
Assessors do just that – they work with your child to:
- Identify areas of strength and weakness
- Rule in (or rule out) any complicating factors that might be contributing to
- Behavioural and/or learning problems
- Hone in on the very specific nature of the struggle, so that timely decisions can be
- Made about carefully targeted intervention and support
The most important consideration when testing occurs is not to allow the tests to determine what is important, but rather to select tests that answer specific questions, explain the nature of your child’s struggle, and provide insight into the types of instruction and support that will help your child overcome and circumvent frustration and failure.