Should Your Child Have Educational Testing?
Worry over a child’s academic performance is one of the many concerns that parents carry with them. There are myriad reasons for a child to struggle in the classroom, ranging from temporary illness to a chronic learning disability. However, when small concerns turn into big worries, what is a parent to do? Educational testing is one avenue that is used to help identify problems and work toward a solution.
What Does a Psychometrist Do?
Gina Kingsley, a Tulsa psychometrist, said that psych-educational evaluations can identify strengths and weaknesses in children as young as 2.6 years through adults. They can also help pinpoint problems such as learning disabilities, attention deficit, dyslexia and processing problems.
Kingsley says she views psychometry as a creative process. “I look at each child as kind of a tapestry, and I love the process of defining a child’s strengths and weaknesses.”
Carolyn Griffin, Ed.D, director of Yorktown Educational Services, says that she also tests children and adults to evaluate academic needs or learning problems. “I include an IQ test if there has been an inordinate amount of problems,” she says. “An IEP (Individual Education Plan) might be best for them, or we can identify possible potential.”
Should My Child Be Tested?
Sudden changes in behavior toward school may indicate an academic problem. If a child comes home and says, “I hate math,” Griffin suggests talking with the child’s teacher first to see what is going on in the classroom.
Kingsley says that on-going, persistent problems may also indicate a need for academic testing. “Testing can help identify a suspected learning disability or ability,” Kingsley says, “but it won’t identify emotional issues or lack of motivation or apathy.”
Vision and hearing tests also should be done in conjunction with psycho-educational evaluations.
Besides using educational testing to identify learning problems, parents sometimes are curious about their child’s IQ or whether or not a child is working up to potential in the classroom. Kingsley says that parents may be relieved to find that their child’s IQ is average and that the child is, in fact, working to his or her potential. Or they may find that their child has a very high IQ and his or her poor performance in school may be related to other issues.
Dr. Griffin warns that IQ tests can have diminishing returns. For example, parents’ expectations for a child in middle school may be based on an IQ test that was done when the child was much younger. “I’ve tested children at age 4 and tested them again at age 10,” Griffin says. “They tested extremely high at a young age, but were just on the high end of IQ at age 10. Some children are precocious when they’re young and it tapers off. IQ tests are usually not given until a child is 8 or 9,” Griffin adds.
How Does the Testing Work?
The types of testing that are done depend on the age of the child and what symptoms are exhibited, and the tests are developmentally appropriate. Tests for very young children are similar to playing games, not pencil and paper tests. Kingsley said that preschool children can be tested on cognitive, large and fine motor skills.
“For example, in preschool, parents may suspect the child has high intelligence, and a test may show high cognitive skills, but weak fine motor skills.” She added that a full scale IQ test is usually not done until age 6 and above.
What Kingsley does want parents to know is that children actually enjoy the testing. “They crave the one-on-one,” she says, “and they’ll share things with me they won’t share with their teachers or parents. I offer the children breaks, but they’re having so much fun that they don’t want to take them.”
She also points out that, as an independent tester, she provides pages of evaluation and individual observations as well as a quick turn-around. Kingsley also collaborates with Dr. Ann Taylor, a counseling psychologist on-site, which can be an added benefit for those children who may need a psychological evaluation in addition to an academic one.
Once tests are complete, parents receive a full, individualized report and, when applicable, a plan to build up weak areas or provide skills to deal with learning disabilities.
As a mother and a former classroom teacher, Kingsley feels she has extra insight into providing realistic classroom strategies or modifications, if necessary. She says that parents may choose how they use the information they get about their child. Parents may want to share it with teachers, so classroom modifications can be made, or keep it to themselves.
“It’s never too late for testing,” Griffin says. “Early identification and intervention is better because you don’t have to substitute for bad habits. Some children come in with what they’ve been doing for five or six years, and it takes awhile to practice the skills we give them to turn things around. Our goal is to give children the toolkit they need and send them on their way.”