The Benefits of Educational Assessments.
We all want our children to do well at school and can be concerned when they are not performing as well as expected and nothing seems to be working. The reason for underperformance can be simple, such as they need to do their homework, or more complex, such as an undiagnosed Learning Difficulty. But don’t be alarmed by this term. We have all had trouble with learning something, at some time and by definition, we have experienced a Learning Difficulty. A Learning Difficulty simply means that the child has difficulty learning certain concepts. This may be due to environmental or physical factors such as long absences from school, visual or hearing impairments or emotional issues. A Learning Disability refers to a range of conditions including Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dysgraphia or ADHD.
Understanding how to teach a child with a Learning Difficulty or Disability is a bit like finding the right light switch in a hotel room. We want to turn the light on, but we can’t find the right switch. Eventually, after pressing every button and every switch the light eventually turns on. This is what teaching and learning is like. We can’t teach effectively until we know which switch to turn on. Finding the right switch, however, may require some extra assistance and this is where a range of professionals connected to education can help. These professionals can be Special Needs Teachers, Educational Psychologists, Speech Therapists or Occupational Therapists. However, it is common and understandable for parents to be concerned and even fearful when referral to these professionals is suggested and the term ‘assessment” is used.
Instead, this is a very positive step forward and the outcome for a child and parents can be life changing. Any assessment will always produce a report which can then be given to teachers and tutors. This report is the most important part as it lists specific teaching strategies and approaches for teachers, tutors and parents. This is the switch that turns the lights on.
Educational Psychologists work with schools and parents to identify learning, social and behavioural issues that impede children's learning. This leads to a range of best practice strategies that teachers can use within the classroom and suggested strategies for parents to use at home. This results in improved learning for the child. Educational Psychologists are attached to all government schools and certain assessments are provided free of charge. Non-government schools may have a psychologist on staff or may refer the child to an external psychologist where payment may be necessary.
A Special Needs teacher may be also be on staff and, dependent on their qualifications, can also perform a range of diagnostic assessments. There may, or may not, be a cost to parents. Special Needs teachers within schools will manage development and implementation of IEP’s and work with individuals or small groups. Please note that not all schools have highly trained Special Needs teachers on their staff.
Speech and Occupational Therapists can also be helpful for certain assessments and for delivering ongoing support. Speech therapists are specialists in language development and are involved in working with children requiring assistance developing verbal and non-verbal language skills. For example, this may be a child who needs additional assistance when learning to read or spell. Occupational Therapists are well suited to working with children with specific handwriting issues, amongst a range of other conditions.