If your child is not doing well in school you should request a special interview time with his/her teacher to review in detail your child’s progress. Your child’s teacher may have valuable insights into his/her strengths and learning needs. In turn, you can share your understanding of your child and his/her needs with the teacher. Remedial help or an adapted regular class program and/or some extra help at home may be what is needed to help your child keep up with school work.
If, in spite of additional help, your child’s level of achievement does not improve, it is time to pursue a psychoeducational (psychological) assessment. A psychological assessment can be done through the school board’s psychological services department or by a psychologist or psychological associate in private practice. Some school boards do not have their own psychology staff, and use community psychologists on a contract basis. The school must obtain your written consent before a psychological assessment can be done.
In the school system there are often long waiting periods for psychological assessments. Occasionally assessments are available in a hospital setting and are covered under OHIP, or through a children’s mental health centre, if there are emotional/behavioural concerns, but there are long waiting lists in these settings as well. If you have a group medical plan through an employer, you can check to see if assessment by a psychologist is covered and to what maximum fee. You would need a referral from a medical doctor to get coverage under the group plan, but you can refer your child directly to most psychologists. If you use a private psychologist/psychological associate, make sure that they are willing to write a report in the format used by the school board. You could suggest the protocol developed through the LDAO Promoting Early Intervention Project. To read the “LDAO Recommended Practices for Assessment, Diagnosis and Documentation of Learning Disabilities” go to the LDAO website (www.LDAO.ca ) and look under About Assessments.
A good psychological assessment should provide information about overall intellectual ability, but more importantly, about strengths and weaknesses. There should be recommendations about remedial strategies and ways of using areas of strength to compensate for areas of deficit. In older children, there should be recommendations for accommodations and use of technology to bypass weak areas, in addition to remedial strategies to work on deficits.