Categorized | Childhood, Self-Development

Is Your Child Struggling With Learning?

Before 2004, when children with any type of learning disability were struggling in the school system, the law took a “wait to fail” approach. But the Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA) was reauthorized that year, and completely changed how children with any type of learning disability would be treated in the school system. The previous “wait to fail” model had been inadequate in addressing the needs of children experiencing learning related challenges and did not allow for any changes to the child’s instruction until it was too late to make a real difference.

With IDEA 2004, schools are now required to implement Response to Intervention (RtI), which identifies children at risk for learning disabilities and addresses them early on. RtI is a hierarchical model of instruction that includes three Tiers of more intensive regular education intervention.

Tier 1 – Includes the use of evidence-based classroom curriculums, which eliminates deficiencies in education as the cause of any academic performance problems.  Three times per year, beginning in kindergarten, all children are screened by the school to identify those at risk for learning disabilities. Typically, if a child is identified as performing at the 25th percentile or below in reading, math, or writing, he or she is considered for Tier 2 support.

Tier 2 – Children are provided fairly intensive regular education small group support for approximately six to 12 weeks to help bring their performance up to grade level.  Progress is monitored at least two times per month and children who do not make expected gains are considered for Tier 3 support.

Tier 3 – Academic support is offered in different ways with greater intensity and frequency to assist children most at risk for learning disabilities in reaching grade level expectations. Progress is monitored more frequently too, typically on a weekly basis.  Consideration for special education support is given to children who do not respond to this level of support.

What parents don’t always know is that evaluation to determine special education eligibility may occur at any tier, though it typically occurs within Tier 3 when a student does not respond to the most intensive interventions or responds to the interventions but is not able to maintain his or her performance if the intensity level is decreased or the interventions are faded. If a parent requests a special education evaluation, the school district is required to respond to the request in writing within 14 school days, notifying you whether your request has been accepted or denied and the reasons for that decision.  However, the use of the RtI process cannot delay the evaluation, if it is needed.

Educational evaluations performed by the school involve a review of your child’s current performance levels and need for additional data in the following areas:

  • Hearing/Vision
  • Health
  • Academic Achievement
  • Cognitive Ability
  • Speech/Language and Communication Skills
  • Motor Skills
  • Social Skills

All data must be collected within 60 school days from the date of written parental consent for evaluation, after which school staff members and parents meet to determine if your child is eligible for special education and related services, and an Individualized Education Program (IEP).

It is important to note that this type of evaluation will not include a medical diagnosis, which can be essential for parents to determine the type of services and support their child will need throughout their education and lives. To receive an evaluation that includes a medical diagnosis, parents must work with a private evaluator.

Private evaluations are typically conducted by psychologists (clinical, neuro, or educational) who take into account the underlying clinical and medical contributions to a child’s educational performance. In addition to assessing basic cognitive skills, we may perform additional neuropsychological testing to understand how a child’s neurocognitive strengths and weaknesses impact his or her functioning both in the classroom and in the real world. In-depth psychological testing goes beyond a child’s behavioral expressions to understand how their unique personality and relationship dynamics are linked to those expressions.

Essentially, school evaluations focus on the ‘what’ and private evaluations focus on the ‘why’, while both seek to generate solutions to the problems.

A good example would be a situation where a child is able to speak well, but his or her language comprehension is poor. While this situation may trigger a school based speech/language evaluation, it may suggest to me there is a need for additional evaluation or referral to another specialist to rule out a possible auditory processing disorder or seizures that may not be apparent based on physical evidence.

Quite often, I am asked by parents to assist them in meeting with school officials to explain my evaluation findings, help develop an appropriate IEP, or consult in making revisions to a child’s existing educational program when a child is not making adequate progress.

If you live in Chicago, Illinois or one of its suburbs, you can learn more from a provider in the practice regarding your child’s learning, development, or behavior, please call Educational Consultation and Evaluation Services at Advocate Lutheran General Children’s Hospital. (847) 318-9067.

Author, Dr. Deana Khoshaba is a Clinical Psychologist specializing in the area of child development. She works in Educational Consultation and Evaluation Services at Advocate Lutheran General Children’s Hospital. This is her first post with Psychology in Everyday Life. If you like the post, please say so by selecting the Like icon that immediately follows.

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About Dr. Deana Khoshaba

Dr. Deana Khoshaba, Psy.D., is a Clinical Psychologist practicing in the area of Child Development. She practices in the Educational Consultation and Evaluation Services, Department of Developmental Education, Advocate Lutheran General Children’s Hospital.

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