I think something’s going wrong in the classroom; my child isn’t learning as quickly as everyone else – is there a problem? Should I get them checked out?

Early identification of learning differences can be hugely advantageous but needs to be individualised.  A diagnosis or a label is only useful if it adds clarity to the child’s individual situation and signposts teachers and parents towards providing the right sort of tailored support.  At the same time, a label can help parents explain their child’s difficulties to friends and relatives and research suggests it helps improve a child’s self esteem as suddenly there is an explanation for their struggles.

Be wary of the label professionals might provide; there is no neat list of symptoms for diagnosing dyslexia or dyscalculia or any other specific learning difficulties, nor indeed is there a neat list of cures. Every child is unique with a unique set of needs and a good assessment should offer not only the label but also a comprehensive review of a child’s strengths and weaknesses.  Good assessments should go on to offer specific recommendations that help the child access the best learning based on their individual profile of need.  These recommendations may lead to differentiated teaching, examination concessions as children progress throughout the school; and specific grants when they access further education.

Assessments should be based upon psychometric tests of cognitive ability including memory and processing and standardized tests of educational achievements in literacy and numeracy to allow for comparison with other children of the same age. These tests piece together a picture of your child.puzzle

Choose your assessor wisely, ensure the assessor is properly qualified (either a psychologist of teacher with an assessing practicing certificate) and check that the end report will offer more than just a label.

Jo Kitson
Specialist Teacher and Head of ASK’s after-school Homework Club