10 Reasons to Refer Your Child for Educational Testing Great question, and one that I am asked frequently, from concerned parents. These are my top 10 reasons to know when your child is ready for educational testing. Please know that you always have the right to request testing from your respective school.
1. Parent Advocacy: Have a hunch or feeling about an educational challenge? Good, now talk about it to your child's school staff. You are your child's best advocate, and your instincts are probably correct. If you suspect educational, behavioral, and/or other concerns with your child, speak to your school counselor or social worker. If all agree that the concerns are interfering in your child's general education, now is the time to request a meeting with the special education team along with other school personnel.
2. Individualized Education Plan (IEP): Has your child received educational testing in the past? If so, your school needs to know about it and receive a copy of that previous IEP. Some parents hide past educational testing from schools, and this can be a disaster waiting to happen. Special and general education teachers are ready to help you and your child, but by withholding the IEP, they have no idea that a child in need is under their care. Another downfall of not sharing this information is if your child's IEP expires, you may need to wait several weeks for initial testing and the creation of another IEP. This is time that your child misses from receiving special education services when it is much easier to just share the IEP with your child's teacher.
3. Academic Interventions: Alternative interventions to your child's general education are important! This should not be skipped in lieu of testing, and schools should not allow it. You want your school involved in intervening to support your child's education. Interventions that work to improve your child's academic standing may mean that your child does not need testing and/or special education services. These interventions should be put into place with your ideas, thoughts, and at times permission. Interventions can be implemented as school-wide development for some children based upon data received from school-wide testing. A few examples of school based interventions include, Response to Intervention (RTI) or a Multi-Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) for both academic and behaviors. Schools do not need your permission for those interventions, but if it is for an extended period of time, they will consult with you. If the interventions have been ongoing for quite a long time, data shows that there is no improvement, there are failing grades or a lack of educational progress, then it is time to request education testing. Please know that interventions can take a while, and they should show their rate of effectiveness.
4. Progress Monitoring: Schools will track your child's academic progress using programs such as AIMSWeb Plus or FastBridge Learning. These programs benchmark and progress monitor your child's academic progress in reading, math, writing, and behaviors based upon direct, frequent, and continuous assessments. These are brief, but accurate measures that supports RTI and other tiered instruction, according to both websites:
Why is progress monitoring important? These instruments track whether the math, reading, and writing interventions are working. More importantly, you as parents need to request copies of this progress monitoring, review it yourself, and ask questions to ensure your understanding of this data. Many parents are unaware that their children are participating in these supportive measures, and that it occurs school wide. You can request a copy of that data to support your concerns or view your child's academic progress.
5. Home Interventions: What are you doing at home to assist with your child's academic work? I ask parents this question to hold them accountable for what happens academically at home. I started asking this question after noticing numerous times that the schools were doing all the work to improve a child's standing. It can be challenging and difficult at home, but you must help in order to collect your own data about whether your efforts are working. Put in the time and assistance to care for your child's educational needs. Not only will this help the staff at school with educational testing if there is a need for it, but it shows your child that you care about him or her. Invest in their education! Use my "Special Education Logbook," located on this website under "Published Journals," to help you track your own data.
6. Academic Grades and Attendance: Your child must attend school. It is an obvious statement, but I found that some children who were truant or had missed a significant amount of school were referred for testing by parents and some school staff. Attention: Your children will have educational discrepancies due to their absenteeism. If they are not at school, then they are not learning and will fall behind their peers academically. Frequent absences will cause a special education team to reject your request for testing. The special education team cannot determine if the academic delay is due to special education needs or the fact that your child has not been attending school. The only way to determine if a child has significant academic concerns that may warrant testing and an IEP is for that child to be in school. Being in the classroom and learning can improve the academic grades, mental health, and emotional support for your child.
7. Hearing and Vision: Please take your child, yearly, for hearing and vision screenings. Teachers are exhausted and at times, draining themselves to determine the catalyst for a child's academic difficulties. More times than not, I have rejected moving onto to educational testing due to a child not having current hearing and vision screenings which is a requirement in some States. Failed vision and hearing screenings can be handled by a qualified school nurse in your child's school. If those screenings fail, please take your child to the audiologist or optometrist to get further assessment and to have those issues corrected. If your child cannot see or hear in school, then the outcome is not learning properly. Remember, the educational testing goal is to determine why your child's educational needs are not being met in school. If it is a matter of wearing glasses for example, then that can be corrected to allow your child to see the whiteboard. However, without those corrections no testing will be completed because accurate data must be collected. In other words, testing data must be valid and if not due to hearing or vision challenges, it will not be used for educational decisions.
8. Mental Health: A child's mental health is important to produce positive academic experiences. Many parents are stuck with either wanting mental health support or being afraid that their child will be stigmatized for receiving mental health services. at school Choices made by parents and school officials are confidential. If your child's mental health is significantly impacting his or her education, it is time to request assistance from your school. A child with anxiety, for example, may have difficulty with taking tests or switching classes. There are mental health professionals in your school who can help and are willing to assist you with this matter. If your child qualifies, then general education interventions can be put into a "504 Plan", based upon the Rehabilitation Act of 1973:
Pending the diagnosis and whether or not the 504 Plan interventions are working, educational testing may also become an option. At that point, the special education team will become involved.
9. Teacher Observations: Classroom teachers are your best resource with decision-making for testing. Teachers are with your child all day, and have direct knowledge, data, and observations in reference to your child's educational capability and weaknesses. Talk to your child's teacher frequently, ask questions, and request to see data in areas that you may think need improvement. Teacher input is also attained when making decisions about a child’s need for educational testing, which areas should be assessed, and the IEP. Teachers also provide input for academic interventions and are often tasked with serving those strategies to students. When those new learned skills lack improvement, your child's teacher will share that information with you and when it is time to seek educational testing.
10. School Data: The goal of collecting all of the previously mentioned information, is to use it to determine whether or not your child's academic weaknesses are due to a suspected disability. Each school district may have their own educational categories of disability based upon their State's criterion. However, if your child's data overtime shows a continuous range of weaknesses despite the implementations of academic interventions at school and home, then educational testing can be requested. For more information pertaining to educational testing, contact your school counselor, social worker, or school psychologist.