It is better to evaluate your children's school performance much earlier in the year, so as to get them any needed help.
Whether or not you did that, the end of the year is another good time to evaluate how well your children did this past school year.
That doesn't mean that they had to make perfect grades. Instead, you want to make sure that they were able to do their best.
Did they perform up to their potential?
Did they do okay, but had to struggle all year?
How did they do as compared to previous years?
If your child struggled or you don't think he performed as well as you think he could, it is time to think about the cause.
Does he have a learning disability?
Does he have ADHD?
If he has already been diagnosed with a disorder that is affecting his school performance and he continues to do poorly, then you may need to reevaluate his current diagnosis or treatment.
For kids with ADHD, a change in dosage or different medication may help. If his ADHD symptoms are under good control and he continues to do bad in school, then further testing to look for another, comorbid disorder, might be necessary. Could he also have a learning disability? Is he depressed?
Getting Help for School Problems
Unfortunately, it can be very difficult to get your child the appropriate testing and help that he needs.
Many of the disorders, tests and the laws that mandate services for children who need special education are difficult to understand and not all Pediatricians are aware of them.
ARD. IEP. 504 mods. IDEA. OHI. FIE. WISC-III. FIE
These are just some of the acronyms that describe the things you or your Pediatrician need to be familiar with to get your child the help he needs.
And your Pediatrician can be a good resource for you and your child, especially if you think that he may have ADHD, with symptoms of inattention (trouble paying attention) and being easily distracted and/or impulsivity and hyperactivity.
Your Pediatrician can also ask your school to do an additional evaluation and perhaps testing for a learning disorder, but then so can you or anyone else. Once you request an evaluation for special education, the school has 30 days to respond to this request, which may include details on what testing will be done, or a reason why they won't test your child. If they refuse to do testing, you have the right to appeal or challenge this refusal.
If it is determined that testing should be done, your child will undergo a comprehensive or full individual evaluation (FIE).
The results of this testing, if it does show a learning disorder, will help the school to develop your child's Individual Education Plan (IEP), which is a written plan about how your child will be educated, including what special educated services will be provided. Your child's IEP will be revised and reviewed at an Admission, Review and Dismissal ARD committee meeting.
Your child has a right to this evaluation for special education under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). You don't have a right to testing though if the school decides that it is not necessary and your challenge of their refusal fails.
Some common things you may hear when trying to get your child help for his school problems include things like:
- Your child doesn't need testing. Don't let a single teacher or other person at the school decide whether or not your child needs testing. You should apply in writing for a full evaluation for special education services.
- Your child has a normal IQ. He can't have a learning disorder. If you hear something like this then say, 'then why is he struggling in school?' In fact, the definition of a learning disability is usually finding a discrepancy or difference between a child's IQ and their achievement or performance. How big a discrepancy there is, which varies from state to state, determines if your child qualifies for special education services. In Texas, children have to have a score on achievement tests that is 16 points below their IQ. The point is that simply knowing a child's IQ doesn't help you determine if a child has a learning disorder.
- Your child's grades are too good to have a learning disorder. Again, if you hear something like this then say, 'then why is he struggling in school?' If your child is making good grades, but is being tutored or bringing home twice as much work as all of the other students and really struggling to make those grades, then that might be a sign of a problem.
- We already tested him and he doesn't qualify for special education services. Whether or not this is really true depends on what testing they did. Some parents get reports like this after a teacher does a simple screening questionaire in the classroom, which doesn't really qualify as an evaluation.
Or your child may have had the wrong IQ test. The most common test, the WISC-III, is not always the right test, especially for kids with oral language weaknesses and attentional problems. These children might be better evaluated with a nonverbal IQ test. This is important, since if your child scores a higher IQ on one of these other tests, which results in a bigger discrepancy between his IQ and achievement test scores, then he might qualify for special education.
You also want to make sure that your child had a good evaluation of his oral language skills. How was he tested for this? Did he have a diagnositic language evaluation?
Was he tested for dyslexia? Surprisingly, an evaluation for dyslexia, a type of learning disorder, is often totally seperate from the rest of the full individual evaluation (FIE). If you suspect that your child has dyslexia, you should request a dyslexia evaluation.
The bottom line is that if your child is struggling in school, you may have to work to get him the help he needs. Although you would hope that your child's school would do everything they can to evaluate and help your child, it is not surprising that they don't have the resources to always do everything that is necessary. It is not usually helpful to be too adversarial in these meetings though.
In addition to your Pediatrician, you might seek additional help from an educational therapist for additional testing and/or hire an educational advocate to review your child's case and perhaps attend an ARD meeting with you. In some cases, you might need help from a lawyer that concentrates in special education and disability law.
As already mentioned, if your child is being treated for ADHD and is still doing poorly, it is important to take a close look to see why. A change in dosage of his medication or changing to a different medicine might be helpful.
If your child's ADHD symptoms are well controlled and he is paying attention well, then additional testing for a learning disability, or other comorbid disorder, might be helpful.
Even without additional testing, a diagnosis of ADHD will likely qualify your child for section 504 modifications (504 mods) by having your Pediatrician fill out an Other Health Impaired (OHI) form. Section 504 is part of the American Disabilities Act and allows children with chronic medical conditions, like ADHD, seizures, asthma, etc. to receive modifications at school.