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Written by:  Karen M. Alley
Date: July 1, 2009

No one knows their child as well as you, the parent. When your son continually struggles with creative writing, even though you know he’s making up great stories all the time and telling them to you, you realize he’s having a problem with getting his thoughts on paper. When your daughter seems to live for following the rules and obeying adults, but keeps getting in trouble for not paying attention at school, you know it’s not like her.

But what do you do to help them? Rather than trying to help your child cope with the standard study habits and behavioral expectations of every other kid in the class, you could try some psychological testing and find ways to help your child reach his or her full potential.

It turns out, there are a lot of different tests and diagnostic tools available that can help pinpoint learning disabilities, attentional disorders and even kids who maybe aren’t performing to the full potential. Investing a little time and money could help your child succeed in the long term, find more self confidence now, and help you find ways to make their school career more enjoyable.

Tests for Learning Disabilities
Dr. William Sloan, of Sloan Academics in Winston-Salem, N.C., has dedicated his career to helping kids live up to their full potential. For parents who are going through the heartbreak of watching their kids struggle through school, he and his colleagues can arrange a combination of intelligence tests, achievement tests, behavioral questionnaires and interviews with parents, teachers and the students, to determine which factors might be responsible for problems in a particular case.

“Normally children get tested when someone perceives them as having unexplained struggles in school,” Sloan said. “For example a student who seems intelligent to a parent or a teacher, but who hates to write and is struggling to learn how to read, should probably be evaluated by a psychologist. Often, such students turn out to have dyslexia, which is the most common learning disability.”

Figuring out the reasons for your child’s struggles at school can be a great benefit to students and parents. “The test results can help parents adjust their expectations so that they more closely match their child’s actual ability level,” Sloan said. Also, the results of both intelligence and achievement testing can identify areas needing remediation as well as areas that could benefit from enrichment.

Testing for Early Admission
In addition to testing once kids are already in school, testing for early admission to kindergarten is an option at Sloan Academics. With the earlier cut off date for starting kindergarten, more parents are looking into the options available for having their kids go on to school. But how can you know whether sending a child to school early is the right thing to do? It’s a hard decision, but going through the testing can help.

State guidelines recommend school districts only admit kids early if they score in the 98th percentile of same-age peers on an intelligence test and 2-3 grade levels above their peers on an achievement tests. “A 98th percentile score means the child scores higher on the test than 98 percent of the same-age peers to whom he or she is being compared,” Sloan said. “That is a very high standard and means by definition that only two percent of children will qualify.”

For the achievement test scores, the guidelines are looking to see if the four year old can do simple math problems, written down on paper, and recognize letters of the alphabet. “Most four year olds are not able to do either of these things,” Sloan said.

If you’re trying to decide whether to test your child for early admissions, it might be beneficial to go through the testing. Whether or not your child qualifies for early admission, you’ll be able to get a sense of your child’s overall level of intelligence, as well as his or her specific intellectual strengths or weaknesses. “That information could potentially help the parents decide which school or classroom might best meet the child’s academic needs,” Sloan said. “It could also provide parents with good baseline information, should the child need to be tested again later.”

If you feel it would benefit your child to go through some testing, you should probably follow your instincts and look into the options. It will not only help your child perform better in school, but will help you as a parent feel you are doing everything possible you can for your children.

Tips for Testing
Psychological testing, whether it’s intelligence or achievement, is different than the academic tests most kids are used to. Help them prepare with these tips:

* Make it fun. They will be working on puzzles and fun problems during the test. Make sure they know that it will seem like a game and isn’t something to stress about.
* Keep the pressure off. Don’t tell your kids that if they don’t score high enough they’re not going to kindergarten, or if they do poorly they’ll fail a grade in school. These tests are just for information purposes only, not a grade.
* As with any other test, make sure they get a good night’s sleep beforehand and eat a good breakfast the day of.
* Make the appointment when you can spend plenty of time with your child and not be rushed.


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