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ADD: The Educational Evaluation

A thorough educational evaluation, sometimes referred to as a psychoeducational evaluation, will provide you with your child's educational strengths, weaknesses, and recommendations for educational interventions. Remember that a student's inability to stay on task, hyperactivity, distractibility, and/or impulsivity will affect her performance on the educational evaluation.

There is usually no certification or license for an educational evaluation. Therefore, parents need to be aware of the qualifications of the examiner. At the very least, he should be a special educator who has a master's degree in special education from an accredited university. (In some states the school psychologist administers these tests.) He should have experience administering a battery of psychoeducational tests. He should be familiar with children with ADD, and experienced in evaluating students when there is a suspicion of ADD. He should be willing to function as part of a team and to consult with other members of the team before, during, and after the evaluation. If he is reluctant to do so, find yourself another evaluator.

The educational evaluator must obtain information from a variety of sources in order to decide on the most appropriate ways to evaluate the student's educational progress. Students with ADD typically do not do well on standardized tests. They often do better on individually administered tests because the examiner helps them to focus on the task. The fact that these tests are timed may cause stress and anxiety, which will also cause errors. Therefore, the tests may not truly represent what the child knows.

Beyond psychoeducational tests, information from parents about how their child does in school, what teachers report, how well she likes or dislikes school, how long it takes her to do homework, if she is easily distracted, and other descriptions of the child's behaviors will help to highlight the nature of the problem. After all, ADD is a complex disorder; the more information you can get from a wide variety of sources, the better able you are to examine the critical areas more thoroughly.

With this in mind, it is a priority to get information from the child's teachers: classroom teacher, special subject teachers (music, art, physical education, computer), lunchroom monitor, playground monitors, and others who come into contact with the child in the school setting. Sometimes school personnel are given rating scales to fill out; other times contacts can be made in person or on the phone. A rating scale is helpful in obtaining information from teachers (and parents), and should be viewed as an important part of the diagnostic process. A number of descriptions are listed, and typically the teacher (or parent) is asked to check the appropriate rating (usually from 1 to 5, Always to Never) that best describes the child. Popular rating scales include the CGI-T: Conner's Global Index, the Snap Rating Scale, the Attention Deficit Disorders Evaluation Scale, and the Child Behavior Checklist.

Once the evaluator has eliminated several or more areas of possible concern, she will use diagnostic tests in language, reading, writing, and math. These tests are more precise and enable the evaluator to pinpoint strengths and weaknesses. She will also evaluate how the child processes information - how are his perceptual skills, his memory skills, his thinking skills, his attention skills? Throughout this process, the evaluator will obtain specific scores on tests. These test scores are important, but equally important is the information the examiner gleans by watching the child as he works on the tests. (How does the child approach tasks, process information, stay on task, deal with frustration, and respond to reinforcement?) A child may score well on a math test, but throw his pencil down when he can't figure out an answer. A child may pay more attention to the sound of the air conditioner than to the spelling test. A child may answer questions very fast, then change the answer after he has a while to think about it. Observing how a child deals with the entire situation enables the evaluator to better understand how the child functions.

A thorough educational evaluation, which includes observation in the school setting, will establish the presence or absence of a learning disability. The child may have a learning disability that is causing him to appear to have an ADD. Or a child may have an ADD that is causing him to have academic problems that look like learning disabilities. Or they could exist simultaneously. The educational evaluator will also be able to look for other academic problems that may be causing the child to be hyperactive, distractible, and/or impulsive, but not necessarily be ADD. When this information is shared and discussed with other professionals, a clearer picture of the nature of the child's disorder begins to appear.

More on: ADHD

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From Keys to Parenting a Child with Attention Deficit Disorders by Barry E. McNamara, Ed.D. & Francine J. McNamara, M.S.W., C.S.W. Copyright 2000 by Barron's Educational Series, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with Barrons Educational Series, Inc.

Buy the book at Barron's.


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