Hopefully all have had a positive transition back to school! Sometimes after the first couple of weeks, it is brought to our attention that our child may benefit from an evaluation due to some areas in which they show some difficulty. This includes but is not limited to speech, language, following directions, reading, writing, the ability to sequence activities, sensory regulation, attention, hyperactivity, social skills, etc. This news is usually difficult to digest at first, but the earlier that you become pro-active about getting answers, the better the outcome of your child’s academic and personal success. After parents receive the news that their son or daughter needs an evaluation, I usually receive this question, “How can I tell my child that they are being evaluated for this without ruining their confidence?” This is usually followed up with, “How can I tell my child that he or she needs intervention without making them feel inferior to their peers or siblings?” This is tough as a parent. As a mom of 4 boys, 2 of which struggle with issues related to dyslexia, I can empathize. What I have found in the years that I have evaluated and treated children for speech, language, reading, and writing skills is that instilling confidence in your child is the key to a happy and peaceful evaluation.
Evaluations are designed to help children develop and grow successfully. With the right amount of encouragement from parents and the evaluating therapist, an evaluation can become a growing experience!
In a casual conversation, try these tips when explaining WHY they are being evaluated.
- Be HONEST about the evaluation and its purpose with information that is simple, direct, and positive. (Example: You will be working with Mrs. Thomas today to discover the things that are easy for you and also some things that may be a little harder for you (give examples of both). This is important so that we can discover the ways that you learn best to help you in the future.
- It is OK to let your child know that EVERYONE has strengths AND weaknesses. Remind them that our weaknesses are merely differences and they do not make us deficient. Give an example of your own strengths and weaknesses, how you have had to work hard to strengthen your own difficulties, and how it has made you the person you are today. For younger children, address strengths and weaknesses as things that are easy for them and things that are a little harder for them. Give several examples of yourself and other older members of the family. (Ex: Aunt Jenny is awesome at Math calculations but has to work harder at knowing how to get to places without getting lost.) For Perfectionists (I have a few of these children of my own, so I know it’s especially hard for them), let them know that not one person their age knows all of the answers on the evaluation (not one person!). Therefore, if they don’t know one or more of the answers, this is OK and the evaluations are designed that way.
- Let your child know that feeling nervous is possible and definitely OK, and give them strategies to get through it. Strategies for older children include: deep breathing and remembering that this is just something for them to explore and find what they are really great at in addition to finding some things that might be more difficult. Remind them that this can only help them for their future. For younger children, nervousness appears more as timidness or uncooperative behavior in the evaluation. You will want to remind them that they will be in a safe place and can talk to the evaluating therapist (name them by name) about how they feel during the evaluation at ANY time.
- Promise and deliver on a special treat for after the evaluation. This will create a positive spin on this day! Especially if the evaluation was difficult for them, they will have something to look forward to after they finish. I’m not talking “break the bank” bribery as it can just be something simple like a milkshake or something for their favorite hobby.
- Lastly, YOU KNOW YOUR CHILD BEST! Explain the things about them that help them excel in what they do best (list them). It is important to let them know that these things and the things that are more difficult for them will be different than some or all of their friends. This is part of what makes them wonderfully unique! We don’t want to be the same as everyone else. Appeal to their confidence by building them up with the things that you know that they excel at individually, and let them know you are looking forward to working hard on the difficult things with them too! This will also help them feel like they are not alone in this process. Like when going to a regular checkup at the doctor, we just want to make sure that they are strong in all of the areas that will help them continue to grow successfully!