Educational Psychology: Recommendations for Parents

This post, in which a mother talks about the educaitonal psychologist observations of her child, reminded me of my own experiences with ed psychs and schooling recommendations, and the advice I want to give parents based on them.

First, in the United States I know that children with an individualized education plan (IEP) need to be assessed once every three years to deterine if their educational diagnosis still fits. This seems reasonable to me. If you disagree with an educational psychologist hired by the school, you can ask for a second opinion. This means more testing. Don’t do this over and over again. I, for one, was tested three times within an eighteen-month timeframe. Determine whether you will ask for a second opinion based on what was assessed, not what the outcome was. Testing needs to be comprehensive, including assessment of cognitve, social and emotional functioning. Educate yourself about your child’s disability to know which other aspects may need testing (eg. tactile skills if your child is blind). If testing wasn’t comprehensive enough, this is a reason to ask for a second opinion, for exaple, if your child is autistic and only their social and emotional functitoning was assessed. This was the case with my first assessment, and it was logical that my parents sought a second opinion. When they sought a third opinion after the second ed psych’s conclusions based on comprehensive testing didn’t suit them, well, that wasn’t. As I said, once every three years is a reasonable tiemframe to get re-assessed. Unless there are truly good reasons for it, you shouldn’t ask for an earlier re-assessment. Remember when you had to take your standardized tests in school. An educational psychology assessment is as stressful.

As Dinky’s Mom says, an educational psychologist cannot make a diagnosis or get your child into a specific school. They can only report on your child’s abilities and difficulties in various areas of functioning and recommend support strategies. You will usually need a medical diagnosis from a pediatrician or other qualified health professional to get your child into a specific kind of school. For example, when my parents first sought special education for me they checked out a school for children with mobility impairments, but my motor deficits were not severe enough to be allowed into that school. My primary disability was blindness, so I was accepted into the school for the blind. (I first went to a school for the partially sighted, but this shcool now serves blind children too.)

Make sure you check out all aspects of a special (or mainstream) school before you decide on whether to apply there for your child. Again, a school deals with the whole child. Dinky’s Mom was asked to check out a school that serves children with severe intellectual disabilities, while Dinky is academically able. I, too, found myself in schools where the majority of the other kids had some level of learning difficulties, even though I went to the “single disability” class. In the Netherlands, most children with disabilities nowadays don’t go to special schools due to budget cuts, so the kids who do likely have more than one disability. Then again, so do I.

I remember my parents were ultimately fed up with special education and decided to mainstream me despite there still being options for special education that may’ve been more suitable than the schools I’d attended alreaydy. However, I’m aware that the perfect school does not exist, and this is one big reason I’m for individualized educational programming. I remember the second ed psych, the one who did the comprehensive testing, put in her first recommendation that a school needed to be appropriate given my high academic abilities. At the time, only mainstream schools met this need.

I understand my paretns having pressured me to do well on the ed psych tests and to cope in mainstream school. I was loutright lying to the third ed psych (my parents claim he’s far too clever to have let that happen, but I know that I did), because I knew that severe social and emotial problems were the reason I was advised into special ed the year before. The man still managed to spot some of my problems, of course. Anyway, as I said, ed psych evaluations are stressful. Don’t make it worse by talking about what outcome you hope for in front of your child too much.

Lastly, once you’ve found a suitable school, don’t expect it to always be suitable. I was mainstreamed, coped okay for the first month or two, and then was presumed to be doing fine for the remaining nearly six years. I did get more testing, but that was only because I participated in a preemie follow-up study. Besides, psychological testing isn’t everything.

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