How to Talk to Your Elementary-Aged Child About LD Evaluation
When the mysterious lady took me out of class that day in kindergarten, I thought nothing of it. I assumed everyone in my class was meeting with this woman. I was unaware of it then, but this stranger was a school psychologist, and I was being evaluated for learning disabilities (LD).
Approximately 15 years later, I’m now a successful college student. Special education without a doubt helped me tremendously in battling the struggles of LD. I may have an inspirational “overcoming LD” story, but I had more than a few bumps in the road along the way. That’s why I’m providing you, parents and guardians, with tips about how to talk to your elementary-aged child about learning and attention difficulties.
Here are some situations that might come up during the LD assessment process and ways you can respond to them as a parent.
Situation: Your child needs to be pulled out of class for LD evaluation.
- Tip: The LD identification process may take an emotional toll on your child. Be prepared to talk about the process in an open, positive way. Explain to your child why he is being pulled out of class by a school psychologist or another professional. Resist the urge to hold off on explaining what's happening until the professional's reports come back. Although you surely only want to protect your child from feeling inadequate or singled out, if you wait until this point, your child will already feel lost. You want your child to be on track with what's going on from day one.
- Conversation Starter: “A man/woman named Mr(s).____ will take you out of class on _____ to give you a quiz. Don’t worry! It won’t impact your grades at school. We just want to understand more about the way you learn.” (Provide your child with as many details as possible—this way, they aren’t caught off guard when a stranger unexpectedly pulls them out of class).
Situation: Your child asks why she is being evaluated—the other kids aren’t going through this.
- Tip: Explain to your child why she is being assessed. If you tell your child that they will be undergoing some testing, but you don’t explain why, she will be confused and may develop negative thoughts about the process. This is your chance to start talking about LD in a productive and positive way.
- Conversation Starter: “Your teacher notices how smart you are and she thinks that you don’t do as well on homework and quizzes as you could. A lot of smart kids struggle with school and sometimes, they need extra help or a different kind of teaching to help them do well in school. So, we’re going to do some testing to find out more about how you learn and what might help you do the best you can at school.”
Situation: Your child is worried the other kids will make fun of him because he is being pulled out of the classroom for testing.
- Tip: Make sure he knows there’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Throughout the school day, many kids are pulled out of class for a variety of reasons—to take medication at the nurse’s office, to go to a special education or gifted class, or for speech therapy. With all the activity going on in today’s elementary classrooms, your child’s classmates may not even notice that he’s leaving for a short period of time. Let him know that his true friends would never judge him—because everyone has differences and we don’t all learn in the same way.
- Conversation Starter: “Don’t let anyone make you feel bad about being pulled out of class. Be proud that your teacher knows you’re really smart and believes you have the ability to do even better in school. A lot of kids get taken out of class for different reasons…I bet the other kids might not even notice. And if you do choose to tell other kids why you’re leaving class, I bet your friends will support you.”
Situation: Your child is evaluated and it is determined that he needs special education services. He is worried that this means that he is not smart.
- Tip: Set a positive tone for your child—no matter what the results of the LD evaluation, teach your child to never be embarrassed because they learn differently.
- Conversation Starter: “We know you so smart, and this will help you learn in ways that make more sense to you. You may learn differently from other kids, but that in no way means that you aren’t as smart as your friends. Do not let anyone tell you otherwise!”
Jill Smilowitz is a NCLD intern from Plainview, New York. She is an undergraduate student at the University of Delaware Honors Program. Jill is a Human Services major with a Spanish minor.