Understanding Strengths and Challenges for Teens
You can’t determine a person’s strengths and weaknesses simply by looking at him or her. And you can’t fully understand your own strengths and weaknesses without making the effort to recognize exactly what they are. That’s why it’s important to follow a systematic approach to discovering your personal learning profile. A professional evaluation detailing your specific LD and your areas of strength, can be extremely useful, and a less comprehensive screening can be an important and useful first step toward success.
Screenings and formal evaluations done while you were in high school (or even before that) could be very helpful. Be sure to have copies of all of these documents and records on hand, as well as copies of any Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) or 504 plans.
A formal or informal screening can be a useful way to ask questions about your patterns of performance, strengths, interests and needs. Some important screening questions include:
- What problems are you having? In what classes? In what other aspects of your life?
- When did they begin?
- How have you tried to deal with them?
- What may be possible reasons for these problems? What do you think would help you to overcome these challenges? What sort of assistance would help you most like to have now?
Screenings can be done by a number of school personnel or counseling professionals. Input from parents, tutors and others who know you and your work style should be included. Be honest and use this opportunity to validate your assumptions about your areas of struggle and what you need to succeed.
Based on the results of a screening, you could seek the services of an evaluator who will select the formal tests that will be most helpful in identifying your learning strengths, interests and disabilities.
Tests of Cognitive Abilities
These tests assess the way people think and solve problems. Most of these types of tests yield IQ scores. But the real value of these tests is that they often reveal strengths, weaknesses and preferences in the ways that you receive, process and express information.
Achievement tests reveal how well you perform in different skill areas, such as reading (decoding and comprehension), mathematics, vocabulary, spelling and writing. Some achievement tests focus only on one area of skill while others survey a number of skills and sample your performance by presenting items easy and difficult items.
Information Processing Tests
These tests examine how you organize and understand information presented in different forms (i.e., auditory or visual).
Reporting Test Results
Each test offers feedback expressed in different types of scores, and it is important that you understand what these numbers mean. They are key to sharing information about your learning profile and will not only help you share information with helping professionals but will also help these individuals communicate among themselves about how best to provide you with support.
You should always get a copy of your results in writing. Be sure to discuss with your evaluator what the report means and how it can help you plan for the next steps in your life. The screening or evaluation process should result in a report that you understand and can comfortably share with others (Any personal or confidential information could be included in a separate section that might be shared at your discretion). The testing results and recommendations should allow you to better explain your learning strengths and needs to others.
Employers and schools most likely will ask you for up-to-date documentation of your learning disability, so it’s essential that you have a current or updated assessment completed before you leave high school. If you do not have an up-to-date assessment from your school, you may need to locate a private evaluator to update the testing.
Your local Vocational Rehabilitation Agency may also be a helpful resource. A vocational evaluation can help you choose types of education programs and possible careers that may be a good match for you.