What’s Next?

Part I: Key Take-Homes from Your Child’s Evaluation

If you felt overwhelmed at the feedback session or IEP meeting after your child’s evaluation, you are not alone!

Many parents are only able to process a few minutes of a 1-2 hour feedback session.

Rita Eichenstein, author of Not What I Expected

If you’re like most parents, you heard one piece of information, and your mind began jumping to questions about your child’s future or worries about decisions you made in the past. 

The jargon they used may have been confusing, or maybe there were just too many numbers.

To make matters worse, our diagnostic process is highly focused on deficits, and you may have had to sit through a long list of all the things your child can’t do, which is emotional and exhausting.  

Finally, you may have started realizing how much you have in common with your child, which opens a whole new box of questions, concerns and worries!

To help, I’ve been working with families to:

  1. Simplify testing results into key take-homes you need to know about your child
  2. Translate a deficit-focused diagnosis into neurodiversity-affirming language

Here’s how we do it!

Using the Construction Metaphor

Your Child’s Highways and Construction Zones

To make it easy to understand a complex report, I use a construction metaphor.

It goes like this:

  • Our brains have many different parts, all working together to help us understand the world.
  • These parts communicate using special cells called neurons.  As we think new thoughts and learn new things, our neurons connect to each other, like billions of tiny roads.
  • There are some things our brains make easy for us to do.  We can think of these as our highways!
        • Sometimes our brains don’t make it easy to get from one place to another.  These are our construction zones, or the skills we are building. 
          • A diagnosis simply describes a pattern of highways and construction zones that make a brain work differently than “most brains.”  These patterns may have a name, like ADHD, autism, dyslexia, anxiety, etc.
            • Once we know about a child’s specific profile or diagnosis, we can make sure that we give them the tools and supports they need to thrive!

                  Using this metaphor, we can summarize the report by listing your child’s highways, construction zones, and what tools will help them build their brain!

                  Assessment Summary Worksheet

                  Click below to download the Assessment Summary handout.  Then, read on for instructions on how to complete it!

                  Your Child’s Highways

                  First, write down your child’s strengths – their “highways.” 

                  These may be academic strengths, character strengths, or the ways in which they process information best.  

                  Try to write these down in your own words, or give examples of what you see in everyday life.

                  If you aren’t clear what your child’s strengths are, here are some places to look:

                  • Report Summary: Often at the end of the report, most evaluators will include a paragraph on a student’s academic, cognitive, or character strengths.
                  • Observations: Many evaluators will describe successful moments in their classroom or testing observations.
                  • IEP Document: You may have received a 20-30 page document from your child’s school with their IEP and goals.  This document will also include a section on strengths.

                  If you’re still not sure, contact your evaluator and ask:

                  What are my child’s top 5 strengths?  
                  What would these look like in their everyday life, at home or at school?

                   

                  Your Child’s Construction Zones

                  Now write down your child’s construction zones, or the skills they are building.

                  You may think of these areas as, “What’s getting in the way of them being their most successful and authentic self?”

                  While I love a long list of highways, I find it helpful to hone in on 1-3 areas that are under construction. 

                  This helps us (and our kids) prioritize what we’re working on now.

                  As you identify your child’s construction zones, it may be helpful to make sure you can imagine what it looks like in the real world. 

                  For example:

                  Slow processing speed → Needing more time to go from one activity to the next; taking longer to complete homework

                  Working memory → Difficulty remembering a long list of “to dos;” forgetting where they are in a math problem; difficulty writing 

                  Phonological processing → Mixing up words when speaking or reading; slower reading; difficulties with spelling

                  Attention → Hyperfocus on an area of interest; difficulties turning attention on when not interested; easily distracted in the middle of a task; starting lots of things but difficulty finishing

                  Again, if it’s hard to name your child’s construction zones, here are some places to look:

                   

                  • Report Summary: In the summary section, the evaluator will list the areas where your child struggled most.
                  • Observations: Classroom and testing observation may give you examples of specific situations that were more challenging for your child.
                  • IEP Document: The Goals section will specifically identify what skills your child is working on.

                  If you’re still not sure, contact your evaluator and ask:

                  What are the top 3 things my child is working on?
                  What would these look like in their everyday life, at home or at school?

                  Now, you should have a concise summary of the most important pieces of your child’s profile: where they shine, and what gets in the way.  It might look something like this:

                  Diagnosis & Eligibility

                  A diagnosis is just a short-cut for summarizing the highways and construction zones you wrote above.

                  If your child was evaluated by their school, they may have been found eligible under one of the 13 categories of Special Education, such as “specific learning disability,” “other health impaired,” or “emotional disturbance.”  

                  These categories are also short-cuts for helping us understand your child’s strengths and challenges.

                  Now, let’s figure out what your child’s diagnosis (or eligibility) means for them! 

                  Here’s an easy way to understand your child’s diagnosis or eligibility using a neurodiversity-affirming, positive lens:

                  For your child, [diagnosis/eligibility] means their brain was built in a way that makes their highways come easily and their construction zones much more challenging.

                  To personalize this statement, simply plug in the highways and construction zones you listed above.  For example:

                   

                  • For my child, ADHD means their brain is built in a way that makes coming up with ideas come easily and writing them down much more challenging.
                  • For my child, dyslexia means their brain was built in a way that makes drawing and story-telling come easily and reading stories much more difficult.
                  • For my child, autism means their brain was built in a way that makes details and deep dives into their interest come easily and coping with change much more difficult.

                  Write in your personalized definition of your child’s diagonsis or eligibility here!

                  Tools & Construction Crew

                  Tools are the materials and strategies your child will need for their brain to work best. 

                  Your child’s construction crew is the educators, coaches, therapists, and family members helping them with their construction zones.

                  Many evaluators will provide looooong lists of recommendations.  It may be helpful to circle the 5 most important ones to get you and your child started. 

                  Yep – just 5.

                  .

                  If you’re not sure which to circle, I highly recommend reaching out to the evaluator and asking this question:

                  Thank you for all these recommendations.  If I could only do 5 things, which would those be? 

                  Write the 5 most important recommendations in the Assessment Summary sheet here →

                  Bringing It All Together

                  Now, you have a completed 1-page summary of your child’s assessment. 

                  Hopefully, this summary has translated your child’s testing results into words that are more relatable and paint a positive picture of your child’s profile.

                  Here’s what it might look like completed:

                  I’ve found this summary as a helpful cover sheet when sharing the report with others to make sure they see the most important points.  Teachers also love this summary because it highlights what they can do to best support your child!

                  I hope this article was helpful to you and your amazing child.  🙂 

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