To assess, or not assess, that is the question.

Many parents find it difficult to decide whether or not to have their child assessed for a Specific Learning Difficulty such as dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia or Aspergers Syndrome. Some parents prefer their child not to have a diagnosis because they do not want them to be labelled. Other parents might feel that a diagnosis will help others to understand the child’s strengths and weaknesses, and the impact this has on their performance and behaviour. 

The decision will depend on several factors, for example: the severity of the child’s difficulty, the type of school they attend, the level of support the parents can provide, and the impact of any difficulty upon the child’s mental health. 

 One child may have moderate dyslexia, but their school is dyslexia friendly, their parents supportive and knowledgeable, the child outgoing and confident, popular with peers and adults alike. The child may have talents in specific areas: design, sport, science, art, drama or creative writing to boost their self-esteem. In such a case the parents may feel that dyslexia could be viewed as a personality trait, more of an inconvenience than a handicap, an irritating weakness that requires the child to work hard and devise strategies to help themselves: both useful skills for life.

Another child may experience similar levels of dyslexia, but attend a less supportive school, have less knowledgeable parents, be shy and less willing to self-advocate. In such a case, the parents may decide they would like the child to have the protection of an EHC plan, and so press for an assessment.

Even if the assessment does not give a definite diagnosis, it is likely that any child judged to require an assessment will be placed somewhere on the spectrum of ASD, dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia or ADHD. This increased understanding of the child will give everyone involved, (parents, child and school), an improved insight into what the child requires by way of support. Knowledge is power.

Several positives can emerge from an assessment for a Specific Learning Difficulty: –

  • For the school: – Although support in school is not based on a child having a diagnosis, an assessment will enable teaching staff to understand the child’s strengths and weaknesses in more detail. This can be particularly important if the child has complex needs that interact. 
  • For the child: – The child may welcome an explanation for the difficulties they experience, and why they feel different to their peers.
  • For the parents: – An assessment will help the parent to understand their child better, to be supportive in a more appropriate way, and to be able to plan for the child’s future schooling.

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