You may have read every parenting book, blog, or posts from your local mom’s boards for every difficulty your child might have, but chances are your child only represents a small portion of what is being presented to you. With this being said, when your child undergoes any psychological or educational evaluation, whether it be in a school, clinic, or private practice setting it is your job to ask questions related to your child.
Most importantly, ask questions beyond what the data or general “norms” suggest.
I say this because although we psychologists are trained to look at how a child’s behaviors present throughout the testing and account for them along with their abilities and skills, visual processing and behavioral observations are often overlooked during these most informative times. Unfortunately, this does not happen on any negligent behalf of the psychologist, but more so because psychologists are not trained to detect visual processing issues beyond what the scores present.
It is usually the parent who asks the psychologist “have you ever heard of vision therapy?” and “do you think my child needs this?” Visual processing difficulties can present in many ways across testing. If you are a parent who has had your child tested before or is going to in the future you will likely hear/see the abbreviated terms of the testing materials used. Some of the most frequently used tests are the WISC-V, WPPSI, WJ-IV, Bender-Gestalt II, GORT-5, GSRT, and the WIAT-III which assess cognitive abilities, visual motor integration, and academic achievement (reading, writing and math). Across each of these measures your child may present with below average scores— your provider will spend some time discussing this and if your child presents as average it is likely he/she will move on during any type of feedback unless you stop them. Nonetheless, you should inquire about what the processes of your child’s work looked like. By asking these questions you will know whether or not you should turn to vision therapy or consult further about your child’s visual processing.
Here are some suggestions I would recommend asking the evaluator:
During testing did my child…
Work closely to the page
Have difficulty copying items (i.e. reversals or exerting excessive energy)
Seem to slow down or spend more time re-reading parts of larger passages
Write words that exhibited letter reversals
Fatigue during reading tasks
Exhibit lip biting or excessive mouth movements during reading
Express complaints when approaching reading/writing tasks
Skip lines when reading aloud
Read the words accurately, but exhibit minimal comprehension
Write sentences with poor spacing or ‘floating’ letters off the line
Not attend to the mathematical sign changes
Exhibit minimal organization across tasks, both spatially and/or verbally
Have difficulty following multi-step directions
Have difficulty self-monitoring during tasks
Have a short attention span for particular tasks
Exhibit dysfluency across timed tasks
These questions are important to ask because they are all signs of visually related difficulties that can be causing your child to exert additional effort or strain of the eyes, which often go unrecognized. Regardless of your child’s performance on these measures, it is by understanding his/her behaviors throughout the testing that will enable you to detect visual processing difficulties and a need for vision therapy. Remember, you are your child’s best expert witness!
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