Why should you get your child assessed? Firstly, not all children need to be assessed educationally; however it's vital for those children who, for whatever reason, are struggling in school with the normal curriculum. The advice from the Department of Education and Science around pyschological assessment for children is that parents should be informed by the school about any difficulties a child may have, well before it's necessary to bring an Educational Psychologist onboard. In their view supplementary teaching should be tried prior to any intervention. Sounds like good advice but the reality is that there is a lot of pressure on the average primary school teacher, especially with large, overcrowded classes of pupils with varying abilities and languages. Understandably it can be difficult for the teacher to flag a child's difficulties. Sometimes they can just slip through the net in the early years of primary school and their learning difficulties remain unidentified and therefore, unsupported. Ask any parent with a child with special needs and it would seem that there's always a battle for a "diagnosis". This is a real issue because there's no doubt that the earlier problems are confronted the better the outcome for the child and their family.
In fact, it's often parents who initially realise that something is not quite right and approach their child's school for some answers. Hopefully, the school will be supportive and options can be discussed. In our experience resource teaching hours where not an option unless we had a diagnosis from an educational psychologist and a further diagnosis of additional behavioural problems from a Clinical Psychologist. As it stands under the Education for Persons with Special Educational Needs Act 2004, the guidelines for assessment are as follows:
"The assessment must be started within a month of the principal forming the opinion that the child is still not benefiting from the school’s education programme and that this may be due to the child having special educational needs. The assessment must be completed within 3 months of the principal forming this opinion."
What does an assessment mean and how do you go about getting an assessment? For our purposes when we say assessment we mean one of three things:
The CTYI route is how a lot of parents first discover that their child is in the top 5% of learning ability. (See the CTYI page for more information.) Both the NEPS and Private routes offer a more in depth report on the child and their learning environment. The NEPS service is free but the request for an assessment must come from the child's school prinicipal, so it's necessary to get the school on side. Obviously, the cost of going to a Private Psychologist has to be met by the parents. Some parents often opt for a private assessment perhaps because their area is not covered by NEPS or they feel that an independent assessment will be fairer to the child. This is particularly true if the school has failed to recognise a child's difficulties. Both Neps and Private Educational Psychologists can make recommendations to the school about how best to adapt the curriculum to meet the child's needs. However these recommendations are not written in stone and do not have to be acted on by the school. The Special Education Support Services (SESS) website has a very useful Glossary of Terms used in Assessment which can be downloaded.
The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment have recognised that exceptionally able children are a special needs issue and with input from members of the IAGC have drafted an impressive document entitled Exceptionally Able Students: Draft Guidelines for Teachers. These are:
"designed to raise awareness of the social, emotional and academic needs of exceptionally able students and to assist teachers in planning their teaching and learning. They feature ways in which teaching and learning can be effectively differentiated for such students, in particular how learning skills can be embedded in increasingly complex content."
The 136 page document is encouraging in that it actively promotes a better understanding of the challenges faced by exceptionally able children and their families and suggest concrete ways how educators and parents can help. What's particularly interesting is that they identify six different profiles of exceptionally able students
The Guidelines give both teachers and parents an idea as to what kind of behaviour is expected from each group and, more importantly, what kind of support they respond to best. However, remember that the Guidelines, along with that other great buzz word "recommendations" are just that. Like alot of these initatives it is entirely up to the School Principal if he or she wishes to take any or all of the content on board. That said, it may be worthwhile to ask your school whether they have received their copy and what their intentions are around implementation.
CTYI Young Students Assessment (6-13 yrs)
CTYI Talent Search Programme (12-16 yrs)
“We really didn't set out to get her assessed. We didn't even know that that was an option. We sent her for the assessment with the CTYI for their pilot 6 - 7 year old programme, where she was accepted. We found that the school didn't really put much value on this assessment; but that may have changed now as the CYTI has become more well known. Just having a definite assessment of her ability helped us to understand her better and give her the support that she needs."
“He just wasn't happy in school and certainly wasn't anywhere near his potential. In fact, he seemed to struggle; but this just didn't make sense as he had a hugh appetite for books at home. We were lucky in that the school suggested that we could get him assessed by an Educational Psychologist attached to the school by the Department of Education. This is how we discovered that he was in the 99 percentile range. It did help the school to make some allowances for him but we're still waiting to see if he gets any additional teaching resources."
Disclaimer: This is not an expert site, it is run on a voluntary basis and as such is based on opinion and experience but we hope that it acts as a signpost for educational resources and other support services for Irish families with exceptionally able children. By using this website you accept that any dependence by you on such information, opinion or advice is at your own risk.