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If you feel that your child is not developing/learning as they should, and strategies put in place to help by your child’s teacher/SENCo/nursery worker are not making a difference, the next step may be an education psychologist’s (EP’s) assessment.

The process

Assessments are generally organised by the school. This may not happen immediately, depending on the school’s arrangement with the educational psychologist, and there can be a long wait for an appointment. The EP will probably come to school, discuss your child with you and his/her teachers, and observe the child in class and perhaps at play. They will also look at classwork, chat to your child and give them some tests to check on skills and intellectual development. EPs are well trained to put the children at ease and relate to them during these sessions, and most children find the session a positive experience with an element of challenge or fun involved somewhere in the procedure.

Feedback from the psychological assessment

The assessment will result either in a report giving an overview of your child's strengths and weaknesses. It can also give recommendations for teaching strategies or additional materials to be used with your child, or advice on suitable school types for your child.

The EP may also recommend a referral to other professionals such as a speech and language therapist, occupational therapist, optometrist or a paediatrician, as well as sources of help such as the child and family consultation services. Don't be unduly alarmed if this happens - the more information available, the better the help that can be obtained.

This assessment and the report may also play a key role in obtaining both a Education, Health and Care Plan (EHC) and perhaps extra time/help in examinations. It is therefore an important document and you should ensure you have a copy and keep it in a safe place. You should also give a copy to a new school or college as your child moves on.

Starting the ball rolling

What do you do if you suspect a difficulty with learning but the teachers don't seem concerned or maintain that your child will catch up given time, or is just average? Do follow up on your hunch.

The key thing to remember is that the sooner your child's difficulties are isolated, identified and dealt with, the less their education will suffer, the more successfully they will learn and the less their self-esteem and self-confidence will be affected.

It is difficult to overestimate the importance of self-esteem in the classroom, and the more this can be protected, the better for your child.

You know your child better than the professionals. If the school refuses to recognise that there is a problem, you can contact your local authority yourself, and they must consider your request – but may not agree to it. In this case you could, if you can afford it, pay for a private assessment. The school may be less inclined to take notice of this than one they have commissioned, however, so ideally you need to get the SENCo on side.

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