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Your Child Needs Cognitive Testing? Advice: “Don’t Be Afraid”

Child and teacher counting using there fingers

Our experts have two suggestions for parents who might be worried about their child’s cognitive assessment.

Building on Strengths and Identifying Needs

“When a child is directed to a cognitive assessment, it can be a real area of concern for some parents,” says Larry Weiss, Vice President of Global Research and Development at Pearson Clinical Assessment.

“Many feel pressure to make sure their children are placed in certain academic programs,” he says. “Or they might feel their child is being kept from a particular program.”

“In many cases, it’s a real fear,” he says.

Larry and his colleague Amy Dilworth Gabel, Director of Training, Professional Development, and Consultation for Pearson, want to calm this fear.

“At Pearson, we’re a large team of psychologists and experts,”Amy says, “working hard to create scientifically valid assessments that help every learner build on their strengths and get help for their needs.”

“We’re not using these cognitive assessments to dig up a child’s learning challenges,” Amy says. “We’re also looking for conditions when these children perform at their best.”

Multiple Factors Involved

Larry says the number one misconception about cognitive assessments is that a child’s intelligence can be fully explained by a single number or IQ score.

“We’re not measuring just one thing,” he says. “There’s verbal reasoning, visual reasoning, fluid reasoning, short-term memory, processing speed, retrieval of long-term knowledge, and so on.”

“A child’s IQ score represents a large range of abilities,” Larry says. “And although much of intelligence is inherited, the development of these cognitive abilities over the course of childhood and adolescence can be enhanced by access to enriching experiences in the environment, role models, quality of school, and other developmental experiences.

“And we’re not using these cognitive assessments to dig up a child’s learning challenges,” Amy says. “We’re also looking for conditions when these children perform at their best.”

Larry says if a cognitive assessments turns up a child learner’s need, parents often forget that the evaluation considers a large mix of abilities.

“If a child appears to be struggling with one part of learning,” he says, “he or she may not struggle in any other area of learning.”

This is often a relief for both the parents and the child who may have feared more widespread problems.

“These assessments don’t have to be scary,” she says. “One of the best outcomes is when a parent tells us ‘You really understand my child.'”

Understanding Every Child

“Not all kids learn in the same way,” Amy says. “Our message to parents is that cognitive assessments help us chart the best path for each, unique learner.”

“These assessments don’t have to be scary,” she says. “One of the best outcomes is when a parent tells us ‘You really understand my child.'”

“We really encourage our parents to remember that cognitive ability covers a wide range of abilities—and are only part of the picture for a child’s learning and development.”

Advice to Parents

Larry and Amy have two suggestions for parents to calm fears about cognitive assessments:

  1. “Ask a lot of questions,” Amy says.“The jargon can sometimes be confusing and you want to make sure that you understand what your child’s evaluation means.”
  2. “Sometimes results are hard for a parent to take,” Larry says. “And we really encourage our parents to remember that cognitive assessment covers a wide range of abilities—and these are only part of the picture for a child’s learning and development.”

“We want parents to use these evaluations to get the most out of available tools and resources to help their child,” Amy says. “This goes into everything we do.”