Part 5, School & Psychological Testing: Diagnosing and Solving School Learning Disabilities in Epilepsy

Article excerpt

In the last article we covered the social and psychological causes to learning difficulty that can be created by epilepsy. Over the last two articles we gained a fairly complete picture of problems that may be due to the physical disorder of epilepsy and problems due to its unique impact on the social aspects of the classroom. Now it is time to begin teasing out each of these threads of influence in order to determine which things are helping or hurting a particular child's performance in the classroom. We start with taking a snapshot of the student's abilities by using testing.

While describing the problem is important, it is also essential to measure the problem. That is what testing does. There are specialized threads of testing just as there are different threads of influence in the problem of learning disabilities in epilepsy. A comprehensive evaluation would include the following types of tests: Achievement, IQ, Neuropsychological, and Psychological. Not all kids will require all of these to define the problem exactly and to plan an appropriate treatment.

Achievement testing (or academic testing) measures what the child has learned and mastered in terms of his academic knowledge and skills. It is a way to measure the child's learning achievements against other students of his same age. Achievement testing will give you a profile of what the child's academic strengths and weaknesses are. It helps identify specific problem spots in terms of his or her academic performance. Equally important, the tests identify classroom knowledge and skill strengths that may prove to be helpful when figuring out educational strategies and "work arounds" for specific learning disabilities. Achievement tests include things like spelling, math, grammar, history, science, and other school topics that are appropriate to the age and grade of the student. These tests are usually given by school psychologists or educational psychologists.

Intelligence testing is a test of certain knowledge and thinking skills. The common name for this testing is IQ test. Note that only certain things are measured. Things like "emotional intelligence," (the ability to understand and respond effectively to one's own feelings and the feelings of others) or "social intelligence" (the ability to understand and respond effectively to different social situations) are not included. In the real world these other forms of intelligence are equally important for life success.

Thus the IQ test is really a limited measure of intelligence. On the other hand, very much is known about the IQ test, and it is a good measure of cognitive or thinking abilities and the impact these abilities have on a child's classroom performance.

Some predictions of basic academic strengths and weaknesses can be made from the results of the child's IQ test. Sometimes classroom placement decisions are made based upon the test, allowing the school to place the child with others of the same ability so the teacher can teach using techniques that fit the learning needs all of the students in her classroom.

IQ is an abbreviation for "intelligence quotient." The term "quotient" means something is mathematically divided into something else. In this case the total number of test items the child got right on the test is divided by the child's age. The older the child, the greater the divisor. This is important for understanding the meaning of the IQ score, especially if your child has a series of IQ tests over her school years. A child scoring about the same number of items right each time she is tested will appear to have her IQ drop as she gets older. This does not mean she is getting "dumber." It is her increasing age that is making a larger divisor, thus making the IQ product smaller. In a child like this, she is not losing intellectual abilities, rather her abilities are not continuing to grow at the same rate as other students her age. Thus she falls behind her peers because her intellectual skills are not growing as fast as her peers abilities are. …