Why to Pursue Testing
During the 20 years I've been working with students, I've spoken many times with parents who are unsure if they should pursue testing for their child. Most often, they fear the diagnosis that will label their kids with a learning disability, and the perceived trouble that will follow. I like to challenge that notion.
First, I encourage those who are neurotypical to not view neurodivergence as something terrible that needs to be cured or overcome...this leads us into ableist territory. Rather, it is better to view learning disabilities as neutral, something the student will need to manage and work with, and, given the right supports and opportunities, they can manage well. This article in Educational Leadership explores this in greater detail. Having said that, I also want to point out that if a student is diagnosed with a learning disability, they do not need to be defined by it.
Second, viewing a diagnosis as something awful or sad is not helpful to the student. Yes, it may happen that they experience bullying or feel different because they have ADHD, dyslexia, or a processing disorder. I understand the inclination to want to protect your child; that's a natural reaction. At the same time, it is impossible to protect students from these things, and one of the best things we can do is to find out what is happening for them and do what we can to help.
With greater knowledge comes greater success. When students are tested and then receive a diagnosis, it helps them understand why they have struggled. Rather than asking them to do work that doesn't match their abilities, causing unnecessary frustration and stress, we can start from what we know and then provide them tools and supports to help them succeed. If they do not know what is causing their struggle, they will have little ability to find the right help.
It makes me think about the book Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. In it, Ally, a 4th grader, constantly feels stupid because reading and writing are so hard. She sees her classmates read and write with ease and she can't understand why it is so difficult for her. She engages in all kinds of avoidance tactics so that she doesn't have to write. Finally, her teacher assesses her and suspects she has dyslexia. He provides after-school tutoring that helps her begin to feel more confident and explains to her what dyslexia is and how it affects students. Sure enough, by the end of the book, she feels much better about herself.
I know that getting the school to provide testing is often an uphill battle. And private testing is not easy or inexpensive. And yet, it can mean a world of difference to a student. If you suspect your student may need testing, I encourage you to pursue it.