School Behavior - A Good Evaluation Helps Your Child Learn

A psychological evaulation can provide clues to your child's behavior for a better education.

By Cary Chugh, PhD Child Psychologist, author of Don't Swear with Your Mouth Full

Discipline is used to encourage a child to change his behavior. Adults use rewards and punishments either when they know the child can control the behavior in question or when they are not sure if the child can control his behavior. The only time when behavior modifications should not be used under any circumstances is when the adult knows the child cannot control his behavior.

A through psychological evaluation can be critical for determining a child's capabilities across a variety of areas, including cognitive, academic, behavioral, emotional and social functioning. Baseline evaluations are a necessary starting point, against which subsequent repeat evaluations can measure a child' response to various interventions, including behavior plans.

Children's leaning issues may be misconstrued by others if they go undetected. These children may have difficulty conforming to expectations of the environment and, therefore, may be unfairly labeled by others as being bad, lazy, or incapable. It is critical that your child is not being punished for something out of his control, because this can set him up for future failure and promote low self-esteem and a desire simply to stop trying gin school. For example, a child may be chronically late for class because he has a nonverbal learning disorder or has trouble with transitions. A child with an academic or neuro-developmental disorder might be labeled as lazy because he fails to complete homework correctly, forgets to bring materials to class, or resists schoolwork.

In cases where disruptive behavior is secondary to a specific psychiatric or developmental disorder, interventions are developed to address the issues underlying the disruptive behavior, and the "surface" behavioral problems are targeted with behavior management as opposed to behavior modification. Of course, this can become more confusing when purposeful misbehavior is affecting the child's ability to cooperate with these interventions.

As a parent the most important thing you can do for a child with learning or developmental issues is educate yourself about your child's specific problem. You are your child best advocate, and you will often be in the position of having to explain your child needs to school teachers and administrators. Toward this end, it is critical that you become an expert on how your child learns best.

The formal diagnosis of a problem your child is exhibiting is only an intermediate step in the evaluation process. The real objective an assessment is to determine where your child gets stuck in the learning processes. Good evaluations provide detailed suggestions for optimizing the child's learning. Make sure your child's psychologist gives you concrete suggestions for maximizing your child's success in school, regardless of the diagnosis given.

Schools should strive to minimize any obstacles to learning for your child and provide remediation for specific learning weaknesses. Your child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or Accommodation Plan should be tailored to his specific learning needs.

©Cary Chugh, Ph. D. is a child psychologist in private practice in New York State. His book, Don't Swear with Your Mouth Full provides modifications to traditional parenting techniques to make them more effective for children with difficult behavior.