Expert Corner: Ioana Pal, PsyD., Licensed Clinical Psychologist

There has been more talk about dyslexia in recent months and years, since children began online learning and even more so after they returned to the classrooms. Learning difficulties are common, but not always detected early. Reading and writing difficulties, or math calculation problems can all affect a child’s desire to learn, impact attention and focus, and also negatively impact peer relationships. To prevent this from happening more and more, psychological testing gives parents and teachers the necessary evidence to help children succeed, not only academically, but also emotionally. Whether it is a new bill such as SB 691 mentioned above, or SBs 98 (a bill which addresses chronic absenteeism and habitual truancy by providing specifically allocated funding to address the root causes that impact attendance) and 117 (a bill which provides funding to Local Educational Agencies – LEAs – to be used for costs associated with maintaining nutrition services, cleaning and disinfecting facilities, personal protective equipment…) during the pandemic. We can all do our part to share, educate, and implement.

We can start small by having teachers complete screeners such as the Shaywitz Dyslexia Screen to identify K-3 students at risk for reading difficulties. Psychologists can complete full batteries that include cognitive and neuropsychological measures, attention and executive function screeners, visual-motor measures as well as questionnaires that identify sensory integration problems. Psychologists select evaluation tools based on the specific concerns determined by stakeholders including parents, teachers, administrators, medical and mental health providers, and even the child himself.

Data driven and needs driven interventions can change lives. However, in order to provide the best support, a well thought out assessment battery needs to consider the whole child. Our responsibility is to the children, those who are easily identified as needing services for sure, but also to the children who do just “well enough”. We need to share our resources.