Evaluating children via standard testing can be a difficult task. Special needs children who have ADD/ADHD, an undiagnosed learning disability, and/or an intellectual disability, create challenges for the test administrator as well. Testing standards not geared toward specific ethnic or racial groups create unfair biases from the beginning, creating cultural and language barriers. Standards such as these neither determine their overall mental capabilities nor predict a positive test performance. Demographics obtained prior to the assessment are crucial, since testing structure is reminiscent of the Western philosophy. Being sensitive to worldwide cultural differences and adjusting the testing accordingly will dissipate the barriers and produce a more positive outcome for test takers.
Two factors that contribute to test taking anxiety include fear of strangers and an unfamiliar testing environment. The ideal place for an evaluation is the child’s home where it is relaxed and informal. Since that is not an option in some cases, consider the family’s needs, resources and concerns as, they can affect both the evaluation and possible interventions.
In some cultures, parents do not read books to their child, play with the same types of games or socialize them outside of the home. This lack of interaction with other children can affect the outcome of the evaluation. If a child is very active, they cannot sit still and listen for more than a few seconds. They are curious of the world around them. The child may be capable of completing a substantial amount of the test, but because of the inability to sit still and focus, the test results will not always be the same. Test results may not always be accurate due to children favoring certain tasks over others. For example, a child’s interest may be in playing with the telephone and television, but seldom answers questions. Test taking tasks need to be so interesting that it keeps the child busy, while being developmentally appropriate; using phrases and words that children know and understand.
Test administrators, parents, or caregivers may not teach or show children developmentally appropriate methods to understanding, playing and reasoning. Children need to recognize information at their level of understanding. An example of communicating danger to a toddler is not to play near the hot stove because they will get a big boo-boo. If you launch into a five-minute rant of the dangers, reasons and facts of hot stoves, your child will tune out. When you take the time to teach, you teach understanding. Each time that child encounters that or a similar situation you teach understanding again. You continue to teach understanding until they can reason on their own. Once they understand reasoning, they are able to use this new information as a building block for the next level of learning.
The role model and the caregiver are just two of the teachers to this child. For instance, a baby cannot learn how to switch a toy from one hand to the other if the baby has yet to bring his hands together to clap, be able to grasp and hold items in his hand. To move from one phase of development to the next, the caregiver can facilitate learning by taking the child’s hands, then telling, and showing simultaneously the task.
If your child is to be tested, recognize that there are rules and regulations for children with disabilities. How will the test administrator accommodate your child? Individuals with Disabilities Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Standards for Educational and Psychological testing discuss how to accommodate these children. Is there any way to ensure your testing administrator will provide culturally sensitive methods for implementing the test? Contact your local School Liaison or Family Advocate to help you with the testing and accommodation process.