Challenged Hope

Grandmother raising Grandchildren with FASD in Hamilton Ontario Canada

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What is a Psycho-Educational Assessment?

When each one of my mentally disabled grandchildren reached the age of around five, it was recommended they have a Psycho-Educational Assessment. This was something I had never heard of before, but was assured it would help them receive an academic program suited to their needs when they entered school.

Although I was allowed to attend the assessments, for the first three, I was expected to observe my grandchildren’s testing through a two-way mirror, then for the fourth, in the room itself. Given their ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), each child struggled with the testing, simply because it took over an hour to complete in two separate sessions. But their fidgeting and short attention spans were part of the assessment and taken into consideration when the final report was compiled.

On the website  you can find details on Psycho-Educational Assessments, what areas the child will be tested on, for example: Reading, Math, and Written Expression. And what disabilities the results could present, such as, learning disabilities, ADHD, intellectual disability, developmental delay, Autism, Aspergers, social problems, and organization, planning, and self-monitoring problems. If a child is tested before school entry age, it is suggested he/she be retested before entering Secondary School.

Unfortunately, people in the medical field often assume that parents have a lot more knowledge about health programs than we do, and sometimes hold back from giving adequate information about the child’s needs and why he/she is being tested in the first place, and what the outcome of the testing could possibly be. It really is up to us caregivers to ask as many questions as possible and not be embarrassed by the fact that we don’t automatically have all the answers.

From personal experience, I know my lack of information around mental health isn’t from stupidity, but rather by the fact that when someone suggests my grandchild receive specific help I find myself instantly opting into nervous mode around his/her expected behaviour during the programme, like: “Oh, goodness, will he be able to sit through the testing? Will she yell or act out? What if they can’t get a proper reading – what will happen then? What if he refuses to go to the appointment – will he get another chance?” etc., which doesn’t allow for clear thinking when being informed about the programme itself.

After checking out the website, I am now aware that a Psycho-Educational Assessment is just one kind of Psychological Assessment available. Understanding it now makes it seem obvious, but I thought the PEA report could be used for other reasons, not just academic. And I didn’t know that only a licensed Psychologist or Psychological Associate could perform the test.

When visiting the website, I hope you find the information you are looking for. If you feel your child would benefit from a Psycho-Educational Assessment talk to the resource teacher, or staff, at your child’s school, or ask your doctor for details.

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What is ADD/ADHD?

I’m not a doctor, so I can’t comment on this subject professionally, but I did browse many websites for information and, because all my grandchildren suffer with ADD/ADHD (Attention Deficit Disorder/Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder), I have certainly had experience dealing with it. ADD/ADHD can cause children (or adults) to be inattentive, impulsive and/or hyperactive above and beyond what is considered by those in the medical field to be “normal”. ADD/ADHD can negatively affect your child’s learning, interaction with teachers, classmates and friends, and their social interactions as a whole.

There are several ways to combat ADD/ADHD. First it’s important to recognize the symptoms in your child. Is he/she more likely to blurt out comments or interrupt other inappropriately? Does he/she squirm or fidget in their seat as if never able to keep still? Have they been labelled as lazy, or out of control? Does he/she seem inattentive or excessively daydreaming? Does he/she show these signs in all areas of life – school, home, and at play? If so, a discussion with your family doctor would be a good first step. He/she will want to rule out other possibilities, such as: A medical condition; Traumatic event(s) which could be causing undue stress; Learning disabilities; Depression, or a Behavioural disorder. Then, if he/she decides there is a possibility your child has the symptoms, you will probably be referred to a consultant who specializes in the disorder.

Apparently, this disorder starts before the child is seven years of age, but not all kids with ADD/ADHD are hyperactive but can be inattentive and appear as if daydreaming. Because children with the disorder find it difficult to stay on task, they might appear disorganized. Plus a noisy disruptive environment makes it harder for them to stay focused as opposed to a quiet, calm surrounding.

The inattentive child often:

  • Appears not to hear or listen when spoken to.
  • Has trouble paying attention to detail.
  • Gets quickly bored with activities.
  • Often misplaces things, forgetting where he/she put them.
  • Makes careless mistakes without realizing.
  • Has trouble finishing projects.
  • Is very easily distracted.
  • Is impulsive, calling out or interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Has difficulty following instructions and carrying them out.

The hyperactive child often:

  • Fidgets or squirms in their seat, unable to keep still.
  • Often leaves seat at an inappropriate time.
  • Be impulsive and lash out verbally or physically.
  • Runs and climbs objects that other children wouldn’t climb.
  • Talks non-stop.
  • Has trouble relaxing, wants to always be moving.
  • Can’t relax.

The impulsive child often:

  • Invades others’ space.
  • Interrupt others’ conversations.
  • Be un-diplomatic.
  • Ask irrelevant questions during an ongoing conversation.
  • Ask very personal questions or ridicule others’ personal behaviours.
  • Are prone to moodiness or aggressive behaviour.
  • Can’t take turns or wait in line.
  • Is subject to tantrums or outbursts.
  • Can’t take time to find solutions to problems.

It’s imperative this disorder be treated for, if left unchecked, it can cause many struggles in the child’s life, especially in adulthood. Children with ADD/ADHD often get into trouble at school and in the neighbourhood. Because of their disorder they find it difficult to make friends causing them to feel lonely or rejected.

If you do receive a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD for your child, you can work with your doctor to provide a personalized treatment plan that meets your child’s specific needs. Effective treatment for childhood ADD/ADHD includes behavioural therapy, parent education, social support, and assistance at school. Medication may also be used, but should never be the sole treatment.

As a grandparent raising grandchildren with ADD/ADHD, due to their “controlling” nature, life can become frustrating. I have found consistency, organized habits, structure, praise, rewards and consequences, and concise communication are all key to keeping control. I also discovered that solid communication with the children’s school helped keep us all on the “same page” so the children knew the rules would be the same in both situations and not become confused.