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Getting your child ready for kindergarten: The Why’s and How’s of Assessment, Intervention and Placement.

How can you help your preschooler make a successful transition from preschool to kindergarten? How do you know which school environment is the best fit for your child? How can you predict and intervene regarding potential problems to bolster your child/s self esteem and sense of self as an active learner? Preschool assessment is a valuable tool that answers critical questions that parents face in facilitating the transition from the play environment at preschool to the more academic demands of kindergarten. An assessment can pinpoint areas of strength and predict areas of difficulty, inform decisions regarding intervention such as therapy and guide parents regarding an appropriate school environments for their child.

A comprehensive preschool assessment creates a neurocognitive profile of the child including cognitive potential, language skills, attention capacities, academic readiness skills and social/emotional functioning. This information helps ascertain a child’s maturity level, language abilities, capacity to focus and comply with routines, ability to make transitions and readiness for kindergarten. Assessment will pinpoint appropriate schools and facilitate placement and successful transition. Supportive services may be recommended to address a host of issues including motor and language ability, social and attention skills as well as reading and math readiness. Receiving early and appropriate intervention will make a dramatic difference in the adjustment to school and the child's sense of empowerment and ability. Thus‚ early and proactive assessment paves the way to creating a solid foundation of academic and social skills.

Thus‚ early and proactive assessment paves the way to creating a solid foundation of academic and social skills.

The preschooler assessment process typically consists of three to four sessions of one to two hours each with a psychologist. In addition, classroom observation is a necessary component of the assessment. As young children are so variable, to assure a comprehensive evaluation, it is important to interview all adults who are involved with the child including teachers, therapists and caregivers. In addition, an informal play assessment will often capture more subtle nuances of play, social skills and emotional functioning. Quantitative tests in the areas of intelligence, language, attention, memory, motor and grapho-motor will be administered and scored, providing parents with data comparing the child to his or her peers. This assessment can also serve to predict future difficulties particularly in the academic realm.

The psychologist will provide the parent with a detailed feedback session regarding the child’s neurocognitive profile and social/emotional functioning. In addition, the psychologist prepares a comprehensive written report with the scores and analysis of the data. A school consultation can be helpful subsequent to the feedback to inform the teachers regarding the child’s strengths and weaknesses and provide in–school recommendations. For example, a child, identified with attention issues, was having significant difficulties sitting in a circle and listening to stories. The examiner suggested that she sit in the assistant teacher’s lap for the duration of story time‚ thus improving concentration and reducing disruptiveness.

Parents may request an assessment of their child based on the preschool teachers’ observations of difficulty in school. The assessment will highlight etiology of difficulties and provide recommendations for intervention. In addition, parents searching for guidance regarding schools for their prospective kindergartener may request an assessment to highlight skills and receive guidance regarding presentation and appropriate schools. Choosing a good fit for your child plays a critical role in academic and social success. Thus‚ the more information you receive, the more equipped you will be to navigate the strenuous admissions process for kindergartners. If your child describes feeling “bored” or disinterested in school or describes him or herself as “bad” at academic related activities‚ these self–descriptions are a red flag for attention and /or learning difficulties. In addition, if your child appears anxious and avoidant regarding school activities‚ their feelings of inadequacy may stem from underlying learning difficulties that need to be explored. Preschool is a time when children become acutely aware of their skills in comparison with those of their peers. Thus‚ increased anxiety, sadness and/or aggression may signal learning issues that are interfering with the child’s functioning and lowering their self esteem.

Once you understand your preschooler’s areas of strength and weakness‚ diverse supportive service can be obtained to address their particular issue. For example‚ speech and language therapy is often indicated for children with language-based learning disorders. Play therapy can improve your child’s self esteem, decrease anxiety and reduce aggressive behavior. In addition, group therapy for the preschool age child can greatly aid socialization and compliance with group expectations. Occupational therapy services can improve your child's fine, gross and grapho-motor skills. Specific types of reading and/or math instruction may be recommended in light of a child's learning style. All these skills are critically important for kindergarten where the child is expected to follow directions, communicate clearly, engage in writing and drawing, play cooperatively and transition between structured and unstructured activities.

When choosing a school, parents should ask themselves what is the most appropriate learning environment for their child’s particular learning needs. Does your child thrive on structure or chafe at restriction? Is your child a creative thinker or do they prefer memorizing facts and accumulating knowledge? Is your child an auditory or visual learner? Is your child sensitive to his or her environment? For example, is your child likely to experience noise as overly stimulating and distracting or do they welcome background noise and savor a hubbub? Is a phonetic approach the best reading method for your child or would they learn how to read more effectively using a sight word centered approach? These questions and more can be answered once the child has been assessed and the information can be used to guide school placement and intervention. Thus‚ preschool assessment can be an invaluable tool for success in kindergarten and gaining social and academic skills.

Understanding the etiology of your child’s difficulties provides important and invaluable information regarding appropriate intervention. For example, an assessment of a distractible four years old girl with speech and language delays revealed significant auditory processing problems. Upon initial assessment, the preschool had recommended a shadow teacher to help her in the classroom and a special education placement. Upon receiving auditory integrating training, a therapy designed to facilitate comprehension of expressive language, Karen scored within the high average range on all language tests. She functioned very well in her mainstream preschool setting‚ without a special education teacher‚ and is now applying to mainstream kindergarten. Thus‚ careful assessment pinpointed the etiology of her attention and language issues and facilitated remediation of these difficulties.

A successful kindergarten experience forms the foundation for the early years at school and informs your child’s sense of him/her self as a student and learner. Research has shown that the window to becoming a successful reader and developing a love of reading is from the ages of six to eight, and the opportunity needs to be seized upon. Ensuring that your child is realizing his or her cognitive potential will greatly facilitate academic mastery. Each child learns differently and requires different methods of instruction. Understanding your child’s particular learning needs may be the single best investment you could make in his or her future. Concomitantly‚ choosing an appropriate school for your child’s learning style can significantly increase your child's ability to make a successful transition into kindergarten and beyond.

Understanding your child’s particular learning needs may be the single best investment you could make in his or her future.

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