a psycho-educational evaluation
of a school age internationally
adopted child is to be done as soon as possible?
Published in: Adoption Today, June/July
2004 - Volume 6, Number 6, p.56.
Boris Gindis, Ph.D.,
Practically all internationally adopted children
go through a medical examination upon arrival for possible medical
rehabilitation or prevention. Unfortunately, a psycho-educational
or speech and language assessment of a school age child is the
exception rather than the rule. Too often, school districts assume
a "wait-and-see" attitude rejecting a request for evaluation
in order "to wait until the child learns more English."
In many cases, however, we cannot afford to lose any time with-
out proper assessment and remediation.
assessment is a must if there is a "red flag" in your
child's medical records --delay in language and psychological
development-- or educational history -- a child did not start
school at age 7 or was retained in elementary school, a child
was a student in special school, or a child received remedial
services in school in his or her native country.
psycho-educational evaluation leads to a proper school placement
that is important for your child's overall adjustment, emotional
well-being and future educational progress. There is no "one-size-fits-all"
recommendation regarding grade placement, specific educational
programs, remediation, and support services - the decision should
always be highly individualized and based on a thorough consideration
of many factors.
School districts have a tendency to place
newly-arrived, school-age, internationally-adopted children in
a grade according to their age, which is the usual practice for
children from immigrant families in the United States. However,
it may not be appropriate for many adopted children. Your pediatrician,
who, as a rule, is not familiar with the specifics of the school
system, may recommend "age-appropriate placement" based
on the child's general health. However, age that guides your school
district and physical soundness that guides your pediatrician
are only two of many factors to be considered. What about language
development, social skills, self-regulation, mastery of age-appropriate
cognitive skills, ability and willingness to participate in shared
and joint activity? An "academic readiness" in relation
to an adopted child must be thoroughly examined and properly understood.
The academic pressure in an "age-based" classroom along
with the general adjustment and acculturation, language acquisition,
and possibly accompanied by health and neurological problems,
may lead to frustration in a child and his or her new family.
The language of the assessment is the critical issue. The
evaluation in the native language should be done soon after arrival,
before the child's native language gets weakened and eventually
extinguished. For all children younger than 7 this ought to be
done within the first several weeks. For those who are literate
in their native language, in the 7 to 10 or older age group -
the time frame is the first three months.
One of the most
shocking discoveries made with internationally adopted children
throughout the years was the swiftness with which they lose their
mother tongue. An assessment done in a child's native language
has, at times, unwavering importance. If there is no evaluation
in a child's native language by a bilingual professional within
the first three months, it would be difficult to prove this child's
eligibility for any remedial services. Too often, school districts
are saying that the learning difficulties that the parents refer
to are just the normal occurrences in the process of second language
learning and the child needs more time within the English language
environment to alleviate these difficulties. Without an assessment
in the native language, you may not prove the genuine need for
Assessment in the English language, on the
other hand, should take place only when this language becomes,
beyond a reasonable doubt, the dominant, or stronger, means not
only of communication, but also reasoning. The English language
dominance and level of proficiency must be established before
the evaluation is performed.