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Psychological services for internationally adopted children
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Q: Why must a psycho-educational evaluation be done as soon as possible?

A: Practically all adopted children go through a medical examination upon arrival for possible medical rehabilitation or prevention. Unfortunately, psycho-educational and speech/language assessments are the exception rather than the rule. Too often, school districts assume a "wait-and-see" attitude rejecting a request for evaluation "until the child learns more English". In many cases, however, we just cannot afford to lose time.

A timely psycho-educational evaluation leads to a proper school placement, which is extremely important for your child's overall adjustment, emotional well-being, and future educational progress. A psycho-educational assessment is a must if there is a "red flag" in your child's medical records or educational history, such as:

  • "Delay in language and psychological development",
  • "Oligophrenia",
  • "Child did not start school at age of 7",
  • "Child was retained in elementary school",
  • "Child was a student in a special school",
  • "Child received remedial services in school in Russia", etc.

There is no "one-size-fits-all" recommendation regarding grade placement, specific educational program, remediation, and support services: the decision should always be highly individualized and based on a thorough consideration of many factors.

There is a tendency to place newly-arrived school-age internationally-adopted children in a grade according to their age. It is the usual practice for children from immigrant families in the USA. 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 (which guides your school district) and physical soundness (which 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/joint activity? "Aacademic readiness" in relation to an adopted child must be thoroughly examined and properly understood. Remember, in addition to academic pressures in an "age-based" classroom, your child will go through general adjustment and language acquisition, possibly accompanied by health and neurological problems.

The language of the assessment is the critical issue. An evaluation in the native language should be done as soon as possible 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 (age 7 to 10+) the time frame is the first three months. One of the most shocking discoveries made with internationally adopted children was the swiftness with which they lose their mother tongue.

An assessment, done in a child's native language, has at times unwavering importance: it's the basis for establishing your child's eligibility for any remedial services. If no evaluation in the native language by a bilingual professional is done within the first three months, it will be impossible to have an evaluation until the English language dominance and level of proficiency are established. And until that time it will be very difficult to prove a genuine need for a remedial help if your child experiences learning difficulties.



Psychological services for internationally adopted children. Copyright ©1998-2018
Last update on May 8, 2018