There may be many reasons why children struggle in school: hearing issues, attentional problems, hyperactivity in class, low self-esteem, or inability to understand verbal instructions, to name just a few.
One reason could be that the child is experiencing intellectual functioning difficulties.
Steps to Diagnosing Intellectual Disability
At times, the school may suspect an intellectual functioning difficulty in a child, and may speak with parents regarding a diagnosis. They may do this so as to obtain additional funding from the government to help with the child’s learning in the school.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is a guide for psychologists that outlines the criteria for a diagnosis of a mental health condition. Intellectual disability is a neuro-developmental disorder with onset in the developmental period that includes both intellectual and adaptive functioning issues. In order for diagnosis of an intellectual disability to occur, two assessments are generally administered on the child including:
- An Intelligence test (Intelligence quotient or IQ), using the Wechsler Intelligence Score for Children (WISC) or WPPSI (for children not yet attending primary school) or WAIS (for adults).
- An Adaptive Functioning test (Adaptive Behaviour Assessment System or ABAS) or Vineland Adaptive Behaviour System (also known as VABS).
The goal of this assessment is to determine what level the child is intellectually, compared with other children of the same age. Additionally, these tests seek to determine the independence levels and social skills of the child, including communication, social participation, and independent living.
Once the scores of these tests have been determined, the school will then apply for verification of intellectual disability. Further information on this process can be found on the Queensland Government Education website in the Education Adjustment Program (EAP) Handbook. The reviewers follow a process of verification including:
- Observations in the classroom environment;
- Current school achievement;
- Assessment results;
- Background information from student and parent;
- Data related to identified needs across the curriculum;
- Interventions provided and outcomes to interventions.
Once the diagnosis has been verified, the school will work with the parents to implement a learning program suitable to the child. The government verifiers will generally specify review dates for the diagnosis as the child progresses through their education.
Similar processes exist for schools applying for additional funding for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Hearing Impairment, Physical Disability, Speech-Language Impairment, and also Vision Impairment.
How a Psychologist Can Help
Psychologists can assist in this process by administering the assessments, providing a written report on the results, and providing education to the family around intellectual disability and the process of diagnosis.
Psychologists may also provide ongoing therapy for the child and the family, to support them during the process and guide them with any additional issues they maybe experiencing.
Author: Cassandra Gist, BPsych (Hons), MPsych, MAPS.
Brisbane Psychologist Cassandra Gist has a Masters in Health Psychology, and treats clients aged from two years old right through to adulthood. She is experienced in working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, as well as children and families affected by disabilities such as Autism Spectrum Disorder.
To make an appointment with Brisbane Psychologist Cassandra Gist, try online booking – Loganholme or call M1 Psychology (Loganholme) on (07) 3067 9129.