Academic Accommodations May Rise Following Pandemic, according to the Cognitive Assessment Group

NEW YORK, June 9, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Educational accommodations, in which children with learning disabilities, ADHD, autism and other diagnosed psychological conditions receive individualized educational services to maximize their success, have long been a crucial lifeline for families.

Now, as parents find themselves in the unprecedented position of having children stay at home and attend school remotely during the COVID-19 crisis, many are noticing learning obstacles they had not detected before, said Dr. Wilfred van Gorp, a neuropsychologist who directs the Cognitive Assessment Group in New York City and Chicago.

When a child learns differently or is unable to adequately process and understand a curriculum the way most of his or her peers do, it is essential that alternate forms of teaching and measuring skills be implemented.

This requires diagnostics and treatment, so that families and educators can follow the best course of action.

Students, from kindergarten through high school, have had to adapt to online learning, with parents now getting a front-row seat to how their children approach and grapple with their schoolwork.

"Parents rarely saw their children tackle academic classes, outside of homework assignments, but now they are sitting with their children every day in these virtual classrooms, gaining powerful insights about what obstacles they face and seeking answers to help them better achieve success," said Dr. van Gorp, a past President of American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology.

"As a result, we have seen an increase in parents who suspect children may have autism, ADHD, and other conditions that require an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), accommodations for standardized tests and other strategies to help them reach their potential."

Increasingly, that has meant parents making inquiries of educational and mental health professions about having their children assessed for a range of learning disabilities and psychological conditions, from ADHD to dyslexia to autism.

Dr. van Gorp has spent more than 30 years in practice and administers hundreds of diagnostic tests each year to children and adults, both for academic accommodations and for career strategy.

In one instance, he conducted neuropsychological evaluations with three brothers, from 15 to 21 years old, all of whom required special accommodations, from high school and into young adulthood and into their early working life. Dr. van Gorp not only performed the evaluations, he remained a trusted advisor and mentor, the boys' mother said.

"The doctor just went above and beyond what I expected," said the mother, who asked that her name not be used. "Even now, any issue we have, we just call him and he helps us."

She said one of her sons, who suffers from ADHD and dyslexia, had a hard time establishing trust with any therapist until he met Dr. van Gorp.

"It's not in his nature to really open up but with Dr. van Gorp he opened up," she said. "Dr. Van Gorp was able to get through to him, the way he listened, and now he has given us so much hope."

Because of their conditions, her sons were able to access resources to attend private schools that can provide them with the kinds of IEPs they were unable to have in public school. For one of her now adult sons, Dr. van Gorp continues to counsel and advise him on career decisions.

Expect Resistance from School Districts

School systems are generally not incentivized to diagnose learning disabilities and similar conditions. Teachers, particularly in public schools in large urban centers, face large classrooms with a broad range of students, making individual accommodations difficult.

School districts face budget pressures and IEPs can be more costly, requiring staff and other resources to plan and manage them.

Often, parents will not investigate alternatives for their children if they are not first flagged by teachers or school administrators.

With home-schooling now often the only choice during the pandemic, however, parents are seeing the signs themselves and seeking out professional help.

With many psychologists now offering remote and telehealth sessions, cognitive assessments are being conducted and this could result in an increase in accommodations, beginning with the 2020-21 school year.

High school students had SAT and ACT tests canceled this spring, but will need to take those exams as soon as they are offered again so that they can be eligible for accommodations in college.

Parents who are concerned their children may have learning disabilities will need to have their children assessed to determine if they are able to complete the tests in the time allotted or require accommodations, to level the playing field, and give them a chance to maximize their academic potential.

"The pandemic has introduced new realities into our society and education system, which may well result in a growth in applications for educational accommodations," added Dr. van Gorp.

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SOURCE Cognitive Assessment Group