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What Testing Can Reveal About a Child’s Strengths

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Katy Vassar for an incredible conversation about evaluations and testing and what we can learn about our learners from these tools. 

Katy is a Dyslexia and Reading Consultant, Licensed Dyslexia Therapist, Qualified Instructor of therapists, and Educational Diagnostician with over 20 years of experience in the field of education. Her history includes roles in special education, general education, reading/dyslexia intervention, and coaching at the elementary and secondary levels in both public and independent school systems. 

Katy currently teams with various centers to train teachers as dyslexia therapists, train educators to better work with students with dyslexia in the classroom, provide psychoeducational evaluations, and support individual students and families as they navigate the world of dyslexia. She also contracts with schools, districts, and other state and local organizations to provide consultation services and professional development. 

Katy is passionate about supporting the learning needs of all students as they navigate their journey toward being successful life-long learners.

During our conversation with Katy, she shared what testing and evaluations can reveal about our student's strengths and how we can use that information in our interventions. Today, we want to share that information with all of you! 

What can testing reveal about our students’ strengths?

We tend to focus on our student’s needs, but strengths are very important as well. 

You can find out a lot about a child's strengths by looking at the different processes, how their brain is working, and how that matches their achievement. 

When we're thinking about diagnosing we're looking for unexpectedness in certain areas, but that doesn't mean that all areas are affected. And so we tend to see their strengths pop up in other areas. That really gives some insight into why a child may choose some of the hobbies that they choose outside of the academic setting, or why they're interested in certain tasks. 

Often, we’ll see a student has great visual-spatial thinking skills. When mentioned to the parent, they’ll mention that their child loves building with LEGOs.  This makes sense because it’s a strength for them and that can be really exciting too. 

Why is it so important for students with learning differences to know their strengths?

Even if a child has a diagnosis of dyslexia, dyscalculia, or some other learning disabilities or differences, touching on the strengths really helps everyone understand that dyslexia is a learning difference, not a thinking disability. The prognosis is not that the child won’t be able to think. Instead, we can learn about and understand their strengths and utilize those strengths to help move them forward from those things that are not going as well. 

Helping a student tap into their strengths will continue to motivate them to move forward. It's important to find a balance of extracurricular activities with kiddos who are always in intervention. You don't want them to give up something they excel at, like basketball, because they have to go for intervention after school every day. It's about finding that balance of letting them have their strengths, and play within their strengths, but also working on their weaknesses. When we look at their profile, this allows us, to see and understand the student.

When students are made aware of their strengths, that serves to build confidence and self-esteem. This knowledge can also help kids build and grow their self-advocacy. When they know better about how they learn they're able to communicate that to others.

How can we use the information about our students’ strengths in intervention?

Taking a look at a student’s strengths and how they impact learning also helps the interventionist understand how they can work with that child best. For example, if a student has very strong fluid reasoning, that means they have good problem-solving skills, and they're likely going to make connections a bit faster than a student who doesn't have strengths in that area. So, the interventionist can use that information to decide on a pace that's appropriate for that student. 

We can utilize any and all information about a student’s strengths to help with the intervention piece and build those areas. In learning, strengths can be utilized to help understand how intervention could look just in the same way that areas of deficit will impact how we intervene and support a child.

Generally, it's important to think about that strengths information, because it helps you understand where the child is coming from, what knowledge they already have, and how you can move them forward. 

For our full conversation with Katy Vassar, check out our latest episode of the Together in Literacy podcast. If you like what you hear, don’t forget to rate, leave a positive review, and subscribe!

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