at Home, and Abroad
son was adopted 2 years ago from Russia. I placed him in 2nd grade,
1 year behind his age, at our local public school. His academic progress
lags behind his verbal and social progress, both of which I consider
to be good. I asked to have him psycho-educationally tested and was
shocked when the school psychologist told me that he scored as "borderline"
using the non-verbal UNIT testing method. They refused us special ed
services. How reliable is this test for an IA child who admittedly has
developmental delays based on early childhood neglect? Should I accept
a "borderline" assessment and lower my sites?
have posed the questions which are at the heart of remedial work with
internationally adopted children, the majority of whom have delays and
deficiencies in their academic and social functioning due to their background
of neglect and deprivation, who go through an abrupt native language
loss and it's replacement with the English language, and who often have
significant neurological impairments as well. All these factors affect
children, especially on entering the school system with its own set
of requirements for cognitive, academic, and social competence.
Because of that:
- A professional who does school-related assessment of
an IA child has to be aware of and understand the specifics of an internationally
- The initial assessment should be done in the childs
native language within the first month after the arrival when new language
learning issues do not interfere yet. After 2 years in the American
family, your son does not have his first language any more, but he has
not yet mastered many aspects of academic English as well. He will be
in this process several more years, which both obscures the actual picture
during tests and is usually used as an excuse to wait until the child
has a better command of the English language.
- An assessment must include not just one
test (even such a good instrument as UNIT), but a range of different
methods of evaluation: this is a requirement of a major law (IDEA),
that regulates special education.
- Remediation should start ASAP, addressing major identified
Does your school psychologist qualify to do this kind
of assessment? Was there indeed only one test used? We know too well
that the schools do not always know how to fit these square pegs
into the round holes of Special Ed programs.
As for the specific test you are asking about - the UNIT:
this is a reliable and well standardized test to measure nonverbal intelligence
(test reliability means that the results should not differ from one
tester to the other). Its predictive validity for the school performance
though is not great - 60% approximately, while other tests that utilize
both verbal and nonverbal items have higher predictive validity for
school performance because education in our schools is language-based.
The most important thing, however, is the interpretation
of the results of testing in the context of the childs history
and current situation: the trouble with even the best tests is, that
while the tests are standardized, the kids are not.
To summarize it all, do not concentrate on the results
of one test; rather look for all the necessary prerequisites of a proper
for your child assessment to have a reliable and trustworthy outcome
in the end.
Boris Gindis Ph.D.
Are there any books or articles about rivalry between
the biological and adopted children in the family?
We are not aware of a separate book on this issue, but here
are several links to the articles on the Internet that may be helpful: