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Assessment Tools and Mental Retardation

When doing an evaluation, it is important to understand the purpose for assessing a child, because this has an impact on the way the assessment is performed and how a researchers evaluates the data received.

Several approaches to assessment are Norm Reference Evaluation, Criterion Referencing, Curriculum-Based Assessment, Formative Evaluation, and Summation Evaluation. Norm Referencing is when the test performance of a person is compared to the performances of others within the same age group. Some problems arose from this approach, and it was found not to be useful for the planning and development of programs for the student.

Criterion Referencing assesses each individual skill area independently and does not compare the test takerís overall skills with others. Only the performance in the one skill area is compared with other studentís skill performance. Curriculum-Based Assessment uses the studentís curriculum as a basis for evaluating a studentís progress. Summation Evaluation evaluates a childís performance at the end of the program.

While there are many approaches to evaluating a child for mental retardation, some problems still are arise in the assessment procedure. According to African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans, the evaluation tools contain cultural biases and prejudices. Cultural issues can effect whether the child is diagnosed improperly due to assessment biases in the procedures. It is important that a special education instructor be sensitive to these issues when evaluating a child from a different cultural background.

It is also important to use age appropriate assessment tools when evaluating a child for mental retardation. Another important tool is a Screening Assessment. This is important to be used very early in the childís life for the purpose of early intervention. This can help to determine mental retardation early on so it can possibly be prevented. Early detection during pregnancy is the only time mental retardation can possibly be prevented.

While it is important to evaluate and assess a child for educational purpose, labeling can have negative effects. A teacher should strive to avoid labeling if possible. Negative labeling, especially students who come from a culturally diverse background, can stigmatize the child for life and limit his future success in education.

I learned a lot about Intelligence and adaptive skills. There is a lot of research about the differences in peopleís intelligence. An interest in developing intelligence increased with the industrial revolution as people moved away from hunting and gathering as a way of life.

Society tends to reward people of greater intelligence with rewards, scholarships, and grants, whereas unskilled less intelligent people seem to have no place in society any more. Most of the jobs available to less skilled people have gone over to machines. To quote the book Mental Retardation, ďA society that does less than it is able degrades and demeans its citizens and the society itself.Ē (Drew, pg. 108)

Researchers have found that the cause of mental retardation are both genetic and environment. With the advent of more research on intelligence have also made scientists more aware of factors that contribute to mental retardation as well. In the past mental age and IQ testing have been used to assess mental retardation. Since then theorists have discovered additional types of intelligence. For example Gardnerís list of seven intelligences. Thorndike developed a multi-theory about intelligence. He believed that there are three factors to thinking; abstract intelligence, which is verbal and mathematical, mechanical and concrete intelligence, and social intelligence, which is the ability to deal with social situations effectively. All of this has caused researchers to take a new look at how to define and assess people with mental retardation as well.

As a special educator, I can see how important it is to understand the purpose of assessment and plan accordingly. Choosing the right assessment tool is also very important. Being culturally sensitive and choosing the best tool for assessing children of different cultures is important. Being aware of adaptive skills and different learning styles can help a teacher assess, evaluate and determine the best individual educational plan for a special needs student. Overall these chapters were very useful to understanding the proper methods for assessment and approaches to evaluating mentally retarded students.

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