A Brief Guide to School Assessment in Israel

If your child has been referred for assessment, it is important that you know what kind of assessment will best serve your child’s needs and the qualifications of the person best able to conduct such an assessment.

Broad Based Assessments (combined / m’shulav / psychodidacti) may be initiated due to school and/or parental concerns about a child’s cognitive functioning, learning, attention, emotional functioning and/or behavior at school and or at home. This holistic approach is most common abroad and in our opinion should be the standard here in Israel as well.

Broad based assessments will examine your child’s cognitive, learning, and psychological strengths and weaknesses such as: The ability to think abstractly, receptive and expressive language skills, general knowledge, short term and long term memory, verbal and visual learning, attention, processing speed, fine motor skills, academic skills such as reading, writing and mathematics as well as executive function skills such as attention, planning and organization. Psychological and emotional factors like motivation, emotional development, self-regulation, and self-esteem also play a large role in learning and succeeding in school and will most often also be carefully examined. In addition, most assessments will review relevant background information and information from collateral sources (e.g. parents and teachers). These types of assessments are typically the purview of clinical neuropsychologists, and educational psychologists and will give you the most in depth information allowing for comprehensive treatment planning, intervention, and accommodations (such as testing accommodations) that are designed to help your child overcome and / or bypass difficulties.

Different childhood disorders result in specific patterns of strengths and weaknesses.  An in-depth assessment will assure careful differential diagnosis.  For example if a child’s language delay is due to a problem in producing speech, understanding or expressing language, social shyness, autism, or cognitive delay.

Specific to children of Olim and returning residents is the language of evaluation. Children should always be tested in their stronger language with bilingual components such a Hebrew reading, writing and language skills.  In general it takes children 5-7 years for full academic language competency after changing instructional language. Do not accept cognitive assessments in Hebrew only as an adequate representation of your child’s abilities unless this makes sense for your child.  Bilingual assessment is not the norm in Israel and may not be available in the city in which you live. These assessments are best conducted by highly qualified bilingual psychologists.

Generally psychologists conducting broad based assessments can also act as your advocate in the school system.  Having an advocate attend a school meeting following an assessment will usually facilitate greater cooperation from the school and will ensure that your child’s rights are adequately considered.

Additional Types of Assessments

An educational (“didacti”) assessment is a limited evaluation and usually focuses on specific academic skills such as reading and writing, and the underlying mechanisms responsible for difficulties in these areas. The assessor is usually a special education teacher with advanced training in learning disabilities. Math and English are generally not routinely tested, and it may be necessary to find someone with specific training in these areas. Often, limited accommodations on standardized tests may be recommended. This type of assessment is often not particularly useful as it is quite limited in scope. It is not found outside of Israel and is really an offshoot of a historical split in Israel between educational and clinical psychology.  Many assessors conducting this type of limited assessment would not be considered appropriately qualified for assessment purposes in many other countries, although they may be highly qualified to put specific learning interventions in place.

A psychological evaluation usually focuses on the emotional state of the learner, and often includes an IQ test to measure basic cognitive functions and then a variety of projective tests to assess psychological status. This type of evaluation may be recommended when the child experiences a sudden drop in achievement, for example as a result of a particular event or developmental stage.

 

Developmental Assessments

Children under school-age are usually evaluated by developmental psychologists, or clinical neuropsychologists.  These services can often be obtained through the gan or through municipal services (hitpatchut hayeled).   However, private broad based developmental assessments conducted by a bilingual psychologist are likely to be best for the primarily English speaking child, or for children with complex developmental histories.

Practicalities and Purpose of Assessments at Each Stage

Preschool:

1.Placement in a therapeutic nursery

2.Recommendation for a therapeutic preschool teacher within the framework of a regular kindergarten.

3.Decision whether a child should repeat preschool or Kindergarten

Elementary School:

1.Provision of remedial services and / or small group learning hours (shaot shiluv)

2.Recommendations for testing accommodation.

3.Therapeutic recommendations for the child, classroom and the family

4.Recommendation for transfer to the special education system (Hinuch Meuchad)

5.Recommendations for supplemental interventions

Junior High and High School (preparation for bagrut – matriculation):

1.Test accommodations require that the evaluation assesses educational functioning, and also require the approval of the school guidance counselor.

Common accommodations (hatamot) include: Extra time on tests (usually 25%), reading the test questions orally (hakra’a), dictation to a scribe (hachtava), ignoring spelling errors, use of an extended math formula sheet, and more. It is important to note that occasionally these “lower level” accommodations can also be arranged by the yoetzet on the basis of teacher recommendation, without need for a formal assessment (it is important to discuss this fully with the yoetzet).

2. Additional leniencies may require approval from the Ministry of Education. (Adapred test Mivchan Mutam, Oral testing Mivchan b’al peh) and are not covered by the “ivchun didactic”

3.Therapeutic recommendations for the child, classroom and the family

4.Recommendations for supplemental interventions

 

Why Does My Child’s Assessment Need Updating?

Child psychologists and neuropsychologists understand normal and abnormal child development and learning.  As children are faced with increasing cognitive and academic demands with each passing year, there is often a need to conduct periodic re-assessments. Some conditions may not reveal their full impact until later years, such as with the multi-tasking demands of middle school, or the increased volume of work and writing demands of high school.  Although the Israeli ministry of education considers an assessment valid for 5 years, most psychologists would agree that a 3 year span is probably the longest span to leave between assessments, especially for children with complex presentations and who need updated interventions and accommodations to optimize their functioning.

Focused reassessment can also be helpful in determining whether a particular intervention is having the desired effect.  For example, if a dyslexic child has been receiving intensive reading intervention, assessment of their reading skills after 12 months will help render a decision as to whether to continue, discontinue or replace the particular reading approach.

Preparing My Child for Assessment

1.If your child takes medication, make sure that you have discussed this with the assessor it has been taken/not taken accordingly on the day of testing.

2.If your child’s physical condition or emotional state is somehow compromised on the day of testing, inform the examiner. For example: feeling under the weather; taking medication that would make one drowsy; a poor night’s sleep prior; a death in the family, etc. These types of things can affect performance on some of the tests used for psychological evaluations and in general testing should be postponed.

3.Make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep prior to testing. Being sleepy during testing can affect overall concentration on timed tasks in particular.

4.Make sure your child is not hungry or thirsty before testing. Your child should bring a snack if testing is going to last for a prolonged period of time.

5.Make sure your child is comfortable asking for and taking breaks as needed. Testing can feel tiresome. Breaks are a good time to eat a snack, use the restroom, or jump on the exercise ball.

6.Make sure that your child’s assessment is scheduled at the right time of day. For preschool and school age children this is typically in the morning.  Adolescents generally do better mid-morning – early afternoon (provided they have not been in school earlier in the day).  If children have been at school, they will likely not be able to show their optimal abilities.

How Can I Explain the Testing Process to Prepare My Child?

Many children may wonder why they are having these tests and if there is something wrong with them. Listen to your child’s concerns and feelings about the evaluation and answer as straightforwardly as possible. It is helpful to be reassuring to your child. Proper preparation will help your child do his/her best, allow for a pleasant testing experience and help the examiner gather the most reliable results possible.

Most importantly, the goal in preparation is to help your child be as comfortable, relaxed and motivated as possible the day of testing. In explaining to your child why he/she is being tested you should offer reassurance that the information gathered from the evaluation will help you, their teachers, and others better understand his/her experiences, what kinds of things he/she has been having trouble with and what types of things he or she is really good or not so good at doing, and most importantly whether there are interventions and accommodations to help them.  It is important to explain that assessment is not unusual.

What Kind of Assistance is Available for Olim Children in the System?

Each school will offer different resources, depending upon their budget and need. It’s best to verify with a specific school whether or not they allocate hours in the schedule for professional assistance, and if so what it includes: one-on-one help with a professional Hebrew teacher, help in small groups, help from volunteers (bat sherut), etc. If possible, it is best to talk to other olim parents in the school concerning their experience.

What Type of Accommodations do Olim Children Get Within the School System?

This link from NBN contains detailed information about test accommodations, but it is always best to verify with the school guidance counselor, especially in schools which are unaccustomed to Olim children.  You may have to do some advocacy on your child’s behalf.

http://www.nbn.org.il/aliyahpedia/education-ulpan/education-child-teen/bagrut-leniencies/

CLICK HERE TO FIND A VERIFIED ASSESSMENT SPECIALIST

Additional Resources

ADHD

Know your rights! Entitlements and Services for Children suffering from Developmental Disorders (Israeli Ministry of Health) https://www.health.gov.il/English/Topics/KidsAndMatures/child_development/Pages/child-development-rights.aspx

The law in Israel concerning the Assessment and Treatment of ADHD (Israeli Ministry of Health) https://www.health.gov.il/English/Topics/KidsAndMatures/child_development/Pages/ADHD.aspx

A guide to ADHD basics http://eng.nitzan-israel.org.il/media/407598/adhd.pdf

Myths and facts https://www.additudemag.com/adhd-2-0/

Latest research on ADHD https://www.sciencedaily.com/news/mind_brain/add_and_adhd/

ADHD in the news http://www.chadd.org/Understanding-ADHD/About-ADHD/ADHD-in-the-News/Weekly-ADHD-News.aspx

Medications in the Israeli healthcare basket: http://www.kolzchut.org.il/en/Medications_in_the_Healthcare_Basket

ADHD medications – what’s new? http://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/adhd/new-adhd-drugs-in-development-but-truly-novel-therapies-still-needed/article/662237/

General info about meds in Israel for the tourist or new oleh: http://www.israelpharm.com/blog/10-questions-were-asked-at-the-online-pharmacy/

Vitamins and Supplements for ADHD http://www.webmd.com/add-adhd/guide/vitamins-supplements-adhd#1

Information on “Ricuzit” Israeli natural treatment for ADHD (Chinese medicine) https://pharma.knoji.com/rikuzit-information-in-english-about-the-israeli-natural-addadhd-treatment/

Autism Spectrum Disorders

https://www.health.gov.il/English/Topics/KidsAndMatures/child_development/Autism/Pages/default.aspx

Dyslexia & Reading Disorders

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5293161/

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/dyslexia/understanding-dyslexia

The challenge of learning Hebrew http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/unmasking-dyslexia-on-the-bumpy-road-to-bilingualism-1.331057

Dysgraphia & Writing Disorders

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/dysgraphia/understanding-dysgraphia

https://ldaamerica.org/types-of-learning-disabilities/dysgraphia/

Dyscalculia & Math Disorders

https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/dyscalculia/understanding-dyscalculia

Language Processing Disorders

https://ldaamerica.org/types-of-learning-disabilities/language-processing-disorder/

http://www.lsses.org/resources/teacher-consultant-blog/language-processing-disorders-lpd/

http://nspt4kids.com/therapy/auditory-processing-and-language-processing-what%E2%80%99s-the-difference/

Executive Functioning Disorder

https://www.additudemag.com/executive-function-disorder-adhd-explained/

The Above Information was Compiled for Get Help Israel by:

Lisa Kainan, Ph.D Psychoeducational Consultant
Alyson Aviv, Ph.D., ABPdN Clinical Psychologist, Board Certified in Pediatric Neuropsychology