New Brunswick

New testing plan raises concern of misdiagnosis, learning disability advocate says

The Learning Disabilities Association of New Brunswick joins the College of Psychologists of New Brunswick in disapproving of plan that would see some student assessments done by teachers and not psychologists.

Province's plan would allow teachers to perform some tests usually done by school psychologists

Ainsley Congdon, the executive director of the Learning Disabilities Association of New Brunswick says her group is concerned about a plan to allow teachers to do assessments and develop learning plans for students. (CBC)

A group representing people with learning disabilities is joining the College of Psychologists of New Brunswick in opposing a plan to let teachers perform some assessments on students.

The Learning Disabilities Association of New Brunswick said allowing teachers to perform what amounts to a psychological assessments is not a good idea.

Ainsley Congdon, the executive director of the association, said her group hadn't been consulted on the plan.

"I know that our organization has been speaking with the minister about increasing access to assessments," said Congdon. 

"We just weren't anticipating that this was the route that would be chosen."

The plan would allow teachers with a masters degree and some additional training to test students in order to develop a personalized lesson plan.

These tests would normally be done by school psychologists, but there is a shortage of them in the province's school system.

Cardy said only eight of the anglophone school system's 36 psychologist positions have been filled.

Complex issues

Congdon said any assessments of students has to be done carefully.

She said young people are complex, especially when you combine learning difficulties and mental health issues like anxiety and depression, so not having properly trained people doing the assessments can lead to misdiagnosis and mislabeling.

"With that mislabeling, they could be placed on a personalized learning plan that is not right for them," said Congdon.

"It could be individualized. It could be an adjusted plan. And those two plans can seriously limit a student's potential moving through school, especially as they get to high school. If they stay on that kind of plan, it can impact their post-secondary options."

Concerns over training

Congdon said she understands the province is in a difficult position, but stresses the right choice needs to be made.

"I am a parent, I have two children in school.  I don't know if I would want this assessment done on my child through a teacher who's only received minimal training," said Congdon. 

"I don't know the details of that training, but I know it's not the same as what a trained psychologist receives."

Congdon said one possible stop-gap measure would be to offer some students support, especially at a younger level, even if they haven't been officially diagnosed as having a learning disability.

"They would not be diagnosed, but they would be giving the intervention to improve and increase their skills," said Congdon

With files from Information Morning Fredericton

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