In this section
Also see Developmental assessment (younger children).
Assessing learning issues in refugee and asylum seeker students is often challenging. Like any other student, a developmental and family history is essential; however the assessment must also consider previous education and language transitions in relation to development, the impact of forced migration and trauma, second (or later) language acquisition, education pathways in Victorian schools, and support services available. There are different aetiologies to consider in developmental/learning problems in this group and basic screening for contributors, such as vision and hearing problems, is frequently missed. There are complex issues around the timing and validity of formalised language or intelligence testing in a child's second language. Finally, birthdates may be incorrect; creating additional complexity with assessment and year level placement. Ultimately an assessment takes time, and requires close liaison with the family and the help of a skilled interpreter.
Like any other student group, a proportion of refugee children will have disabilities and additional learning needs compared to other children of similar background, however all refugee children have risk factors for educational disadvantage (language transitions, displacement) and many have additional, cumulative risk factors (trauma, lack of/interrupted prior schooling, mental health issues). This may lead to significant educational impairment in cognitively normal children.
Cognitive testing is culturally bound and is usually not validated for use in non-English speaking children, or for use with an interpreter. Any test result needs to be interpreted with extreme caution, families need appropriate pre-test and post test counselling. If cognitive assessment has already occurred - check families understanding of testing, and whether an interpreter (and which language) was available for testing and feedback sessions. This resource on IQ test scores can be helpful to explain results.
Funding guidelines (Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD) in government schools or Additional Needs program in Catholic education) prescribe pathways of testing with defined times when schools can apply for student funding.
There is no prescribed timing for completing testing; we recommend that children with a clear history of developmental delay are assessed early to maximise support (after appropriate counselling) and that they are reassessed at a later date.
In children with normal early development, it is nearly always appropriate to watch and liaise with the school - provided a paediatric assessment and initial investigations have been completed.
Immigrant health resources. Initial: Georgia Paxton, updated April 2020. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org