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‘Your Child had a Standard Score of…’ Understanding Standardized Test Scores

Your child was just evaluated for something and the therapist is sitting in front of you explaining that ‘…your child qualifies for therapy based on a standard score of 68….,’ and the rest is a blur of words as she continues to explains the goals they’ll be working on for the next six months, etc., etc.

You slowly nod your head in agreement, but have a ton of questions that you want to ask, but don’t have the opportunity to because the therapist has moved on to something else before the questions have a chance to properly form themselves. This is an all-too-common scenario that happens in the hectic IEP and outpatient world, leaving many parents lost and confused in the shuffle.

One of the first things that your therapist will review with you after your child has been evaluated is how your child performed during testing. There are many tools that therapists may utilize when determining whether a child will qualify for therapy, one of the most common being standardized tests.

Standardized tests are assessment tools that compare the child’s performance to the performance of kids the same age. The average score on most standardized tests used in therapy is 100 with the ‘normal range’ considered to be between 85 and 115 (15 points is one standard deviation from the mean of 100). Therefore, any score below 85 will typically qualify a child for therapy; however, there are some insurance companies and/or school districts that may qualify kids with a standard score of 90 or less.

The standard score also helps therapists to determine the severity of impairment of a disorder into mild, moderate or severe. While the boundaries are not set in stone, typically, scores between 84-78 are considered mild; scores between 77-70 are considered mild-moderate; scores between 69-63 are considered moderate; scores between 62-56 are considered moderate to severe and scores below 55 are considered severe.

Standardized tests tend to be one of the most heavily relied upon tools of therapists because many insurance companies require standard scores be included with evaluations to approve services. Standardized tests result in a score that is easily quantified and understood universally, making their interpretation simple.

While standardized tests make up an important part of the therapists’ evaluation kit, they are not the only indication of a problem or that there is not a problem. Clinical observation, parent/caregiver report, direct interaction and norm (criterion) referenced tests are equally as important and often necessary when determining the presence of disorders in patients.

If you have any questions regarding your child’s standard scores or speech and language therapy, please contact us at 404-606-3755.

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