An Evaluation Is Only As Good
As the Evaluator
An evaluation of your child’s learning needs determines eligibility for Special Ed services—and equally important, what those services will be. But not all evaluations are up to the mark. Following are some guidelines to help you find your way to an evaluation that will serve your child well:
How skillful is the evaluator?
A psychoeducational evaluation includes tests for cognitive abilities, usually including an intelligence test; tests to assess your child’s level of achievement; and an evaluation of your child’s social and emotional functioning, in addition to your child’s developmental history. Most important is the evaluator’s skill in determining the exact nature of the child’s difficulties, often via additional tests, direct observation, and anecdotal input from teachers and parents.
An evaluation must provide a clear understanding of both strengths and weaknesses and offer detailed recommendations on the help your child needs.
Where can you find a good evaluator?
In school, learning disabilities specialists may administer achievement tests. Intelligence tests must be given by a qualified school psychologist. Getting a reliable diagnosis from testing demands substantial skill that may not be readily available within the school setting.
There is also the chance for a conflict of interest in school testing: Recommending intensive services translates into higher costs to the school system.
Finding a qualified outside evaluator requires the same effort as finding a doctor in a medical specialty. Ask other parents, teachers, regional or state LD associations, doctors or therapists. Conduct phone interviews with the candidates and ask for a sample report.
What is the bottom line?
An evaluation by an outside educational diagnostician or a clinical or educational psychologist costs between $2,000 and $3,500. The cost can be recovered from your school district if the school agrees in advance or if the school changes your child’s IEP as a result of the new evaluation, indicating their acceptance of the findings.
Regardless of the route you chose, it’s critical that interventions are based on an evaluation that provides the correct diagnosis of the problems and reliable recommendations for what needs to be done.