Evaluation for Specific Learning Disorders in Reading

Since we have covered basic information about Specific Learning Disability in Reading and Dyslexia, now we can talk about key components in diagnosing these disorders. There is no one assessment battery to diagnose dyslexia. When choosing your examiner, make sure to go with someone who specializes in learning disabilities. While there is no one test that can diagnose a learning disorder in reading, there are several specific assessment areas that should be examined, and an experienced examiner will be able to choose quality tools to gain information about those areas. The following areas should be considered in all evaluations if you or your child has difficulties with reading.

Phonemic/Phonological Awareness

Phonemic/Phonological Awareness refers to an individual’s awareness of the sound structure of oral language. This skill is measured by examining the client’s ability to manipulate sound. For example, assessments may require clients to identify sounds in words, rhyme, delete sounds from words, etc. While this may seem like a basic skill, it is foundational to reading, and many people who have deficits in phonological awareness have subsequent reading difficulties.

Rapid Automatic Naming

Rapid Automatic Naming (RAN) measures how fast a student can scan an array of visual symbols and encode a phonological response. This is usually measured by clients naming letters, numbers, colors, or other symbols as quickly as possible. This type of task measures the efficient retrieval of phonological information and executing a sequence of operations quickly and repeatedly, which is required when decoding unfamiliar words.

Alphabetic Knowledge

It is also import to assess a client’s sound-symbol correspondence skills. This can be accomplished by measuring the ability to associate sounds (phonemes) with specific letters (graphemes).

Word Identification

Word reading automaticity and decoding accuracy are both important components of word identification. Not only is it important that a client can identify real words, but it is important that they can decode nonsense words as well. Assessing nonsense word reading can be a more accurate measure of decoding words since it is unlikely that the client would have had opportunity to memorize these words. In addition to being able to read phonetically decodable words, an assessment for a specific learning disorder in reading should also evaluate a client’s ability to identify irregular words (sight words).

Reading Fluency

Reading fluency is a measure of how quickly and accurately a client can read. Timed tests are given to see how many words an individual can read within a specific time. Often assessments use word lists, sentences, and/or paragraphs to measure reading fluency.

Reading Vocabulary

Reading vocabulary measures a client’s ability to know what individually read words mean. This is an important task that contributes to overall reading understanding.

Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension is a person’s ability to understand what they have read. Appropriate reading comprehension assessments will look at how students are able to read a variety of text types and answer both literal and inferential questions about the text.

Listening Comprehension

Gathering information about a client’s listening comprehension skills is important so we can compare scores from listening comprehension and reading comprehension subtests. If reading comprehension is weak while listening comprehension average, it gives us a clue that reading comprehension is likely the issue as opposed to broader comprehension concerns.

Executive Functioning

Executive functioning skills are directly related to an individual’s ability to regulate their behavior in order to achieve a goal or complete a task. Working memory, inhibition, and attention all play a part in our ability to read well and should be evaluated if there are concerns related to any of these areas.

An appropriate evaluation will provide insight into an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. Once you are able to identify a student’s area of need, you can plan how to address it. Next time, we will discuss how to match what is found in an evaluation to appropriate intervention services.

Specific Learning Disability in Reading

If you and your child’s educational team suspect that they have a reading disability, the team will conduct an Evaluation Team Report (ETR) to determine if the student meets the definition of a student with a disability, as outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA). In this step, the team will also have to decide which disability category is most appropriate based on the results of the ETR. Should the data support that your child has a reading disability, they would qualify under the category of Specific Learning Disability.

Specific Learning Disability has been defined by the Ohio Department of Education as:

“a disorder in one or more of the basic psychological processes involved in understanding or in using language, spoken or written, that may manifest itself in the imperfect ability to listen, think, speak, read, write, spell, or to do mathematical calculations, including conditions such as perceptual disabilities, brain injury, minimal brain dysfunction, dyslexia, and developmental aphasia. Specific learning disability does not include learning problems that are primarily the result of visual, hearing, or motor disabilities, of intellectual disability, of emotional disturbance, or of environmental, cultural, or economic disadvantage.”

The Specific Learning Disability category is further broken into more detailed parts based on which exact skills the evaluation shows as an area of need. In the case of reading, your child may qualify under basic reading skills, reading fluency, and/or reading comprehension.

When we look back at our last blog about the five main areas of reading, we can see that they all fit within the ETR categories.

Reading Skills Matched to ETR Reading Disability Categories

Reading Skills Matched to ETR Reading Disability Categories

Basic Reading Skills

Both phonemic/phonological awareness and phonics can be considered basic reading skills. If your child has qualified under basic reading skills, this means that they have difficulty understanding and manipulating sounds in our oral language and/or have difficulty recognizing sound-symbols and common letter patterns when reading. This leads to issues with learning basic reading skills, such as accurately identifying words.

Reading Fluency

If your child has qualified for special education services in the area of reading fluency, this means that they have difficulty reading quickly and accurately with appropriate expression.

Reading Comprehension

Both reading vocabulary and comprehension skills falls under the reading comprehension category. If your child qualifies for special education in this area, it means that they have difficulty deriving meaning from text.

Next week, we will continue our discussion about reading disabilities by discussing dyslexia and its unique characteristics.

Important Areas of Reading Instruction

In 2000, the National Reading Panel, consisting of members of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHC), published a major study, which indicated there are five main areas that should be focused on to teach children how to read efficiently: Phonemic/Phonological Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Text Comprehension.

Five Main Skills for Reading: Phonological Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension

Five Main Skills for Reading: Phonological Awareness, Phonics, Fluency, Vocabulary, and Comprehension

Phonological Awareness

Phonemic/Phonological awareness refers to the capacity to identify and manipulate phonemes (the smallest unit of sound) in oral language.

Phonics

Phonics refers to correlating sounds with letters or groups of letters in an alphabetic writing system. This included recognizing letter-sound correspondences as well as common spelling patterns.

Reading Fluency

Fluency refers to the ability to read quickly and accurately with appropriate expression.

Reading Vocabulary

Reading vocabulary refers to understanding the meaning of read words.

Reading Comprehension

Reading comprehension refers to deriving meaning from written text.

All of these skills build upon each other. For example, we need to have an understanding of the building blocks of oral language before we move on to learning phonics. If we can’t apply alphabetic principals automatically, we likely will not be able to read fluently. We need to be able to read words fluently to be able to identify them and understand the vocabulary. And if we don’t understand the words we read, it will be very difficult to derive meaning from a text. While these skills increase in complexity, students often work on various skills at the same time.

In our upcoming posts, we will explore how these five areas relate to reading disabilities, psychoeducational assessments, and instructional strategies that can help students who need additional support in reading.

Private Supports for Adult Students

In our previous blog, we discussed the supports that you can access at a postsecondary educational institution. Services, such as accommodations through a Section 504 Plan (link), must go through the Disability Services or Student Accessibility Services office.  Many postsecondary organizations also provide additional supports that all students can access, such as the writing center or counseling center.  There are also many services offered privately within the community. Typically, private services may be closer to the direct instructional services that you received as part of your IEP.

Private Tutoring. There are many different types of tutoring that are provided privately; however, they typically fall into two general categories.

  • General Academic Tutoring. The first type of tutoring for adult students is general academic tutoring. General academic tutoring provides overall coaching on study skills that can have an impact on multiple subject areas and enhance learning outcomes. They may provide you with general learning skills, study skills, test taking skills, tools for homework and assignment completion, brainstorming, editing, and accountability to ensure assignments are completed in a timely manner.

  • Subject-Specific Tutoring. Subject-specific tutors fall into two categories. The first category work with students in a specialized academic subject, such as chemistry, psychology, or physics. This type of tutoring focuses on current work in the specific subject area of the tutor’s expertise. The second category of tutors work with individuals who have deficits in specific foundational skill areas such as reading, written expression, or math that impact global educational functioning. The most common deficit is in the area of reading, which impacts the learner’s ability to achieve across all subjects areas. There are many research-based programs that have been proven to help individuals build their skills in the area of reading. At Achievement Advantage, we provide Wilson Reading System tutoring to support and build reading skills for both K-12 and adult students.

Executive Function Coaching. Executive functions are the self-management system of the brain. Many individuals with ADHD and other related diagnosis have weak executive functioning skills that make it difficult in the college environment. Executive function coaching focuses on teaching specific strategies and tools to improve sustained attention, organization/time management, planning, task initiation, task completion, self-monitoring, and emotional regulation. Mastering these skills has a positive impact on educational, occupational, and social functioning.

Private Therapy. Some students may wish to forego the counseling center at their university or may not have counseling services available to them at the school they attend. In these cases, private therapeutic services may be beneficial. When seeking private therapeutic services, the individual has the ability to choose a therapist that specializes in your specific diagnosis or needs.

Private Evaluation. Another service that adult learners may wish to seek privately is a comprehensive evaluation. Many adults seek private evaluation when they begin to struggle to master the content in a postsecondary setting that may reveal an undiagnosed learning disorder. Other adults seek a private evaluation in order to clarify a previous diagnosis that they feel may be incorrect or need updated documentation to substantiate the presence of a disability. Moreover, some adults may seek an evaluation to provide updated recommendations for accommodations and specific intervention services to address the educational needs that they have.

Knowing all of your service options and seeking the appropriate supports is essential for individuals transitioning from K-12 to adult educational options. When both public and private services are combined, students with disabilities succeed at postsecondary institutions at high rates. Next time we will discuss assistive technology that can further aid adult learners with disabilities succeed beyond high school.

 

 

What should I do if I disagree with the results of my child's evaluation?

Over the past few weeks, we have been writing about the evaluation process and the IEP process that follows when a team decides that a student has a disability.  Many times, the school team and parents agree about whether the child has a disability, and what needs the child has.  When this happens, the team is able to is able to use the information from the assessment to come up with a plan to best meet the student’s needs through the creation of an IEP.

Unfortunately, not all evaluations go as smoothly, and you may disagree with the school’s findings.  Eligibility determination meetings, where teams decide whether students qualify for special education services, can be stressful and emotional.  This is especially true when all team members are not on the same page.  We will be visiting some of the options you have so that you can make the best decision for you and your child during these meetings.

First, do not feel pressure to make a decision in the moment if you do not feel comfortable doing so.  At the end of the ETR, parents are asked to sign and date the document and check the “agree” or “disagree” box.  You may find that the team’s report reflects what you know to be true about your child.  In this case, you may be comfortable agreeing with the evaluation at the time of the meeting.  On the other hand, there may be times in which you know that you disagree with the findings of the report and will choose to disagree.  When you disagree, you will be asked to write a statement to provide information about why you disagree with the findings.  You do not have to do this on the spot; in fact, it is probably a better option to write a letter to the school district once you go home and are able to review the information and organize your thoughts.  Other times, you may not be sure about whether you completely agree or disagree with the findings.  In this case, we recommend that you sign and date the evaluation to indicate that you were in attendance and to note that you will be reviewing the report before making a final decision.  If you are feeling conflicted, you do not need to make any decisions in the moment, even if you feel pressure to do so.  It is reasonable to be able to take more time to look over the information that has been provided in the evaluation to make an informed decision.  While you do not want to take too long to decide, a day or two can make you feel more comfortable in knowing that you are making the best choice for your child.

If you disagree with the ETR, you have the right to an Individual Educational Evaluation (IEE).  IEEs are evaluations conducted by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the school district responsible for the education of your child.  They must be funded by the school district if you disagree with the results of their evaluation.  Often, a school district may be able to provide you with a list of practitioners who conduct psychoeducational evaluations.  You have the right to choose your own evaluator, so feel free to do your own research and decide who you would like to evaluate your child, even if they are not on the list provided by your district.  After the IEE, the team will reconvene to decide if the new information changes your child’s special education eligibility.  The IEEs should provided additional information that will make it clearer whether or not your child qualifies for special education services.  Many disagreements can be rectified through the IEE.  However, if there is continued conflict between you and your team, or you do not feel they appropriately take the information from the IEE into account, you may wish to seek legal counsel to guide you in Due Process.

The School-Based Evaluation Process

After the team agrees a disability is suspected, a school-based evaluation will be initiated. There are three stages to the school-based evaluation process: the planning and consent, the evaluation process, and the eligibility determination. The school-based evaluation process is known as the Evaluation Team Report (ETR). You may also hear it referred to as a Multi-Factored Evaluation (MFE), which is the term used prior to ETR. Through this process, typically, the school psychologist is the team chairperson and is best able to respond to your questions.

Planning and Consent for Evaluation (ETR)

From the date that the team suspects that your child may have a disability, the school has 30 days to gain your consent for an evaluation. Within that 30-day period, the team will hold at ETR planning meeting. Typically, this meeting consists of you, your child’s general education teacher, intervention specialist, school psychologist, and district administrator. This meeting is designed to gain your informed consent for the school team to conduct an evaluation of your child. At this meeting, the team will discuss which areas of disability are suspected under IDEA. These are the thirteen categories in which the team can suspect that your child meets disability criteria under: Autism, Deaf-Blindness, Deafness, Emotional Disturbance, Hearing Impairment, Intellectual Disability, Multiple Disabilities, Orthopedic Impairment, Other Health Impairment, Specific Learning Disability, Speech or Language Impairment, Traumatic Brain Injury or Visual Impairment Including Blindness. Then, the team will develop an evaluation plan based on the reason for referral and the areas of disability that are suspected. This is done through completing the following documents: Referral for Evaluation (PR-04), ETR Planning Form, Parent Consent for Evaluation (PR-05), and Prior Written Notice (PR-01).

The Referral for Evaluation (PR-04) form explains the reason that your child is being referred for an evaluation. The reason for referral is supported by information regarding your child’s educational history, attendance, background information, health data, and environmental factors. The ETR planning form determines which assessments will be completed and incorporated in your child’s evaluation. This form details all of the assessment areas that are related to the suspected disability categories, whether or not current data is available in those areas, whether or not additional information will be collected in a particular area, and who is responsible for conducting the assessment. The planning form drives the entire evaluation; therefore, it is extremely important that you are comfortable with the things that are detailed on this form, and you agree that it will provide a comprehensive evaluation for your child. The Parent Consent for Evaluation (PR-05) is the document in which you grant your voluntary, informed consent for the school team to put the evaluation plan into action. Signing the consent form also verifies that you received a copy of the A Guide to Parents Right in Special Education, which is a document detailing your rights and your child’s rights through this process, and that you understand the all the information provided. The district should also provide you with a Prior Witten Notice (PR-01), which explains the type of action the district is proposing to take and an explanation as to why the district is proposing that action. We would recommend asking for a copy of the paperwork for your records.

Throughout the evaluation process, new areas of concerns may arise that the team will want to assess further. In order to evaluate additional areas, the team must amend the planning form. Adjustments to the planning form can only be made with your express consent. Another Prior Written Notice (PR-01) should be provided to you detailing the amendments made and the data supporting why additional assessment is necessary.

Special Education Evaluation (ETR)

From the date that you attend the planning meeting and grant your consent for your child to go through the ETR process, the school has 60 days to complete the evaluation and hold an ETR results/eligibility determination meeting. During this 60-day period, the multidisciplinary team will complete assessments in all of the areas indicated on the ETR planning form. Typically, the multidisciplinary team consists of the parent, school psychologist, general education teacher, intervention specialist, speech/language pathologist, occupational therapist, and a district representative. Other team members can be added depending on the areas of concern. Almost all psychoeducational evaluations will include assessment in the following areas: standardized assessment in the areas of cognition, academic achievement, communicative status, and social/emotional skills; information provided by parent; background information; observation; progress in the general curriculum; data from interventions; and vision and hearing screenings. Depending on the referral concerns and the disability suspected the team can also assess: fine motor skills; gross motor skills; adaptive skills; behavior; physical exam/general health; vocational/transition; Braille needs; audiological needs; and Assistive Technology needs. These assessments are almost exclusively conducted in a one-on-one testing session with the individual with expertise in that particular area.  

The ETR document has four separate sections. After completing the testing portion of their evaluation, each examiner completes what is known as a Part 1. A Part 1 is a written report that is divided into three sections. In the first section of a Part 1, each evaluator summarizes the results of the assessments that they conducted with the student. The results section should be data driven. It will provide the standard scores that your child received on the assessment in order to compare them to their same aged peers across the country as well as a narrative description of the assessment given and describe the specific areas of strength and weakness your child demonstrated. The assessor then completes the Part 1 by providing a descriptor of the child’s educational needs based on the testing results and the implications that those needs have on the student’s instruction and progress monitoring.

Part 2 of the ETR is a Team Summary. Each evaluator summarizes their evaluation results, needs, and implications into a team summary that provides a brief overview of the evaluation. This should provide a cohesive summary of your child’s strength and weaknesses in relation to all assessment performed and information gathered.

Part 3 of the ETR is specific to children who are suspected of having a Specific Learning Disability. This portion of the ETR is where the team determines the areas in which the child meets criteria for having a learning disability in: Basic Reading Skill, Reading Fluency Skills, Reading Comprehension, Written Expression, Mathematics Calculation, Mathematics Problem Solving, Oral Expression, and Listening Comprehension. This is also the portion in which the team summarizes the data utilized to support the eligibility decision in those areas utilizing either a response to scientific, research-based intervention or a pattern of strength and weaknesses. The team must also determine that the learning disability is not due to any of the exclusionary factors: a vision, hearing, or motor disability; mental retardation; emotional disturbance; Limited English Proficiency; environmental or economic disadvantage or cultural factors. The team must also document that the student’s underachievement is not due to a lack of appropriate instruction. 

The ETR culminates in Part 4, which is the eligibility determination section. All four of these components comprise a complete ETR.

Eligibility Determination for Special Education Services

Part 4 of the ETR remains incomplete until the entire team meets for an eligibility determination meeting, which is held within 60 days you granting consent for the evaluation. In this section, the team must answer three questions in order to determine whether or not a student meets eligibility criteria for special education and related services including: is the determining factor for the child’s poor performance not due to a lack of appropriate instruction in reading and math or the child’s limited English proficiency; does the child meet the state criteria for having a disability based on the data provided in the document; and does the child demonstrate an educational need that requires specially designed instruction. If the answer is yes to all three of these questions, then the child is eligible for special education services under one of the thirteen IDEA categories. Following the ETR meeting, the school has 14 days to finalize the document and send a copy to the parent.

If your child meets eligibility criteria for having a disability under IDEA, then the next step is for the team to create an Individual Education Program (IEP), which we will discuss in our next post.

How do I request an evaluation if I suspect my child has a disability?

In our last blog post, we talked about the steps you should take with your school’s education team if you suspect your child may have a disability.  We suggested that you work with your child’s teacher and the rest of the team first (sometimes called Intervention Assistance Team, RTI Team, MTSS Team or Problem Solving Teams) so that your child can get the extra support they need in school and so the team can gather helpful information about what interventions work best for your student. 

But what should you do if your child is receiving intervention and is not showing appropriate growth or if they stay significantly behind their peers?  In this case, you may choose to request an evaluation to determine if they qualify for special education services.  In Ohio, schools must respond to your request within 30 days of receiving it.  This does not necessarily mean that they must conduct the evaluation, but this begins the process.  It is best to put your request in writing and provide it to your child’s school psychologist, teacher, or principal. 

Request a Special Education Evaluation

In order to write the most effective letters, we recommend to include the following:

  • State that you are formally requesting an evaluation to determine if your student is eligible for special education service.

  • Provide information about your child such as their name, date of birth, school, grade, and teacher’s name.

  • Indicate that your child is not making expected progress, and that you suspect a disability.

  • Note any specific areas of difficulty your child may be experiencing (academic skills, attention, social/emotional, behavioral, communication, motor, social skills, sensory, etc.).

  • Provide information about what makes you suspect a disability. This might include:

    • Past and current interventions, and any progress monitoring information

    • Report card information

    • Assessment information from state testing or the classroom

    • Any current medical diagnoses.

    • Any outside support your child receives, such as tutoring, mental health counseling, or other therapies

    • All of the support you provide them because of their difficulties.

Meet with the Team

Within 30 days, you should be invited to speak with the team.  At that time, you will review the data, and the team will decide if they suspect a disability and whether to move on with an evaluation.  If you have not received a response within 30 days, you should follow up with the school’s principal and/or the superintendent.  If your student has been provided interventions and there is data to demonstrate their difficulties in school, the team will likely agree to an evaluation.  If the team does not suspect a disability, the should come up with a plan on how to address your concerns and schedule a follow up meeting to go over new data based on the plan.

Unfortunately, at times you may find yourself disagreeing with the team.  It is important to know that you have rights and that there are resources for you.  You may opt to pursue a private evaluation.  While this type of assessment would be at your own expense, you also have more input about the evaluation process, and your concerns drives it much more than it might in a school setting.  Additionally, many schools have a parent mentor that is free of charge to you and can offer you information and attend meetings with you.  You may also choose to seek a private advocate.  In this case, make sure that you choose someone with a strong educational background and good reputation in the area.  The Ohio Department also offers information about parent rights on their website that can be accessed by clicking here.  The Ohio Coalition for the Education of Children with Disabilities (OCECD) may also be another helpful resource if you are having difficulty coming to a resolution with the school.

Next post, we will write about what happens during the evaluation process once the team suspects a disability.

What to do if you suspect your child has a disability?

When your child is struggling in school and you suspect that your child may have a disability, it can be an emotional experience and many people will provide you with a multitude of solutions to your problems. As former school professionals, we can provide you with our recommendations from beginning to end.

Meet with Teacher

Our first recommendation is always to start by meeting with your child’s teacher. Your child’s classroom teacher is the most knowledgeable individual about your child in the school building. They spend the most time with them and are should be a centralized hub of data regarding your child’s performance within the school. At the meeting, I would ask a number of questions to determine where your child currently stands in relation to other students in the class, school and nation. Here is a list of questions that we would recommend you ask your child’s teacher during that meeting:

  • What are my child’s current grades?

  • What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses?

  • What data do you have to support those areas of strength and weakness?

  • What does that data mean for my child’s educational performance?

    • How does my child’s data compare to the peers in the classroom, school, and nation?

    • Does the data show that my child is making progress or is my child’s performance stagnant?

    • If your child is making progress, is it considered adequate/does it meet expectations for progress?

    • How is this data used to inform my child’s instruction?

  • What interventions are being implemented in the classroom/what differentiated instruction is my child receiving?

  • Is my child receiving any additional supports targeting their area of weakness?

  • How long has my child been receiving these supports?

  • Do you have any concerns regarding my child’s social/emotional or behavioral functioning?

Meet with Intervention Team

After meeting with your child’s teacher, where you should be able to collect valuable information regarding your child’s academic performance, we would suggest that you request a meeting with the school’s intervention team. This team is called different things in many different schools. We have frequently seen these teams called: Intervention Assistance Team, RTI Team, MTSS Team or Problem Solving Teams. These teams typically will involve you, your child’s classroom teacher, grade level intervention specialist, school psychologist, and building level administrator. The purpose of these teams is to analyze student data, design intervention specific to the student’s needs, set an intervention goal, and determine how progress will be monitored. Most teams have a format that will guide the meeting. However, these are important questions that you should have the answers to before leaving the meeting:

  • What intervention options are available for my child in the school?

  • What Tier of intervention is my child receiving?

  • What intervention has team chosen for my child to participate in?

  • Is this intervention research-based?

  • Will my child receive this intervention one-on-one or in a group?

    • If in a group, what is the group size?

  • How frequently and for how long will my child receive this intervention?

  • Who will be implementing the intervention?

  • How is my child’s need being specifically met by the chosen intervention?

  • What tool is being used to measure my child’s progress?

  • How often will my child’s progress be measured?

  • How is the progress monitoring tool directly linked to my child’s need and the chosen intervention?

  • What goal has been set for my child to reach as a result of the implemented intervention?

  • When is the team meeting again to discuss your child’s progress?

Follow-Up

At the follow-up team meetings, which are typically held anywhere from 6-12 weeks apart in order to allow the team to implement the intervention and collect progress monitoring information, the team will work to determine the effectiveness of the intervention. At this meeting you should have an answer to the following questions:

  • Was the intervention implemented and progress monitored the way that it was designed in the previous meeting?

  • Did my child show positive progress to the intervention?

  • Did my child meet the intervention goal?

  • What was my child’s rate of improvement compared to the expected rate of improvement?

  • As a result of the progress monitoring data, what, if any, changes will be made?

    • Will a new research-based intervention be implemented?

    • Will there be changes in the frequency, intensity or duration of the current intervention?

This process and team meetings will likely occur multiple times before team can determine the most appropriate intervention for your child. While participating with your child in the intervention process, you have the right to request that your child be evaluated to determine the presence of an educational disability at any time. You may also wish to seek a private evaluation in order to determine the presence of a disability at any time.

We will cover more regarding the evaluation process in our next blog, so tune in!

 

Differences Between Public Education and Private Practice Evaluations

Having worked in both public education and private practice as school psychologists, we are often asked about the difference between school and private practice evaluations.  As with most things, there are pros and cons for each.  In this post, we will share some information about each to help you make the best choice for your own situation.

Public School Special Education Evaluations

You have the right to request an evaluation from the school district in which your school is located.  The school district has 30 days to respond to your request.  When you speak with the school district, it is important to provide as much information possible about your areas of concern.  A school district may deny your request if they do not suspect a disability based on student data (assessment scores, grades, etc.).  If the team agrees that an assessment should take place, it will be at no cost to the student’s family, and it will be completed by the education team within 60 days of signing consent.  When the team goes over the results, they will determine if the student meets the definition of a student with a disability, as outlined in the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA).  These are educational diagnoses that may differ from medical diagnoses that may be given by counselors, psychologists, or doctors.  Essentially, if the student is determined to have a disability, they will then be provided special education services through an Individualized Education Plan (IEP).

Private Practice Evaluation

If you choose to pursue a private evaluation, you typically will be responsible for the cost.  While this can be a deterrent for some people, it also allows client additional flexibility and control that they likely will not have in a public school evaluation.  This means that you will be able to choose who conducts the evaluation and your concern drives the entire evaluation process.  You will also receive a diagnosis based on the information found in the evaluation.  As mentioned before, it is important to note that educational and medical diagnoses do differ, and only a school team can decide whether a student qualifies for special education.  However, they will generally use the information obtained during a private evaluation during their evaluation process. 

Additionally, you may get an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) from a private practice at your school’s expense.  If the district conducts an evaluation and you disagree with the findings, you have the right to request an IEE, which is completed by a qualified examiner who is not employed by the school district.  Upon completing the IEE, the school team reconvenes to consider the new results and determine whether the student qualifies for special education services.

While we now work in private practice, it has been very helpful to have a background in public education as school psychologists.  With our experience, we are able to conduct evaluations that are accepted by the school team and provide recommendations that educators can easily put in place within the school setting.  It also allows us to better advocate for our clients since with are familiar with what is available in a school setting.  If you are pursuing a private evaluation, please consider the background and reputation of the practitioner so that you are able to get the most helpful services possible.  Those who have worked in public education or who frequently conduct evaluations for school age students will likely be an asset during the entire process.

Welcome

Hello, and welcome to our new blog! 

We are Greer and Jen, Directors and School Psychologists at Achievement Advantage Assessment & Services. 

We are excited for the opportunity to bring an additional resource to parents, clients, and educators by providing blogs related to education and learning exceptionalities, including information about special education law, the evaluation process, instructional practices to best meet the needs of students with learning differences, and much more!

Additionally, we will be inviting guest bloggers who work in the education, mental health, and medical fields to share about their areas of expertise.

Our goal is to provide information that you will find beneficial.  Do you have a topic you would like to learn more about?  Please let us know by contacting us via email at achieve@achievement-advantage.org.  We welcome your input!