More About Assessments
Finding a Specialist for Testing
If you have decided that your child would benefit from testing, it is worthwhile to do some research before you choose a psychologist. Children can be tested through the school system or they can be tested by an independent psychologist. If your child’s needs are straightforward, a basic evaluation may appropriately identify the problem. However, there are some general rules of caution. The school system is not typically set up to offer an evaluation that is as comprehensive as the evaluation that an outside clinician can provide. Additionally, at this time, one of the most accepted definitions of a Learning Disability is a “severe discrepancy between the child’s cognitive ability and their academic achievement.” A school-based evaluation may miss subtle learning problems—particularly in bright children or younger children. In young children, it is often difficult to show this “severe degree of discrepancy”. Think of it this way, it is hard for a second-grade student to be two years below grade-level yet. However, research has shown that early intervention is the most beneficial; therefore, identifying students before they are failing is far preferable. With bright children, it is possible for them to do fairly well on the basic academic testing that is typically included in the battery of tests used by most schools. It may be necessary to do more intensive testing in order to tease out true areas of weakness. Another concern with school-based evaluations is that they tend to take many months to be completed, even when schools are compliant with federal timelines. My experience has been that it is important to keep these caveats in mind; however, the majority of my experiences with school personnel is that they do have the student’s best interest in mind and I have not found my interactions with the school to be an adversarial one.
However, for the reasons discussed above, parents sometimes opt to look for a private psychologist. When looking for a private clinician to evaluate your child, you should feel comfortable calling several people and asking them about their approach to psychoeducational evaluations. I recommend asking school counselors, tutors, or friends you know who have had their children tested. The primary reason parents opt not to have their children tested by an independent psychologist is that it can be costly and very little of it is covered by insurance.