September 10, 2015
Topics: Learning + Attention Issues
Christopher had a tough third grade year. He struggled to pay attention, had difficulty reading his assignments, and was never able to finish his homework on time. At various points throughout the school year, his teacher asked his parents to get him “evaluated”—either through the school system, or through a private clinic. His parents hesitated, as they didn’t want to “label” him. However, after a frustrating summer with Christopher, his mother realized she needed some answers—preferably before school started in the fall. So, after a number of sleepless nights, Christopher’s parents decided that the fear that he might not pass fourth grade far outweighed the fear that he would be labeled. They decided that a comprehensive evaluation was needed, but weren’t sure if they were better off having him complete the evaluation at school, or at a clinic. They realized that they were entitled to get an evaluation through their public school system, but were also told about clinicians who practiced in settings such as hospitals, community clinics and private practices.
If you are a parent who is struggling with this decision, many factors may affect where you choose to have your child evaluated—for example, your individual concerns, the cost/insurance contribution and the availability of private agencies. When weighing these, there are a number of things to keep in mind.
If you decide to have your child evaluated through the school system, the entire cost of the evaluation is covered; there is no expense to you. Even if your child attends a private school, he is still eligible for an evaluation. The purpose of this type of evaluation is to determine whether a child qualifies for special education services; it does not provide information about a diagnosis, nor do you have control over who completes the testing, or what kinds of tests are performed.
If you instead decide on a private evaluation, you will likely have more input in the process, and the evaluator will offer a diagnosis (when appropriate). Regardless, a private evaluator should offer a list of recommendations, and an explanation of your child’s learning profile. The point of this type of evaluation is to better understand your child, no matter the kinds of services that are available at his school.
When I discussed the possibility of testing Christopher, I gave his parents the following list of pros and cons.
There are a number of very positive reasons to get an evaluation completed through the school system, including:
Alternately, there are some positive reasons to get a private evaluation, including:
While both of these options are seemingly perfect, they are not without their limitations—the cons of a public school evaluation being:
The cons of a private evaluation include:
So, what is the perfect scenario? Well, it really depends.
My suggestion is to get as much information as you can. Talk to other parents to see what they did. Weigh some of the logistical issues. If you decide to get a private evaluation, make sure you have good references—don’t get a private evaluation just because the clinician happens to have an opening next week. Conversely, don’t assume that the school evaluation is your only option.
What did Christopher’s parents do?
Well, they did some of both. They came to see me, and I performed a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation. However, they also involved the school by having the occupational and speech/language therapists perform their specialized evaluations. And, I collaborated with the school psychologist to make sure that my evaluation was comprehensive enough.
Regardless of who you choose to complete the evaluation, make sure it’s a collaborative effort—and that you are an integral part of the decisions made for your child.