EVALUATION is a comprehensive process, from beginning to end, that includes screening, testing, diagnosis, and educational recommendations. Evaluations can be conducted by schools, clinical or private psychologists, psychometrists, diagnosticians; speech/language, occupational, and physical therapists; and doctors such a pediatricians and neuropsychiatrists. Most often, evaluations are conducted by a multi-disciplinary team, meaning professionals from different fields such as medical, academic, and behavioral sciences, that work together to understand the whole child.
Purposes of Evaluation
- Diagnostic – provides detailed information concerning the nature of a child’s learning abilities and disabilities.
- Eligibility – provides information needed to determine eligibility for special education services.
- Placement – provides information needed to make appropriate decisions about the child’s educational placement.
- Instructional Planning – provides information on what the child needs to learn and how he/she learns best.
TIP: There are many ways to gain information for instructional planning (what and how to teach) without formal testing: analysis of previous work, observations of child while working, online screening, standards-based grading, portfolio analysis, and conversations/interviews.
“The bottom line is that you should have an evaluation done whenever you feel it will either help you get a better picture of your child or become more realistic about the extent of his/her disabilities”.
Sharon Hensley (2009). Homeschooling Children with Special Needs. Redemption Press.
Choosing an Evaluator
Criteria to consider
- Knowledge and experience working with and identifying the disability you suspect your child might have
- Credentials in the area of concern by professional organizations (indicating they are current in research in their chosen field of practice); for example, a speech therapist that is affiliated with ASHA
- Holds current state license to administer the tests, which indicates training; for example, holds a current master’s degree in speech therapy
- Works with other people to develop a full profile of abilities and disabilities of the child; for example, the speech therapist recommends an educational psychologist to administer an intelligence test to determine intellectual ability
Professional Organizations for referrals
- For speech, language, or hearing difficulties
- For emotional and/or behavior problems; ADHD
- American Association of Christian Counselors
- Seek a pediatric neuropsychologist or psychiatrist
- For ADHD, Autism, Dysgraphia, and sensory disorders
- For Tourette’s, Down syndrome and other syndromes; traumatic brain injury; physical and orthopedic disabilities
- Seek a pediatrician, pediatric neurologist, or other medical specialist
Deciding When to Evaluate
- Your child is not meeting basic developmental milestones.
- Your child is struggling to learn in one or more areas, not achieving at the rate of his/her peers.
- Your child is frustrated, knows he/she is not keeping up, and wants to know why.
- Reading, math, writing, or spelling programs are not working after attempting several different curriculums.
- Documentation for placement, accommodations, and /or related services is required to receive related services or special instruction.
Steps to an Evaluation
- You, the parent, make a referral to the appropriate professionals.
- A team of professionals completes a screening with checklists, interviews with parent and/or child, and observations of child’s behaviors.
- The team confers to decide on necessary tests and dates for testing are scheduled.
- The diagnostician writes a psychoeducational / assessment report.
- The professional meets with parents to explain results and make recommendations.
TIP: Thorough evaluations contain several different types of tests and thus, must be scheduled on multiple days. If they are all administered in the same day, the child will be tired and less focused resulting in possibly invalid scores. Students with disabilities almost always have a difficult time with focus and extended attention, because they are working so hard on the academic skill and wear down quickly. Learn more about misconceptions of IQ and how to prepare for testing.
Results of an Evaluation
After an evaluation is completed, you should expect the following:
- A meeting with the diagnostician to fully interpret the scores, explain the results, and answer all of your questions.
- A copy of the typed, dated, and signed report.
- Thorough recommendations as to the next steps. For example, types of helpful therapies, behavioral strategies to implement, educational program, software, or curriculum.
TIP: Locate someone specialized in the area of concern by getting recommendations if possible and checking them out online. Then do your research to understand the language and talk with others to gain information. I recommend beginning the process with a medical evaluation, then moving to a psychoeducational evaluation. Medical evaluations help to rule out all possible causes of learning problems such as allergies, vision or hearing problems, TBI, hypoglycemia, diabetes, and hypothyroidism. Psychoeducational evaluations should identify learning disabilities , but if you’re not satisfied, keep seeking. Second opinions can be very helpful.
TESTING is the administration of a single instrument for the purpose of determining a student’s level of achievement or functioning in one or more areas and is only a small part of an evaluation. Follow this link for detailed information about testing.