Posted By Marker Learning Team

Jan 25, 2023

How do I get my child evaluated?

How do I get my child evaluated?

Want to get your child evaluated for a learning disability but don't know where to start? This article is for you.

So you've decided it’s time to have your child evaluated to see if they have a learning disability or other disorder impacting their ability to focus or perform in school–but where to even start? This is a huge step that many parents are afraid to take, but the actual process is often not as daunting as it may seem. 


First, it’s important to look into the two main types of evaluations, school and private, as the steps can look different based on which route you choose. It’s a good idea to weigh the pros and cons of each avenue before deciding which one to take. School assessments, done through your child’s school system, are free. Private assessments are not, and can cost thousands of dollars out of pocket if not covered by insurance.

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Why choose a school evaluation?

The largest barrier to entry for private evaluations is the cost. While occasionally insurance will cover a private assessment, it’s helpful to know that public school assessments are always free. They are also relatively easy to obtain, as parents simply need to write a formal letter to the school requesting that their child be evaluated. They are also fully conducted at your child’s school, allowing your child to remain in a familiar environment.



What Does a School Assessment Look Like?

It might take time for the school to approve your request for evaluation, but once approved the school will complete the assessment on a relatively short time frame. Public evaluations entail your child being assessed by two professionals who you are assigned to your child by the school–you can not select them. 


The testing is all free, and checks for a wide range of learning disabilities, even ones not thought of as areas of concern, so that you can rule out other possible factors. The evaluation all takes place at school, so there is no need to take your child to an unfamiliar and possibly stressful environment. 



Pros and Cons of School Evaluations

To many families, the main benefit of a public evaluation is that it is free and easy to request, though it’s important to keep in mind that requests are not always approved. They are also conducted within the school, which is convenient for families. In addition, they are very thorough, checking for a litany of different learning disabilities and developmental disorders, not just one area of difficulty. 


What many parents don’t like about school evaluations is that they cannot choose the evaluators, and sometimes feel that the evaluators place the school’s best interest above their child’s individual needs. Another drawback is that once conducted, the results will follow the child throughout the school system, and will be available to many educators, perhaps coloring their judgment of the child. Finally, the child may feel embarrassed that they are being singled out and removed from class to be evaluated away from their peers. 



Why Choose a Private Evaluation?

There are many reasons why parents would opt for a private evaluation. In some cases, parents choose to have their child evaluated privately after they find the results of a school evaluation to be unsatisfactory. Parents get to choose the evaluator and get to have their child assessed regardless of whether the school finds it necessary. 



What Does A Private Assessment Look Like?

Getting a private evaluation for your child will entirely depend on you seeking out a psychologist, neurologist, or another mental health professional who conducts learning disability evaluations. You can ask your child’s pediatrician for a referral, ask friends for recommendations, or proceed carefully on the internet to find the right evaluator for your child. Unlike with school evaluations, it entirely falls on you to schedule appointments and take your child in to be assessed.

 
Private assessments usually entail bringing your child to the evaluator’s office, where they will talk to your child at length and conduct tests ranging from written tests to spatial awareness and in some cases hearing and sight exams. The evaluator will also want to speak with you and any other parent or guardian, as well as have access to your child’s academic history. 



Pros and Cons of Private Evaluations

Some big benefits of going the private route include having a choice, cost permitting, in who evaluates your child. You are not limited by what your child’s school signs off on, and can seek the specific type of evaluation you think will be best for your child, by an objective professional with your child’s best interest in mind. The results are completely confidential, to be shared at your own discretion, and not shared with the school unless you want them to be. 


The largest con to a private evaluation is of course the often exorbitant cost, compounded by the fact that insurance companies continue to cover fewer and fewer evaluations. In addition, the evaluator might not be permitted to watch your child in their school environment, so they might not get the full picture of your child’s needs. Also, bringing your child to an unfamiliar environment to be asked difficult questions for hours on end might be a very stressful experience for them. 



IEEs and Other Resources

Another resource that families may wish to pursue is a telehealth evaluation. These private evaluations are conducted via Zoom or other video conferencing software from the comfort of your own home, allowing you and your child to find a time that works best for your schedule. They often cost less than an in-office private evaluation as well. 


While uncommon, sometimes a school will be required by law to pay for a private evaluation if the school evaluation is found to be incomplete. This falls under an IEE, or Independent Educational Evaluation, and like the IEP, it is derived from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. Parents can always pay for an IEE on their own, just as they can always opt for a private evaluation regardless of the outcome of the school’s evaluation, however, in some cases, the school will offer to cover the costs, or even have to cover the costs by law. Schools will usually cover the cost if they don’t have enough staff qualified to carry out an evaluation or think that their own evaluation is insufficient. 


As a parent, you always have the right to ask for an IEE, even though you may not be successful in getting the school to cover the costs. The school will hold a hearing in which they will try to prove that their evaluation met your child’s needs. If they fail to prove that their assessment was satisfactory, they will have to cover the cost of a private evaluation.


Posted By Marker Learning Team Jan 25, 2023

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