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Questions to ask specialists who evaluate for learning disabilities

If you want to have your child privately tested for a learning disability, here are some key questions to ask the specialists you're considering.

By GreatSchools Staff

Hiring a private specialist to conduct a psychoeducational evaluation of your child is a big commitment of time, effort, and money. To find someone competent, ask other parents or school staff for their recommendations. You'll probably want to interview more than one specialist before choosing the person who will work with your child. If you get a recommendation from someone outside the school, make sure the private evaluator has the qualifications and/or credentials your state or district requires.

Before hiring a specialist to conduct psychoeducational testing, you will want to interview her about her professional qualifications, procedures, and fees. The responses will allow you to screen a prospective specialist to see whether you feel comfortable with her, and to discover any potential "mismatches" with your child's needs. The conversation can also help you prepare your child for the evaluation process.

You'll be better prepared to interview an evaluation specialist if you have some background information on evaluation for special education eligibility and/or learning disabilities. The articles below provide that information, and may also help you determine your specific expectations and goals for the evaluation.

In order to get the most benefit from your initial conversation with a psychoeducational evaluation specialist, you'll want to have a good basic understanding about why and how evaluations for learning disabilities are conducted — and how to understand the results. We highly recommend that you read or review one or more of the following articles before you interview a prospective assessment specialist: Evaluation: An Overview; Understanding the Results of Psychoeducational Testing; and IDEA 2004 Close Up: Specific Learning Disabilities Evaluation and Eligibility

Before: questions to ask yourself

  • In what areas do I suspect that my child may have a learning disability?
  • What behaviors have I observed that I have questions or concerns about?
  • What information about my child do I have that might be helpful to the professional?
  • What observations can I offer about his strengths, weaknesses, personality or temperament, academic likes and dislikes, or other traits.
  • What do I want to learn from the evaluation?
  • What are the specific academic skill areas in which his school performance is low relative to his peers?
  • What underlying processing problems — such as short-term memory problems or persistent anxiety — do I suspect may be affecting his performance?
  • How do I hope to use this information?

During: questions to ask a prospective evaluation specialist

  • What are your credentials/training in educational testing?
  • What experience have you had with testing students my child's age?
  • How long have you been doing evaluations? Are you familiar with evaluation practices/personnel at local public schools?
  • What information will you want me to provide?
  • Will you contact my child's school for information and records? Will you interview school staff?
  • Will you observe my child in the classroom?
  • Will you interview me? How will you interview my child?
  • Will the evaluation include any of the tests generally given in the public schools? (This may help you avoid paying for private testing that the school can do or has already done.)
  • What types of tests will you use? Will you evaluate his social, emotional, and/or psychological status?
  • How should I prepare my child for the evaluation process?
  • Will your final report integrate all of the individual tests done so that I have an overall picture of my child's strengths and needs?
  • What is the complete cost of the evaluation and report?
  • How soon can I expect to receive the evaluation results? When will you review the evaluation results with me?

After: review and follow-up questions about the evaluation report

  • Was the report of evaluation results clear? If not, was the evaluator able to answer all of my questions? If not, write down any unanswered questions so that you can follow up by telephone or in person to get information that you can understand.
  • Do I understand what the professional is recommending for my child based on the test results?
  • What action should I now take? What's my plan for getting several recommended actions completed?

Comments from readers

"my 12yrs old but i need help to find out how to help her with learning disabilities her grade are f only one d and i now is going to be a problem for high school she is not going to make it if i don't get help to a evaluation to find out the problem. Thank you I'm single mom trying to get help"
"Can a student that is told he/she has a learning disabilities get worse grades knowing that he/she isn't like every one else even those he/she is getting more help hurting he/she in the long run?"
"my daugher has adhd, she is in kindegarden,and requires special attention, i think she needs to be in a special class with less kids in the class. i know you have those classes avaliable for her, what can i do to get her to that class? Her teacher is mrs. s.peacock, she is a wonderful teacher but my child, bridget cutway requires one on one attention and i am thinking about moving her to a different school all together if things dont change. please help me get her into a class that she can learn better. thanks, and please email me back, i have asked her teacher on several times to get her into counseling and change her to a special class for specail students with these kinds of needs but i feel like i am being ignored. my child is not doing well in her class and complains all the time that she is being pushed to the side and is not being helped with her class work, please help me. thanks miranda allen, my phone # is 894-2242, i hope to hear from you soon."