If you’ve chosen to have your child tested for learning and thinking differences, you’ve taking a big step toward getting extra support for your child. But what actually happens during the evaluation process? There are many benefits to getting your child evaluated. But the main one is finding out if your child is eligible for special education services. The tests your child takes will provide information that the IEP team can use to make decisions about services. Not all schools handle evaluation the same way. In most schools evaluation is called a “comprehensive educational evaluation.”
Here’s an overview of the main things to expect before, during and after an evaluation.
Who Evaluates Your Child?
The testing looks at all the areas of your child’s development. At least two professionals will evaluate or observe your child. A psychologist will look at how your child thinks and his potential. Either she or a special education teacher will observe your child in the classroom. Specialists may look at other areas in which your child has difficulty. For example, if your child is having trouble with language, a speech therapist may be involved.
The professionals who evaluate your child:
Have training and credentials in the area of development they are testing, such as speech and language
Have experience working with kids
Know the expected behavior and skills of kids of various ages
Share information to help get the best picture of your child
A case manager will coordinate all of the testing. This person is sometimes called an IEP coordinator. She is often a special education teacher at your child’s school. Keep in mind that you can have private testing done by professionals who don’t work for the school district. In some cases, the school may pay for this independent educational evaluation (IEE). But in many cases, parents cover the cost.
Before the Evaluation
“With a school evaluation, you must provide your written consent before the testing takes place.”
You must provide your written consent before the testing takes place. You’ll get an evaluation plan that outlines the tests the school is recommending. As you look over the evaluation plan, ask yourself questions like these:
Are these tests the right ones to figure out if my child has a “suspected disability”? (If you’re not sure what the tests are, ask the IEP coordinator to explain.)
What does each test measure?
What is the format of the test (such as written or verbal)?
How are the results of the tests presented (such as a number score or written summary)?
Will each test or observation suggest ways for my child to learn better? Will these be recommendations for appropriate services, programs or accommodations?
Is there a specific purpose for a classroom observation?
Will the observation be done during a subject that my child is having trouble with?
Which evaluator will be working with my child?
What is the evaluator’s experience and credentials?
What to Expect During an Evaluation
The professionals who evaluate your child will:
Read and review your child’s records, work samples and screenings
Speak with you and your child’s teacher about your concerns
Provide questionnaires to get background information about your child
Observe your child in the classroom
Talk to your child
Use standardized tests or other methods to learn about your child’s skills
You may or may not be present during your child’s testing. Testing may occur at school. But if your child is tested by outside evaluators, you might need to take your child to their offices. If your child is taking many different tests, the evaluation may take place over a span of many days. But it will all be completed within 60 days of the referral for evaluation, unless your state has implemented a different timeline.
Even if you’re not present, you can still play an active role by asking to be informed when testing will take place. That gives you the opportunity to help prepare your child for testing. You may also want to touch base with the evaluator to set up a time to share information.
After the Evaluation
Once the testing is done, each evaluator will write a report about the results. The report will include information about why your child was referred for testing. It should also provide scores and a summary of what the evaluator learned.
An IEE also will include recommendations for how to help your child. A school evaluation won’t include recommendations because those are discussed at the IEP team meeting. You will sit down with the team of professionals at a meeting to go over the results. They help determine your child’s eligibility for special education services. Be sure to ask questions, and speak up if you don’t agree with the results of testing. You also should put your objections in writing.
Keep in mind that you’re an important part of the team. You’re all working to find solutions for your child. The information you get from an evaluation can point you in the right direction. It can help you talk to teachers about classroom supports, explore treatment options and explain to your child why he is struggling. All of those steps can help your child feel less frustrated and more hopeful.