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468 results for: "evaluations"

  • Private evaluations: What you need to know

    An evaluation can help you learn more about your child’s needs. When the evaluation takes place outside of school, it’s called an “outside” or “private” evaluation. Sometimes a school will pay for a private evaluation. That’s when you’ll hear the term independent educational evaluation, or IEE. Knowing about private evaluations and IEEs can help you make good choices about your child’s education.Private evaluationA private evaluation is an evaluation by a professional who does not work for your child’s school.As a parent, you have complete control over a private evaluation. You can choose which type of testing to have done. You can also choose the person who does the testing. The evaluation can be comprehensive or just focused on a single issue.You can have a private evaluation done at any time. The school doesn’t have to agree that it’s necessary. And the testing doesn’t automatically become part of your child’s school record. You don’t even have to tell the school. If you decide to share the results, the school must consider them. But the school doesn’t have to agree with its results or follow its recommendations.It’s also important to know that a private evaluation can be very expensive, sometimes thousands of dollars.Independent educational evaluation (IEE)An IEE is a kind of private evaluation. The term comes from the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Families usually pay for an IEE or private testing. But sometimes the school may agree to pay in cases where an outside evaluation is clearly needed, including:When the school doesn’t have the staff needed to do the testing that your child needsWhen the school’s evaluation team thinks outside testing is neededSometimes schools are forced to pay for an IEE. If you don’t agree with the results of a school’s evaluation, you have the right to ask for what’s called an IEE at public expense. Learn more about IEEs.Professionals who administer testingDifferent types of professionals are qualified to do a private evaluation. Some can do a wide range of tests. Others specialize and are certified only in certain areas. Professionals who can help include:Clinical psychologists (for psychological and educational testing)Educational psychologists (for educational testing)Neuropsychologists (for brain processing and functioning testing)Learn about neuropsychological evaluations.Types of testingA private evaluation for learning and thinking differences involves various types of tests. It also includes a review of your child’s history and a conversation with and observation of your child. It can take a few testing sessions to finish and usually involves two main things:Intelligence and achievement testing, including information processing, memory, and reasoningTesting in other areas of concern, such as speech and physical skillsSee what kinds of activities kids do during a dyslexia evaluation.What to expect after testingAfter your child has been tested, the professional will gather and analyze all the information. You’ll sit down together to talk about the results and get your questions answered.You’ll get a written report, too. This will recap all the information gathered and reviewed. It will also list the tests used, show your child’s results, and provide more information about your child’s specific issues. A report should include a statement about how those issues affect your child and recommendations of things that can be done to help.Once you have the report, you can decide if you want to share the results with the school. The report can provide information to help you and the school find ways to support your child’s learning. Learn key terms to help you understand what the evaluation results mean.Learn moreMany parents assume that bringing an outside evaluation to the school is enough to get services in place. But that’s not always the case. Learn how you can work with the school to use outside evaluation results. And explore these other resources:Get tips on questions to ask before hiring a private evaluator.Find out where to get a free or low-cost private evaluation.Learn more about your legal rights in the evaluation process.

  • Understood Explains Season 1

    There’s a lot to learn about learning and thinking differences like dyslexia and ADHD. Understood Explains is a podcast that unpacks one important topic each season. Season 1 covers the ins and outs of the process school districts use to evaluate kids for special education services. Host Dr. Andrew Kahn is a psychologist who has spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids for schools. He explains each step of the evaluation process and gives tips on how to talk with your child along the way.

  • In It

    Evaluations for special education: Introducing our new podcast

    How do schools evaluate kids for special education? Season 1 of our new Understood Explains podcast answers these questions and more. How do schools evaluate kids for special education? What’s the process like? How do families get started? Season 1 of our new podcast, Understood Explains, answers these questions and more.  In this bonus episode, Amanda Morin and Gretchen Vierstra talk with Dr. Andy Kahn, a psychologist who spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids for schools. Andy shares why he’s excited to host Season 1 of Understood Explains, which breaks down the special education evaluation process for families. Tune it to learn more about the podcast, evaluations, and misconceptions families often have about special education.Related resources Listen: Understood Explains podcast Learning about evaluations FAQs about school evaluations Episode transcriptAmanda: Hi. I'm Amanda Morin. Gretchen: And I'm Gretchen Vierstra. Amanda: And we are the hosts of "In It," from the Understood Podcast Network. Gretchen: Officially, we're between seasons right now, but you're hearing from us because we want to share a sneak preview of a new Understood podcast we're very excited about. Amanda: It's called "Understood Explains." It's hosted by Dr. Andy Kahn, and we have Andy sitting right here next to me to tell us all about it. Andy, welcome to "In It." Andy: Thanks. Gretchen: Yay Andy! Amanda: So, Andy, before we get into the podcast, maybe you can just briefly tell us a little bit about yourself. Andy: Sure. So, I'm a licensed psychologist and I've been in practice for over 20 years. I spent the better part of that 20 years working within the school systems. So, doing evaluations, consultation, and supporting families within our communities. So, came to Understood to become a subject matter expert in learning and psychology. Gretchen: So, then can you tell us a little bit about this new podcast you're hosting? Andy: So, there's a lot to say about this podcast. The purpose of the podcast is really two major points. We're breaking down the special education evaluation process primarily for parents to give them information about, you know, what does it look like? How does that referral process work? How do we make those decisions? Should we do an evaluation? Should we not? Helping parents learn about their rights. And the second, really most important part is, helping them communicate with their kids about that process. That's where we fold in Amanda, who joins us and talks about all of those things. What can you say to your kids? How do you make them a part of the process? Amanda: Andy, I also know that you've really wanted to do something like this for a long time. Tell me why. Andy: Yeah. So, you know, having done evaluations for years, I've done thousands of evaluations. And it was no easy decision to walk away from schools to do this kind of work. But in a word, I was really focused on impact. The idea that the process that I did with my families over the years was something that was highly cooperative and collaborative. So much of it was about giving them information so that they could be involved and they could be calm in the process and feel relaxed enough to know, What are we doing this for? How are we going to make this really work for my child? So, for me, so much of this is about taking what I felt that I was really proud of doing for so many years in my evaluations and putting together a podcast that could help parents, you know, learn things about the process to really maximize the impact and to absolutely reduce the anxiety. So, we have psychologists, school psychologists, special ed teachers, administrators, who come in and give us input about the process and then we bounce out with you, Amanda. You know, the parent perspective, plus how to talk to your kids. Gretchen: Yeah. Can you give us a sneak peek into some of the topics of the different episodes? Andy: We've got 10 episodes, and the episodes start with things like understanding, making the decision about do I want to do an evaluation process? And understanding that an evaluation process can start from a parent requesting it or from the school saying, "Hey, we're seeing something. We'd like to request this process." We talk about parents' rights and you know, what is it that you are allowed to do? What is it that you have a right to receive? And what are the schools supposed to do in this process with you so that you can protect your rights? You know, no one's going to assume that a school is looking to do anything but the best for their kids. But sometimes things go wrong and parents, if they have that knowledge, can really keep the process honest and on track. Amanda: So speaking of knowledge, we keep using the word evaluation. Can you tell us what that means? Because I just realized we haven't even covered that yet. Andy: Yeah, yeah. And I think evaluation is one of the words that we use. We use evaluation or assessment. People might say testing and you know, all these words that become really highly charged. And evaluation is really where we're looking at what the child's skills are in certain areas, which could be anywhere from academic skills, social-emotional skills, overall behavioral functioning, and for other professionals, things like speech and language evaluations or occupational therapy or even physical therapy. So, there's a lot of bits and pieces that go into understanding how a child can be successful and the things that could be factors in their daily functioning. Gretchen: Certainly not just one little test a child takes and it's done. It's a process, right? Andy: Absolutely. And it's a process that has a lot of moving parts and lots of people. So, I think that, you know, for a parent who might not be in the room because their kid's doing the assessment, the more they can know, the more comfortable they can feel and the more input they can have. So, it's yeah, that we have to unpack that and that's a great question. Amanda: Can you talk a little bit about what sorts of misconceptions parents and caregivers might bring to this process before they understand it? Andy: Yeah, sure. You know, everyone who enters this process, and from the parent perspective, something I learned that really came home from doing so many assessments, was that parents were once students. So, their experience of having been students — or maybe if they had challenges with learning and thinking differences — things have changed a lot over the years. The experience for people of my age going through school could have been very different from what their kids are going through right now. Amanda: It's such a good point, right? Because I think a lot of parents, especially in a certain age bracket, they think special education means you're in a separate room, you're in a separate place of the building, that you don't get to be with the other kids at the same age, that it's a different kind of instruction. And that's not the case anymore. Andy: And it once was, you know, as a kid going to New York City schools when I was young, you know, it was if a kid got identified for services, you really might not have seen them again, except maybe after school or on the way to school. So, for parents who might or might not have had, you know, a positive experience in their own education, it really becomes a loaded process. And you have to take that into account. You know the primary thing that I think that always echoed with me is how are the parents responding to this process? What does it lead them to feel emotionally? And then in turn, you know, having a child is like having your heart on the outside of your chest. Amanda: Oh, yes. Andy: So, you know, if your child is now being asked to go through a process, maybe you've went through or things that you have, you know, beliefs that are based on when you went to school that can be really, really unsettling. And to give parents the right information so they can know that they're in charge of making decisions is incredibly powerful. Gretchen: What do parents most often struggle with around this process? What tends to be the bumpiest parts along the way?Andy: For parents of much younger children — the one thing I'll say that I noticed my entire career — little kids don't mind leaving a classroom. They don't mind getting the extra support.Amanda: They love it. As a kindergarten teacher, I can tell you that they loved being the one walking out with the person, they loved it.Andy: You know, for so many parents, it's often the idea about "I don't want my kid to be labeled. I don't want my kid to look different. I don't want my kid to be picked on because we find that they have something that they need that's different than other kids." And I think that people perceive the process and the outcomes as being public, that somehow because you're doing it, everybody knows. Amanda: It's that permanent record thing that people think about, right? There's a permanent and I will just be the first one to admit that as a parent, I know that fear. And I was a teacher, I was an educator, I was in special education. And when I first did this with my first child, I went through evaluation, I had this like, "Nope, nope, don't want to do that. Don't want that label, don't." But, you know, people like you Andy make it easier for us to understand like it's not a permanent record situation. Andy: And I think some of us would say that, you know, we're building in the idea of expectation that's realistic and putting people in the position to ask questions that builds comfort. And I think that in and of itself, if you're comfortable enough to say, "I don't understand this" or "This scares me," or "Heck no, I don't want my kid to get that," then it gives us the opportunity to make... the process can be therapeutic, right? It can be, If we're going through this process together and we're learning about your child together, can you come to a conclusion about "Wow, you know, my kid wasn't just refusing work because they're naughty or because they're a pain or because of some momentary frustration we all experience as parents." But it's more about "Well, I didn't know my kid wasn't able to process that information or struggles with reading or can't focus without support." So, I think that a well-done evaluation is a therapeutic process, and I think that we can't underestimate the impact of that. Amanda: I'm going to turn the tables and ask Gretchen a question if you don't mind. Did you participate in these processes as a teacher? Gretchen: Yes. Amanda: What was it like for you on that side? Gretchen: Yeah. Sometimes families were really invested and interested in getting the evaluation done. And so, they were super involved from the beginning and talking to me about it and gathering the information. But then there were other families who were scared. This was the first time that anyone was bringing up that perhaps their child struggled with something. And for some families hearing that, it was hard to take, right? Because lots of families envision their child as, quote unquote, perfect, right? And then you're told, well, wait a minute, we actually want to find ways to better support your child. And for some of these families, it was like, "What? What do you mean? They're not excelling at every single thing without any kind of support? Because that's what I expected." Andy: Right. Absolutely. Gretchen: You know? And so, it could be tough sometimes to just be part of that process with them because it was scary. Amanda: So, Andy, for teachers like Gretchen or me, because I did this as a teacher too, and I'm going to admit that when I first started, I didn't understand what my role as a teacher was. What is their role in this process, and do you have advice or practices to share with them? Andy: You know, I think the first thing that I would share with teachers across the board is, any time you're going to involve yourself in the process, take a moment to imagine it's your child who's being evaluated first. That empathic approach says, okay, this is sensitive. This is something where you're describing something that could feel critical, like you're giving some sort of negative description of someone's child and really sharing from the very, very beginning that we are focused on making your child's success our goal. And I think really saying "We are working together. This is not a tug of war. We're not on opposite sides of the rope. You and I are both pulling the rope in the same direction. But if you're not sure or you're uncomfortable with part of this, let's talk that through." And teachers can often say, you know, kids who have had this kind of testing, who have found that they have differences, they really can benefit. There's a lot of stuff we can do in reassuring them about what it's going to lead to. Yeah. So, there's, you know, there's a little bit of benefit in just understanding, "You know what? Your kid is going to manage this fine if we support them the right way. It's much harder to break your kids than you think," you know. Gretchen: Right. Yeah. Andy: Yeah. And I think that one of the keys in terms of being successful as a teacher, as a psychologist, as a parent, is always being focused first on what you like about the child. And I'll be completely forthright, I've worked with some extremely challenging kids, and I can say that with very high certainty, I really, really learned to love all of these kids because they all have something about them that's cool and interesting. And for us to be successful, focusing on those things is important. And let me tell you about what we can do that might be helpful to your child or something. And let me tell you about something we may need to do to help your child. So for teachers, we've got a lot to offer them. And just to reset, right? It's just a little reset for your brain, because this is benevolent people looking to help kids. Gretchen: For the teachers listening, I do want to say that it's okay to not know, right? And I remember starting off and being handed a form like, "Okay, we're going to be evaluating this kid. I need to fill out this test, check out these things." And like what? What is this? If you haven't been trained and you're not familiar with what you're supposed to do, then talk to someone and find out because you don't want to go at it alone and you want to do a great job for the family. So, finding an ally who can help you is great. Andy: And think about it, just let's zoom out here for a second. You know, think about what that looks like for kids with learning and thinking differences. They don't know something, so they get anxious and they don't want to step out and make a mistake. But what we're saying across the board here is "If you don't know, that's okay." Amanda: That was part of the fun of being able to come on and have those conversations with Andy, is we unpacked some of that. We looked at how as a parent, do you look at what you need to learn, and then how do you pass that on to your child? Andy: And the best part about that is when you have multiple perspectives talking about something like that. Amanda, you come up with things that I wasn't thinking of in that moment. So, when we bring in the experts at the beginning of each session, then we have Amanda and I chatting, I think for me, the greatest surprise about it was I kept learning things about perspectives that I wasn't taking. You know, as much as I've done this my whole career, I kept stumbling across bits and pieces like, "Okay, that's cool. I never thought about it that way," You know? And I think that's really what's powerful about this, is getting people who know a lot of stuff to talk together because none of us by ourselves knew enough to tell you everything. Gretchen: So last but not least, Andy, how can people get your podcast? Andy: Our podcast it's on Apple, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts. Amanda: Part of the Understood Podcast Network. Gretchen: Yay, it's everywhere, people!Gretchen: Andy, thank you so much for joining us on "In It" to talk about your podcast "Understood Explains." We're so excited for people to listen to it. Andy: Thanks so much for having me. Amanda: Thanks for listening to "In It," part of the Understood Podcast Network. And remember, there's lots more where this came from. You can find all our past episodes by subscribing to "In It" wherever you get your podcasts or on our website, go to Understood.org/podcast/in-it. Gretchen: We'll be back very soon with Season 4 of the show. A reminder, it's not too late to let us know what topics you'd like us to cover. Is there something you've been struggling with or wanting to celebrate that you think would be of interest to other folks who are in it? Send us an email at init, that's one word, i-n-i-t @understood.org with your suggestions. Amanda: In It is produced by Julie Subrin. Briana Berry is our production director. Justin D. Wright mixes the show. Mike Errico wrote our theme music. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director. Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer.Gretchen: Thanks for listening, everyone. And thanks for always being in it with us.

  • Understood Explains Season 1

    Private vs. school-based evaluations for special education

    Why do some families pay for private evaluations when the ones at school are free? Find out in this episode of the Understood Explains podcast. families pay private evaluations ones school free? neuropsychologist? person things school psychologist can’t? Listen episode Understood Explains learn answer, involves making diagnoses.Host Dr. Andy Kahn psychologist spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids public private schools. first guest episode Dr. Ellen Braaten. teaches psychology Harvard Medical School. also runs Learning Emotional Assessment Program Massachusetts General Hospital. Andy Ellen explain:How private evaluations compare school-based evaluationsWhy families may want seek one other — bothWhat look private evaluator Ways help cover cost, like asking school pay independent educational evaluationAndy’s second guest parenting expert Amanda Morin. They’ll share tips tricky topic: say child getting private testing evaluated school.Related resourcesPrivate evaluations: need knowPros cons private vs. school evaluationsNeuropsychological evaluations: need knowIndependent educational evaluations (IEEs): need knowWhy different evaluations may different resultsHow-to resources13 questions ask hiring private evaluatorHow get free low-cost private evaluation childDownload: Sample letters including request IEEEpisode transcriptJennifer: Hi, name Jennifer Atlanta. child take standardized assessments, tests, can't retake five months later. happens go school first you've school theirs, use good test, go get private evaluation, person you're paying lot money evaluation can't test themselves. hindsight, wished would done full neuro psych evaluation right beginning paid money up-front privately gotten big picture happening, taken school asked eligibility meeting. could performed whatever wanted do. feel like got backwards.Andy: Understood Podcast Network, "Understood Explains." You're listening Season 1, explain evaluations special education. 10 episodes, cover ins outs process school districts use evaluate children special education services. name Andy Kahn, I'm licensed psychologist, in-house expert Understood.org. I've spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids public private schools. I'll host.  Today's episode private versus public school evaluations. We're going cover key things: private evaluations similar different evaluations done public school districts, families may want seek one both, look private evaluator, ways help pay private evaluation. We're also going give ideas say child different types evaluations, say. First, let's hear another parent. Michele: name Michele live Bronx, New York. paid private evaluation. 9:00 morning 5:00. last year pandemic. sort excited day felt going thorough evaluation, going helpful. evaluation report received generic, incomplete. totally really discuss son's strengths, weaknesses, services would need. paid pocket $350. billed insurance company $6,800. Andy: It's common families think getting evaluation private clinic rather school district. Different families may variety reasons. families, child may already gotten evaluation school district, want second opinion. families may prefer control private evaluation. example, may decide share pieces information school. There lot pros cons consider. starters, private evaluations really expensive. time consuming get into. school evaluations free. families go deciding needs? My first guest today going help unpack this. Ellen Braaten associate professor psychology Harvard Medical School, executive director Learning Emotional Assessment Program Massachusetts General Hospital. She's co-author "Straight Talk Psychological Testing Kids." Ellen also mom two longtime Understood Expert, we're thrilled today. Ellen, welcome. Ellen: I'm really happy here. Andy: Ellen, let's talk little bit program run Mass General. understand specializes evaluating kids learning thinking differences. also help train psychologists part Harvard Medical School program. And — understand whole variety different assessment types there, correct? Ellen: do. neuropsychological assessments, think we'll get little while. educational evaluations, intelligence testing. even school observations, well. assess children various kinds learning differences, dyslexia, ADHD, autism spectrum, developmental issues well. Andy: mentioned several types evaluations. tell little bit one they're different one another? Ellen: let give big-picture definitions. neuropsychological evaluation typically implies number different tests measure different types brain functioning. mean attention, memory, language, learning kinds functioning. that's sort like granddaddy assessment batteries.And you'll also see evaluations label behavioral emotional functioning psychological functioning. typically means think is: evaluator looked someone's behavioral functioning, psychological functioning. Things like anxiety, depression, worries. And would think clear definitions one assessments, really isn't. Depending live, area country, sort used interchangeably. would say exceptions term neuropsychological assessment. you'll also see one assessment, called core evaluation. It's battery tests used determine whether child eligible services school. Andy: Yeah, described core evaluation, parents places might hear referred psychoeducational evaluation. there's lot jargon parents wrap heads around. also want add psychologists like Ellen use word "battery," we're referring group tests. So let give quick example. psychoeducational battery commonly includes IQ test, academic achievement testing, sometimes subject-specific tests look reading, writing, math. kind battery, might use tests answer question child learning disability, slow processing speed, trouble working memory? results may point kids one other. kids might above. OK, we've talking different kinds evaluations. people evaluations? one type evaluator type evaluation? providers offer like menu choices? Tell us little bit typically what,Ellen: Typically evaluations done psychologists, even psychologists aren't same. might hear term "neuropsychologist." That's kind psychologist typically neuropsychological batteries. School psychologists typically evaluations school system. you'll also hear term "educational psychologists," "clinical psychologists" — it's different sorts psychologists licensed different sorts testing, Andy: use word "licensed," reminds me — want mention yet another type evaluator parents may hear about, that's licensed psychologist. That's am. Unlike school psychologist, licensed psychologist diagnose mental health conditions. next detail I'm going share bit confusing, it's helpful know: schools hire licensed psychologists like school-based evaluations. psychologists school-based evaluations school psychologists. Kind confusing, know. Ellen: also, there's term "psychiatrist," lot people think psychologist, it's not. Psychiatrists medical doctors specialize treatment psychiatric issues like ADHD would treat medically, typically, sometimes therapy. psychiatrists kinds evaluations we're talking today.Andy: Good know. Ellen, there's one jargony term want us cover. it's real mouthful. It's called "independent educational evaluation," IEE. basically private evaluation, school district pays it. it's free families. We're going dig IEEs minute.

  • Learning about evaluations

    When the school, doctors, or others talk about getting your child tested, what does it mean? Typically they’re referring to an evaluation. An evaluation is often the first step toward getting your child help at school. Many people refer to it as an education evaluation, a school evaluation, or an educational assessment. And it can lead to your child receiving special education services and supports. Whether the school or your child’s doctor suggests an evaluation, it’s important to know the basics before you decide whether to have your child tested. That knowledge can help you feel more at ease.This guide can lead you to the basic information you need about evaluations.Different terms for evaluationsIf you’re new to evaluations, you may have a lot of questions. One thing that can make learning about evaluations confusing is that there are so many different terms for them. From educational evaluation to cognitive testing, this chart explains the many terms you may hear.An evaluation can lead to your child getting support through an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 plan. Find out how evaluations for IEPs and 504 plans are different.The difference between an evaluation and a functional assessmentAn evaluation looks for difficulties that might make a child eligible for special education services. A functional assessment looks at problems with behavior. It might be done as part of an evaluation, but it’s not the same thing.Learn how a functional assessment works.Explore quick answers to common questions about evaluations.Evaluations for kids at different agesKids from birth through age 3 can be evaluated to find out if they’re eligible for early intervention services.Different kinds of help are available depending on your child’s age. This year-by-year guide breaks it down.Private vs. school evaluationsWhen it comes to having your child evaluated, there are two basic options: a free evaluation by the school district or a private evaluation that you pay for. This is true whether your child attends public school or private school, or is homeschooled. And getting one doesn’t mean you can’t get the other.Compare the pros and cons of private and school evaluations.You may have also heard about independent educational evaluations (IEEs). These are private evaluations done by an outside professional — but they’re paid for by the school. Learn more about IEEs.Child Find and free school evaluationsChild Find is a legal mandate that requires schools to evaluate — for free — kids who may need services. It’s part of a federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). And it applies to all students, whether they attend public school or private school, or are homeschooled.Learn more about how Child Find works in general, and specifically for kids who attend private school.Evaluation myths and benefitsThere’s a lot of misleading information out there about evaluations and special education. Knowing what’s a myth and what’s the truth may help put those concerns to rest.Debunk 10 myths about special education and having your child evaluated.Read about the benefits of having your child evaluated.Hear a mom and expert’s advice for parents who are nervous about the idea of an evaluation.Evaluations for college testing accommodations, ADHD, and adultsYou may have heard the term evaluation because you want your child to get test accommodations for the SAT or ACT. The College Board, which gives the PSAT, SAT, and AP exams, requires documentation of a learning disability and/or ADHD. ACT has its own set of documentation guidelines. So if your child hasn’t had an evaluation, you’ll need to get one.Learn about the documentation needed for college testing accommodations.Find out what to look for in an ADHD evaluation.Learn who can evaluate adults. And find out how dyslexia is diagnosed after school, along with ADHD.Looking aheadIf you’re unsure whether to have your child evaluated, continue with the next steps listed below. If you’re not interested in an evaluation and the school suggested one, find out whether you can refuse.Here are the next steps in your evaluation journey:Deciding on an evaluationRequesting an evaluationPreparing for an evaluationUnderstanding evaluation results and next steps

  • Understood Explains Season 1

    [TRAILER] Introducing Understood Explains, Season 1: Evaluations for Special Education

    How do schools evaluate kids for special education? For a quick preview, listen to the trailer for Season 1 of the Understood Explains podcast. Listen to the trailer for Season 1 of Understood Explains, which covers the ins and outs of the process school districts use to evaluate kids for special education. Host Dr. Andy Kahn is a psychologist who spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids for schools. He explains each step of the process and gives tips on how to talk with your child along the way. Episode transcriptLisa: By the time our son was in first grade, it was really apparent to us that something was off. Unfortunately, at that time, we didn't realize we had the right to request an evaluation. Andy: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "Understood Explains." In our first season, we explain evaluations for special education. Over 10 episodes, we cover the ins and outs of the process that school districts use to evaluate children for special education services.Keith: I would say yes, I am glad that he was evaluated. And I am glad that the diagnosis is there because you know, now, what you're dealing with. Andy: We’ll talk with experts about every part of the process, from the basics of an evaluation…Julian: Really, the whole purpose of this is to understand where are the gaps? And where are the strengths? Andy: …to understanding the results.Ellen: You don't need to know every single thing. What you need to know is why it's meaningful, and then where do we go from here?Andy: We’ll also get tips for how to talk to your child every step of the way…Amanda: This is not being done to your child, it's being done for your child. And I think that makes all the difference in the world.Andy: Tune in to "Understood Explains," available wherever you get your podcasts.

  • Independent educational evaluations (IEEs): What you need to know

    Do you disagree with the results of your child’s school evaluation? Or are you worried it wasn’t thorough enough? You have a right to request an independent educational evaluation (IEE) under the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA). And it’s not just an IEE you have a right to — it’s one at public expense.Here’s what you need to know about IEEs.What an independent educational evaluation (IEE) isAs a parent or guardian, you always have the right to a private evaluation. Families usually pay for this on their own. But sometimes the school may agree or be forced to pay. When this happens, it’s called an independent educational evaluation at public expense.An IEE at public expense is different from a typical private evaluation. It’s still a private evaluation performed by a qualified professional. But the school pays for it. And the evaluator is picked from an approved list of professionals who do not work for the district.An IEE has to meet the same standards that are required of a school evaluation. For instance, the credentials of the evaluator and the location of the evaluation have to be comparable to the school’s. The school has to tell you what those standards are. Other than that, the school can’t put any other conditions or deadlines in place.Your legal right to request an IEEIDEA gives you the right to request that the school pay for an IEE if you disagree with the results of the school’s evaluation. Here are some other reasons you might ask for an IEE:The school evaluation didn’t find evidence of a disability, but you think it’s wrong.You don’t think the disability your child has been diagnosed with is correct, or you think the results of the testing aren’t accurate.The school’s evaluation didn’t examine all the issues you think it should have.It’s important to know that when you disagree with an evaluation, you only have the right to one IEE request for each evaluation the school conducts. How schools may respond to IEE requestsThe school may agree to pay for the IEE. But in some cases, the school may push back. The school can’t simply refuse your request, however. If it feels an IEE isn’t needed, it must ask for a due process hearing to say why its evaluation is correct.During the hearing, the school must show that the evaluation it did was right for your child. If it fails to do so, the hearing officer will decide that the school has to pay for the IEE.Before a decision is made, the school can ask you why you don’t agree with its evaluation. By law, however, IDEA says you don’t have to provide an explanation. It also says the school can’t cause “unreasonable delays” in scheduling and paying for the IEE, or in filing for due process.If you do want to explain why you disagree with the school’s initial evaluation, it’s important to be prepared. You may want to speak with an attorney before attending the hearing.How schools use IEE resultsThe results of the IEE have to be considered by the school to make sure it’s providing your child with a free appropriate public education (FAPE).Also, the results can be used as evidence in future due process hearings. That’s worth knowing in case the results aren’t that different from the school’s evaluation and you have to decide on your next steps.Learn moreIf you share outside evaluation results with the school, the results become part of your child’s educational record. The school must consider those results. But it doesn’t have to agree with the findings.Learn more about your evaluation rights. Download a sample letter to request an IEE.Compare the pros and cons of private evaluations.

  • Understood Explains Season 1

    Bonus episode: What I wish I’d known sooner about evaluations for special education

    Get evaluation tips from parents who have been through the process at least once — and experts who have been through it hundreds of times. Parents, teachers, and psychologists all have something they wish they’d known sooner about how kids are evaluated for special education. This bonus episode of Understood Explains offers tips from parents who have been through the evaluation process at least once — and experts who have been through it hundreds of times. Related resourcesHow to talk to your child about getting evaluatedEvaluation rights: What you need to knowEpisode transcriptLeslie: My name is Leslie and I'm from Little Rock. My eldest daughter was diagnosed at age 7 with dyslexia and unspecified learning disorders. This is what I wish I knew the most before an evaluation. I wish I knew what the heck was evaluation!Andy: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "Understood Explains." I'm your host, Andy Kahn, here with a bonus episode. Our first season covered every part of the process that school districts use to evaluate children for special education services. In those first 10 episodes, I talked with parents who've been through the evaluation process at least once — and experts who have been through it hundreds of times. But at one point, each of those people were brand-new to this process — like I imagine many of you listening are now. Something you didn't hear in the other episodes was this: At the end of our conversations, we asked our guests what they wish they would've known sooner about the evaluation process. We got a bunch of different answers from parents and experts alike. And I found each of their perspectives to be helpful, enlightening, or just encouraging for those at the beginning of their evaluation journeys. My hope is that by sharing some of these answers, it'll leave you feeling better prepared to take on school evaluations with your child. First, let's hear from some parents.Jennifer: Hi, my name is Jennifer from Atlanta. I have a son, Nathan, who's 11. He has dyslexia, dysgraphia, and ADHD. So I wish I would have known when I started this process with my son, when I first requested that first evaluation, I was just suspecting that there was reading — unexpected reading problems. And so because my concerns were about reading, that's really what the school focused on when they evaluated him. And we kind of missed that bigger picture. To me, at the time in my head, I was like, OK, if it's dyslexia, we can remediate dyslexia, and then he's going to be fine. But we did that. We found out it was dyslexia, we remediated the dyslexia, and then he wasn't fine. There was more. I wish that I would have been more open to the fact that maybe there's other challenges as well that we need to address. But in my mind, it was just like, if I can just get this one thing, and we can fix this one thing, everything will be OK. And I feel like it might have been a little easier on me emotionally if I would have not been so certain that that one thing was going to solve all our problems. Keith: My name is Keith and I live in Columbus, Georgia. And my son's name is Elijah. He's 11 years old and he's been diagnosed with ADHD. If I had to state or describe something I wish I would have known earlier about ADHD and the diagnosis, I will just say, knowing more about it. I didn't understand what the parameters or what the symptoms of it was. Had I known about it probably earlier, I would have been able to take a more proactive role in assisting him in managing it.Andy: One theme that came up often in these conversations with our guests was the focus of our third episode: Your rights in the evaluation process.Michele: My name is Michele, and I live in the Bronx, New York. What I wish I had known sooner about the evaluation process is the rights of the parents, the rights of definitely of the student, and how the process is supposed to go. A lot of times the focus is taken away from the process and what's best for the child and just being right. Well, I'm, you know, we've made a determination. This is what's best for the child. It's right. But if the parent feels differently, then the parent needs to go with their gut instinct, because sometimes it's not right. And never, ever stop advocating and finding the best possible solution for your child. Andy: Let’s move to some of the experts who were guests on our show. One of them had some advice I think all parents and caregivers should take to heart.Christina: My name is Christina. I was a special educator for 10 years and I now currently work at a private clinic that offers neuropsychological evaluations for parents who are concerned that their student's academic needs might require special education services. Thinking about my experience as an educator, and all the years that I spent on school evaluation teams, whenever we arrived at the place where we were discussing recommendations for students' plans, because they had been evaluated, and we were going to determine what their program was going to look like, I wish I had known that there were recommendations that I could make that even if our school didn't offer it, students might still receive that service. An example of that might be a specialized classroom setting like a 12:1, where there are 12 students and one teacher. And that smaller class setting sometimes allowed students to really get a handle on the academic content that is being instructed. Sometimes, though, I didn't always recommend that because it wasn't necessarily what the school offered that I was working in. And it was important to remember that it wasn't necessarily about what the school offered as much as what the child needed that needed to be recommended. And that's something that moving forward I've kept in mind.Andy: Another expert guest had some insight on parents interacting with schools — and why being seen as a kind, helpful collaborator is more than just a nice thing to do.Andrew: Hi, I'm Andrew Lee. I'm an Understood editor. And I'm also a lawyer who has authored studies on disability and education rights in schools. One thing I wish parents learned sooner about the evaluation process is that the notion of collaborating with the school is not just something that's nice or friendly or sweet. It actually has some huge benefits for you.First of all, it makes sure that you get the best result for your child, because you're working in the best manner with a school. Second, down the road, if there's ever any serious conflict or dispute with the school, oftentimes, someone new like a mediator or a hearing officer will come in and look at what's happened. And if they see that you've been a real partner with the school, and you've tried your best to work with the school to get to a solution, they're more likely to side with you in whatever that dispute is.Now, when I'm talking about collaboration, I'm not just saying go along with the flow and do whatever the school wants. I'm saying that you can be assertive about what your child needs, but at the same time, be polite and respectful and be a good partner in the process.Andy: Let’s hear from one more expert.Ellen: Hi, I'm Ellen Braaten. I'm a child psychologist who specializes in evaluating kids with learning and attention differences. I'm also the mother of two children, one who also has attention differences.What I wish I knew when I was first starting out as a psychologist is something that's kind of obvious. And it's that kids grow up — that most of the kids I see, regardless of how much they are struggling now, grow up to be successful, competent adults. And I don't think I could have really understood that until I saw kids grow into adulthood. Until I saw kids who I evaluated who seemed to have significant issues with things like reading, or social skills, or attention differences grow up to find the area in adulthood that was right just for them. And so it's been wonderful to see that. It also helps me, as a psychologist, realize that my goal right now is to reassure parents, to let them know that every child finds his or her own way, or their own way. And that what we need to do in the present is to figure out how to get them there. Andy: Before we wrap up, I want to share one thing I wish I would have known sooner. I've been evaluating kids for nearly 20 years. And at some point, I started telling parents that it's a lot harder to break your kids than you think. You see, kids are resilient. And even though the evaluation process may be nerve-racking for families, it's worth it for your kid's sake.So don't wait. Talk with your child. Help your child buy in to the evaluation process. Help them see what's in it for them. And don't be afraid to partner with the school, and ask lots of questions. Together, you, your child, and the school can plan a better, more comprehensive, and maybe even more efficient assessment that offers the most insights into what's going on, and leads to the right supports that can help your child thrive.You've been listening to Season 1 of "Understood Explains," from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered in this series, check out the show notes for each episode and visit understood.org.And now as one last reminder of who we're doing all this for, I'm going to turn it over to Nina to read our credits. Take it away, Nina! Nina: "Understood Explains" is produced by Julie Rawe and Cody Nelson, who also did the sound design for the show. Briana Berry is our production director. Andrew Lee is our editorial lead. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. A very special thanks to Amanda Morin and all the other parents and experts who helped us make the show. Thanks for listening, and see you next time.Andy: Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at understood.org/mission.

  • Private vs. school evaluations: Pros and cons

    You’ve decided to have your child evaluated. The next question is: How? You can request that the school do the testing, or you can hire a private evaluator. Each option has benefits and drawbacks. Which one is best depends on your and your child’s needs and preferences. Here are the pros and cons of each.Watch as an expert talks about the pros and cons of public and private evaluations.Learn moreHow to request a school evaluationSteps to get a private evaluationDifferent terms you may hear for evaluations

  • Understood Explains Season 1

    How to request an evaluation for special education

    School evaluations are free — and you can ask for one at any time and for any reason. But the details you include can make a big difference. School evaluations are free — and you can ask for one at any time and for any reason. But the details you include can make a big difference. This episode of Understood Explains covers the ins and outs of how to request an evaluation for special education. Host Dr. Andy Kahn is a psychologist who has spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids for public and private schools. His first guest on this episode is former special education teacher Christina Gutierrez. They’ll explain three key things:How to request an evaluationWhat details to include and whyHow soon the school needs to respondAndy’s second guest is parenting expert Amanda Morin. They’ll share tips on what to say to your child about requesting an evaluation — and what not to say. Related resources6 steps to requesting a free school evaluationDownload: Sample letters for requesting evaluations and reportsWhy your child’s school may deny your evaluation requestParent training centers: A free resource in your stateEpisode transcriptJennifer: Hi, my name is Jennifer and I live in Atlanta, Georgia. I have a son, Nathan. He is 11 years old. I first started having concerns about Nathan's differences when he was in first grade and his teacher called us in for a meeting. And she said, I just feel like something's not right. Like, he's working really hard in class, but we're not seeing any results. And can you work harder with him at home? And for me, the first thing that happened for me was like this mom guilt, like we haven't been doing enough. I was kind of in denial that it could even be something like dyslexia at first. And once I kind of came around to OK, this actually sounds exactly like what dyslexia is described as, so now what do I do? How do I go about getting him help? I started looking into it and started realizing that I had the right to request that evaluation.Andy: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "Understood Explains." You're listening to Season 1 where we explain evaluations for special education. Over 10 episodes, we cover the ins and outs of the process that school districts use to evaluate children for special education services. My name is Andy Kahn, and I'm a licensed psychologist and an in-house expert at Understood.org. I've spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids for both public and private schools. I'll be your host. Today's episode focuses on how to request an evaluation. We're going to explain three key things: what details to include in your request and why, what you can expect after you submit your request, and what you can say to your child about requesting an evaluation — and what not to say. First, back to Jennifer's story.Jennifer: When I knew that I should submit this request for an evaluation, I did some research online. And there's several templates online that you can use to guide you on how to write a request for this evaluation for your child. And so in my first letter that I wrote, I was very just kind of like to the point, like I'm requesting this evaluation. And I didn't put a lot of the background information that I wish I would have included. I was very direct. And I didn't add in the parts that made him a person, if that makes sense. So when I look back on how that went, I kind of wish I would have documented in that letter what I was seeing and why I was requesting the evaluation.Andy: What to include in an evaluation request? This is a big question for many parents. But before we get into those details, I want to mention two important things about special education law. Number one: Over the years, I've worked with many families who didn't know that school districts are required by law to be on the lookout for kids who might have disabilities, and that school districts need to evaluate kids, at no cost to families, to see if a child might need special education services. Number two: Many families are surprised to learn that they can ask the school district to evaluate their child. They don't need to wait for the school to reach out and say, "Hey, we think something's going on, that your child is struggling." You can reach out first. So that's a really important part of special education law — that you can ask your school district to evaluate your child at any time and for any reason. But the way you ask — the details you include — can make a huge difference in helping the school decide how or whether or not to evaluate your child. So my first guest today is going to help me unpack all this. Christina Gutierrez has spent a decade as a special education teacher in New York City, where she recently shifted gears and is now working in a private clinic that provides free evaluations for kids. Christina is an Understood Teacher Fellow. She's also a mom of a child who receives special education. So she knows the evaluation process personally, as well as professionally. So Christina, welcome. So glad to have you here today.Christina: Thank you for having me.Andy: So I understand you worked for many years as a special education teacher. And you also worked for two of those years as a school response to intervention coordinator. Can you tell me a little bit about that?Christina: Yeah. So a school response to intervention coordinator is a role that's pretty specialized. Response to intervention is a school's attempt at catching any lagging gaps that may be happening with students, and intervening either through extra tutoring in reading, or extra tutoring in math, to help students thrive. There are levels to it. There are different tiers — what they call tiers to intervening. So your Tier 1, just for some understanding, is your classroom, just like your natural classroom that you're in, right? Schools are expected to provide classrooms that try to assess — that try to reach every child in their understanding and in academic content. Your Tier 2 is, oh, as a teacher, I'm noticing this kid is struggling a little bit in his math facts. I'm going to pull him every day for a couple of minutes, maybe 15 or 20 minutes a day, to go over these math facts extra just to see if I can in closing on some of that gap. Tier 3 is where a school says oh, a teacher says oh, or a parent says, oh, wait a minute, you've tried this, we've tried this, it's not working. OK, let's intentionally pull a kid out of the classroom environment and provide key instruction in that gap that we're noticing — if it's math facts, if it's reading, if it's writing, whatever the gap is — and then we have pre-assess, right? You see where the kid is in the beginning, you intervene, usually six to eight weeks, and then you test the student's ability at the end of that time. If the student has grown, the intervention has worked, we're going to continue that until we can close the gap. In many cases, the intervention doesn't work. And you say, wait a minute, we've pulled you three times a week for 30 minutes, and you're still struggling in this key area, it may be time to refer for an IEP. So IEP stands for an Individualized Education Program, which is the actual like document that references all of the services a student may get, including their classification.Andy: Cool. So we're talking about general education students here. We just see that there's something that's not going like it needs to go. So we're providing intervention before that process starts.Christina: Absolutely. And after a certain amount of time, I can notice that like, hey, Mom, I've tried this many interventions, or this many activities with your student. He's still pretty struggling or she's still struggling. I think it's time to refer for special education services. Here's how you would go about doing that.Andy: So it sounds like a big part of your job was helping to decide if the school — if they should reach out to parents and asked to evaluate their child. Have you ever reached out unofficially, and said, you know, maybe you should ask the school to do this, you know? Why would you — and why would you give that advice?Christina: Yes, I have. And a lot of the families that — I've worked in primarily urban communities, and a large amount of those students were Black or brown, Black or Latino students, in very under-resourced communities. And so there was a connection there in terms of language, in terms of just like, overall experience. And so parents trusted me a lot. And so a lot of the time, they'd asked me, like, I don't know what to do. And at that point, I would say, here's what you can do. And I would explain to them the steps, like completely from start to finish. The parent has the right, as their child's primary advocate, to request in writing an evaluation for their student. And then they'd go "How do I do that?" I'd say, "Here's how you do it." And in some cases, I would like write it. And in New York State, in particular, it can be written on anything. It can be written on a napkin, it can be written on a Post-it, if it's in a form of writing, has the student's name, the student's school number or identification number. And then you say, like, "I want my child evaluated, because there's a delay in their academic performance, or I'm really concerned about how they're doing in math." Sign your name, and have a date on it. And they have to acknowledge that they've received it.Andy: And Christina, the reason why it's important to put a date on your letter is because schools have to respond within a certain number of days to let you know if they're going to approve or deny your request. The response time frame might be 10 days in some states. It might be 30 days in other states. But the big point is that the school can't leave you hanging forever waiting for a response. The one other thing I want to clarify is that in some states, you don't have to write a letter, you can make an oral request. But it's always, always, always a best practice to submit your request in writing. Listeners, if you go to our show notes, we have a link to state-specific information so you can find out what the time frame is in your state. We also have a link to a template that can help you write a request for an evaluation. OK, so Christina, let's turn back to writing the letter. What kind of details do you encourage parents to put into these letters?Christina: The first is a date, that's really, really important. The other key information or detail is the student's full name, the student's identification number — if not, a key identifier, such as their birthdate. And then a request, like naming what you want evaluated. So I'm requesting a neuropsychological education evaluation. I would like it to also include an occupational therapy, a speech therapy, such and such evaluation — because that's not always given, right? And then that delays the process further if you didn't request that but you did want to see if your kid required those services. So you want to include in detail what you want assessed. And the reason: Because I'm concerned about their performance, because as of lately, whatever the reason is. And then a signed signature.Andy: Absolutely. The thing that you said that I think's interesting is that when you talk, you've named a lot of assessment types. So a lot of my families aren't going to be familiar with those types of assessments. So what would you — what are some other things you might tell them to put in that would be helpful? Because yeah, what you're saying, I would say, I'd go to you. I'd want you to help me write that letter. Because what you're saying is going to just — it sounds like it would plug me right in. For my parents, what are the things they might observe or see that could help them in that process if they don't have that knowledge?Christina: Well, I think the key conversation here would be one with their child's educator. Where do you see that my student is struggling most? I notice that when I'm helping him with homework, or her with homework, they're struggling with their math. I'm notice this is true frustration, they're crying, you know, label the behavior that they see. So I think that's the first one. I would say — something that's a key that helped me, because my son has also has an IEP, and it's something that helped me decide that I wanted to get him special education services, was that I noticed that in our communication, he seemed to be really, really frustrated or not understanding what I was saying. He also could not express himself. And so there was this very, like strong gut instinct that, wait a minute, there may be something happening with my son that I need to address.Andy: So when we're talking about the details to include, is there a certain sort of length of letter or note that's great? What do you see as most effective?Christina: I mean, I think simple is best. I think the key here is, name your concern, and why you have that concern, give identifying information so that they know which child you're referring to. And make sure you have a date and the name on that document. It doesn't need to be lengthy. It can if you feel like you want it to be.Andy: Gotcha. So I would assume that based on that, maybe sending an email would be good as well? Christina: Yeah.Andy: I gotcha. And the theme that I got from you was, in terms of keeping it simple, it sounds like maybe a single-page letter will be just as good as a long letter, in the sense of let's just get the key points out and put it in writing. Who should the family then give the request to? Like, where does this go? Who do you send it to?Christina: Yes. So in New York City, you give the request to the school psychologist, or the guidance counselor, and they will hand it forward. If you don't know who those people are, you can give it to the teacher and the teacher is responsible for bringing it to the parties that be.Andy: Any tips for homeschooled or private school students in terms of doing this process and getting that communication to — to who? I guess that would be a big question.Christina: In New York State, the way you would get your child evaluated in that case, if they're in a private or parochial school, is to go to the committee of special education for that district. It can be tricky for parents whose children are in different school settings because legally, they're not mandated in the same way public schools are to provide these services or to have your student evaluated. It gets a little nuanced and tricky when you decide to go out of the public school system.Andy: So whether you're a homeschool, private school, or public school student, you have the right to request that evaluation. But schools can deny that request. So here's an example of why a school might deny a request. There may be a case where a child has pretty good grades, and they seem to be achieving well and making some academic gains. But the parent sees something that doesn't seem right to them, maybe something seems like it's going on behaviorally, or they're struggling with some anxiety about going to school. And in those situations, the school may deny the request, because they don't see the impact. I often would strongly advise families to appeal that process, to really talk more about that with the school. Because it can be so important to gather things like baseline data. Now what we mean by baseline data is, let's get a sense of what they're doing right now academically, let's get some information. And then if we come back and evaluate them again later, because maybe they're not eligible for a service, you know, to get some certain kinds of support, we may have really important information that can help them in the future. Any other tips for families who are getting ready to submit the request for evaluation. Any other things to keep in mind?Christina: I think the tip to keep in mind most is don't let up. Right? Like you are your child's advocate, you are the best person who can speak for your child. Even if it's in a language that people at their school don't speak in, you have the right and you should not let up. And eventually, you know, even if they don't, they continue to deny your request, at least there's documented proof that you've been requesting the support. And should a need come later, as you said before, Andy, at least there's documented proof that like we've had this anticipation coming. And so here's where we should begin.Andy: So I guess there's one last tip I want to sort of talk about just a little bit. And I say this to a lot of the families that I've worked with over the years. You know, it's really important to avoid confrontational language. And maybe you can talk like, what's your experience when parents get confrontational with the school? How does that — how has that typically gone for you?Christina: I don't recommend confrontation. But I do think that sometimes it happens. And the best way to talk a parent through that is to say like, here are your rights moving forward. Because most people are going to get confrontational if they feel like their rights are being impacted, or I'm not being heard. I'm not being received. And this touches my child you're talking about, right?Andy: Yeah, I think for me when I've had conversations within schools, especially with my younger students, is to say to families, this is a lengthy relationship. This is a relationship that's going to go on for many years, and being really aware of how that communication goes can set you up for more future success.Jennifer:  I wish I would have included the types of things that we were seeing at home. Like, he's only in first grade that we've read the entire Harry Potter series together. He sits and listens, he can comprehend the story. He's predicting plot developments that I didn't even see when I read it as an adult. And he's so young, he's so smart. But when he's reading, he's missing words like "he" and "said," and these little words, "of," "if." They're supposed to be the easier words that he's missing these things. And so something's just not right. We're working so hard at home with sight words, and he's just not making the progress that I would expect him to make based on how smart I know that he is. I didn't include those kinds of details. And I really wish that I would have. I don't know, you know, we didn't have the best experience. And I really don't know if that would have made a difference. But when I talk to parents now, I definitely add that as advice to them: When you write your letter, make sure you write what you're seeing at home and why you think that you need that evaluation.Andy: So we've been talking about what to say to your child's school about why you want your child to be evaluated. But what can you say to your child about requesting an evaluation? My next guest is an expert on talking to your child, Amanda Morin, the co-host of Understood "In It" podcast. Amanda: Hi, Andy.Andy: I think so much of this, for us having been in schools for so many years, is really trying to help parents talk to their kids about the request process. What do you think is the best information to share with your child about that process?Amanda: Absolutely. I can say sometimes it's actually more difficult to have this conversation with your child when you're requesting an evaluation, because there is an uncertainty around it. Because a school — you're not always sure if they're going to approve the evaluation request. So I think sometimes it's better to stay a little bit vague and say to your child, "I know that you've been struggling. I've noticed it. We've talked about it a little bit" — if you've talked about it. And if you haven't, now's the time to start having that conversation and say, "I've noticed you're struggling. And I want to help you. And I want to find other people who can help you." And I think that's the time when you say, "So because I've noticed this, I've reached out to the school. And I've asked them to take a look at it so we can see if there's more help we can provide for you." And I think that's sort of the crux of what you want to say right now, until you have more informationAs more information comes in, right — as as you get to the process where the school is replying to your to your request for evaluation, then you can say to your child, "OK, so I've heard back from the school. And they've decided that it's a good idea to look closely at this — at what's going on. And you're going to start seeing some of this move forward." Or there may be a possibility where you say to your child, "You know what, the school and I took a look at this, and we're going to wait, we're going to hold for right now. So I told you that we're going to look at those skills. But in the meantime, I'm going to talk to your teacher, or other people in your school, and we're going to figure out what we can do to help you right now." So I think there are a number of ways you can handle that conversation.Andy: I think that's a really great piece of advice. The idea is that the entire crux of this conversation is we're looking to get some help for your child. And even in the absence of an evaluation, there is likely to be some help that's going to be offered. It just may not be the same thing we expected had they gone through the evaluation,Amanda: Yeah, and I don't think you would necessarily say to a child, whether they're young or old, "We're going to go through the RTI process." Because it's very — it's very technical, right? So even if you say "response to Intervention," what you want to say is there are programs in place that can help you learn skills that you're having trouble with, that are more intensive, or they're more supportive than the general education classroom, because they're designed to be that way. So I think there are ways around that language because it's very technical, right? And I'm not saying we would use it, but I think it's worth thinking through how do you describe that to a child. And what you say to them is, there are these programs in place already in your school, that don't require me reaching out to the school and asking them to do something extra. This is built in to the school's programming. And you may end up having a little extra support from your teacher, a different teacher, or some other professional in the school.Andy: I think the simplest terminology is "We're doing a process to figure out how to help you best. Some of that help might be offered now. Some might be offered later." So the idea around this is we really just want to be aware of what this process feels like. And at least giving them an idea of what to expect while we're going through it. So I think that's really, really important.Amanda: I love how you put that because I think it's — what you're saying really resonates with me is the idea of making sure we're keeping kids in the loop. And that's what this is all about, is keeping kids in the loop so they're not surprised when something new comes their way.Andy: All right, so let's take a quick look at the next steps in the evaluation process. So at this point, we've done a written request detailing why we want the evaluation. We've found out who to send the request to, and the district has to respond within a certain number of days. And that number of days can vary depending upon what state you're in. So if your school district says yes, we'll evaluate your child, the next step is to formally give your consent to say that you agree, in writing, and then help the school develop the evaluation plan. We'll do the evaluation plan in the next episode of "Understood Explains," so stay tuned for that. If the school district says no, we're denying your request, the next step is to make sure you understand why the school denied it. Then you can decide whether you want to wait and see how things go or you want to pursue some dispute resolution options and push forward to try to get that assessment. You know, families whose request gets denied may want to listen to Episode 3, where we talk all about your evaluation rights. Also, in Episode 8, we talked about private evaluations, including something called the independent education evaluation that the school district has to pay for. If there's one thing to take away from this discussion, it's that you can ask your school district to evaluate your child at any time. But the concerns you include in your request can make a big difference in what happens next. As always, remember that as a parent, you are the first and best expert on your child. You've been listening to Season 1 of "Understood Explains" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources, as well as links to anything we mentioned in the episode. And now, just as a reminder of who we're doing all this for, I'm going to turn it over to Lucy to read our credits. Take it away, Lucy.Lucy: "Understood Explains" is produced by Julie Rawe and Cody Nelson, who also did the sound design for the show. Briana Berry is our production director. Andrew Lee is our editorial lead. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. A very special thanks to Amanda Morin and all the other parents and experts who helped us make this show. Thanks for listening and see you next time.Andy: Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at understood.org/mission.

  • FAQs about school evaluations

    Deciding to have your child evaluated is a big step. You may have questions about the process. Here are some frequently asked questions about evaluations.What are the benefits of getting my child evaluated?The evaluation process can provide more information about the specific issues that are causing your child’s difficulty with learning. It’s also a way to see if your child is eligible for special education services. Having special education services can give your child extra support in the classroom, making it easier to learn the same material as the other students.Who does the evaluation?Evaluations are done by a team of professionals. Each member of the team has special knowledge and training in the area that’s being assessed. For example, a speech-language therapist has specialized training in language issues. A psychologist is trained in administering educational testing. The team works together to look at all of your child’s skills.Who pays for the evaluation?If your child is referred for special education evaluation at school, the school is required to pay for it. If the school agrees that there’s evidence of a “suspected disability,” the school district must do a comprehensive evaluation that looks at the trouble areas identified. You may also choose to have private testing done. But under most circumstances, this is not something your child’s school will pay for.What happens during an evaluation?The evaluation process involves more than just giving your child a test. It looks at your child’s overall performance in school. This includes observing your child in the classroom and talking with your child. It also involves looking at school and medical records and speaking with you and your child’s teachers.What does the evaluation cover?By law, an evaluation has to get information about all the areas of “suspected disability.” This means it has to cover all areas in which your child is thought to be having difficulty. These can include health and development, vision, hearing, motor skills, language, self-help skills, academic performance, and social-emotional health.Does the school need my permission to evaluate my child?The school must get your consent before evaluating your child. You’ll be given what’s called prior written notice. You’ll also get an evaluation plan telling you which tests and assessments are recommended. If you give consent, you’ll receive information about who will be doing the testing.How long does the evaluation take?IDEA says your child’s school must complete testing and issue an evaluation report within 60 calendar days from the day you give written permission, unless your state has established a different timeframe.After the evaluation report is issued, IDEA allows for another 30 days for the team to meet to discuss eligibility and write an IEP for an eligible student. There are no such deadlines for private testing.What happens with the evaluation results?The results of your child’s evaluation will be used to see if your child is eligible for special education services. If your child is eligible, the team will write an Individualized Education Program (IEP) to meet your child’s needs.There are a number of things you can do if your child is found ineligible. Once your child’s evaluation is complete, it can give you a better idea of why your child is struggling in school. This information can help you figure out the best ways to support your child at home, in school and in the community.

  • Understood Explains Season 1

    How to talk to kids about getting evaluated for special education

    ”Why are you doing this to me?!?” Learn how to talk to your child about evaluations. Get tips from a psychologist, educator, and parenting expert. ”Why are you doing this to me?!?” Learn how to talk to your child about getting evaluated for special education. This episode of Understood Explains shares insights from three people: Host and psychologist Dr. Andy Kahn Educator Julian SaavedraParenting expert Amanda Morin They’ll offer big-picture advice as well as specifics, like how to address your child’s worries about getting pulled out of class and other kids noticing. This episode also tackles a tricky topic: how much of the evaluation report to share with your child. Related resourcesHow to talk to your child about getting evaluatedWhat to say if your child is nervous about getting evaluated for special educationWhat to do if your child says “I’m dumb”Episode transcriptKeith: My name is Keith and I live in Columbus, Georgia. My son is, wow, it's kind of hard to explain. He is just a running ball of light and he's really awesome in every way. And he honestly, he has embraced being diagnosed with ADHD and he calls it just being different. One day, you know, I said to him, "They say you have ADHD and you have a learning disability, whatever the case may be, but I don’t believe that" and he was like "Dad, I'm not worried about that." I said, "What do you mean?" He was like, "I'm different." I said, "OK." He was like, "But guess what? It's OK to be different." I said, "You know what, you're right. It's OK to be different."Andy: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "Understood Explains." You're listening to Season 1, where we explain evaluations for special education. Over 10 episodes, we cover the ins and outs of the process that school districts use to evaluate children for special education services. My name is Andy Kahn, and I'm a licensed psychologist and an in-house expert at understood.org. I've spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids for both public and private schools. I'll be your host.In today's episode, we're going to offer tips on how to talk to your child by breaking the evaluation process into three key parts. First, general questions like why your child is getting evaluated. Second is, specific questions like what to do if other kids ask why your child is being pulled out of class during the evaluation. And finally, explaining the evaluation results including how much detail to share with your child.Getting evaluated can bring up a range of emotions in kids and it's incredibly common for parents to worry about how to talk to their child about evaluations, everything from "Why are we starting this process?" to "What do the results mean?" It's tricky territory. But we're here to offer some concrete advice on what to say and what not to say. Before we dive in, I want to point out that in the first nine episodes of this season, we ended each episode with tips on what to say to your child. So, this 10th episode will be reviewing some of that information. But we're also expanding the number of voices at the table. Today, we'll be sharing perspectives from three people who have very different but equally important roles on the evaluation team: a licensed psychologist, that's me; a school administrator or teacher, that's Julian — I'll introduce him in a moment — and a parent, that will be Amanda. So let me introduce you to Amanda and Julian, who both been frequent guests in this season of "Understood Explains." Amanda Morin co-hosts Understood's "In It" podcast about the joys and frustrations of parenting kids who learn and think differently. She's also a former classroom teacher and early intervention specialist, and she's a mom of three kids, two of whom learn differently. Welcome, Amanda.Amanda: Hey, good to be back.Andy: Julian Saavedra is an assistant principal at a Philadelphia High School. He's also a father of two and co-hosts the Understood podcast "The Opportunity Gap," about kids of color who have ADHD, dyslexia, and other learning differences. Welcome, Julian.Julian: Hey.Andy: So, one of the variables we're going to talk about here today is the age of the child. And we're going to keep in mind that the kids we're evaluating can represent a huge age range. So, we'll be thinking about kids from kindergarten all the way up through high school. So, some of our tips are going to vary by ages. I would imagine we're probably going to slant a little bit more towards older kids because some of the details and content is going to be a little bit deeper because kids are going to ask deeper questions as they get older. So, let's start with some general questions. Maybe let's think about what can educators and families say to help kids understand why the adults in their lives think they need to be evaluated?Amanda: I mean, as a parent, it's really easy to be able to say to your child, "We're doing this we're having we're starting this process, because I've noticed that you're struggling with X, Y, or Z" and you name out what X, Y, and Z is. "You've told me that this is hard for you, your teachers and I have talked about this." So, to be able to just name the why of why we're doing this and then the end of that sentence, I think is often "Because we want to know how to support you better."Julian: Yeah, and the key that Amanda said is the idea of support, really making sure that that relationship is strong and coming from the school administrative side, making sure that the relationship between the teachers, the people who eventually will be evaluating and the student and families are all on the same page is incredibly important. So, being heavy on the idea of "This is for you, this is support. And we just want to figure out how we can best help you" is really where kids feel a lot better about the process.Andy: So, when we take in even the third perspective here, I'm always, you know, when I work with my kids as a psychologist, one of the most important things that comes up is that motivation piece, right? What's in it for them? So, you know, what are some of the other you know, benefits or ways that we can talk to them about this process that would help them? And are there like analogies or phrases, you know, catchphrases you tend to use with your kids that are helpful to them?Amanda: I will often say to parents, make sure you're telling kids that you're doing this for them, not to them. That's one that I repeat over and over and over again. And the other thing is, with older kids, it's an opportunity to be able to say to them, "We're looking at how your brain works." Right? "It's about mapping out how you think, and where there are places where we can find ways to give you extra help in the places that are harder for you." You know, that mapping of the brain piece is a really interesting way to talk to older kids about it.Julian: Yeah, agreed. And, you know, I work with high school students, and it's really important to just be honest, and just keep it 100% real that "We're trying to figure out, you know, what we can do to best support you." And a lot of times I find that, you know, again, it goes back to that relationship piece, if there's a relationship that's already set between the school and the students specifically, then the trust is going to be there, and they're willing to listen to what you're sharing with them. Now, obviously, sometimes, our students are a little bit self-conscious. And they might be worried about how other kids might feel about or hear about them going through this. So, making sure to ease in and understand like, there's other students that are in the school that have also done this, and maybe we can connect you with somebody else that can talk you through it, because a lot of times, kids can be way better at supporting each other than we ever can. And I know that for me, I always try to find ways to make it relevant to something they'll understand. I don't know if you two know anything about social media and Instagram, but I had to have a conversation with a student that the school had determined was going to go through the evaluation process a couple of months ago, and this young lady is very much into her Instagram account. But I was like, you know, "Think of it as we're trying to figure out the best filter for when you're doing your pics," when she understood it that way as like, "Oh, yeah, you know, there's all these different types of filters," she started showing me filters, and I was like, "All right, this is too much for me, I need to walk away." But when I explained it in a way where she understood, "This is not changing who you are, it's just figuring out what's going to work best to show your best self," then it really hit home for her. And I think that way of making it relevant and making it in language that they understand is something that's really important.Amanda: That is brilliant, Julian, I'm going to take that one home with me. Because I often will say, to my own kids, to other parents to let their kids know, "This doesn't change who you are." But that's such a good way of doing it is to be able to say, "It just changes how we see the picture of who you are."Andy: So, you know, if we're thinking about how your child's really feeling about the process and helping them understand that, what do we do to help them you know, deal with the worries about maybe being feeling noticed? Like "I'm leaving the room for testing" or "I'm worried about what other people are going to think." How do you guys go about explaining that to kids and helping their parents really keep them calm and managing the process?Julian: Yeah. I mean, I know that, especially for older kids, you know, it's a very hard thing to participate in when they know they might be singled out, right? At that age, everybody wants to make sure that they're part of the group. So, when I speak with parents, I make sure to make it clear that we will be proactive, we don't want to make it seem like it's something where the kids will be spotlighted or it will be a situation where everybody knows that this is happening. And again, I go back to making sure that the student is at the center of all of it. So, making sure that whenever that is starting, being really clear about when it's happening, asking for feedback, asking for "What would you prefer? We can work around your schedule, we can work around for you," we might say different things or what like "Which class period might be best?" just to make sure that you know the student feels as supported as possible and that they have input. And it's not something getting done to them, it's more they're doing it in tandem with the entire team, is really important.Amanda: With the younger kids, it's really important to keep in mind that it's all about them at that moment. Like for most kids, it's all about them, but younger kids haven't yet realized that not everybody else lives inside their brain and know what they're thinking, right? So, you have to name that out loud, you have to say, "You may feel like everybody's going to notice when you leave the classroom, but people leave the classroom all the time. And you may not notice that you see other kids leaving the classroom here and there. And they leave for different reasons, too." So, I think one of the things about calming some of those worries with little kids is making sure they understand like "You know what? People may not notice as much as you think because they're not you. So, they're not as conscious of it as you are."Andy: So, one question here about how can kids help influence the evaluation plan that the team is drafting? And how might that work differently for younger and older kids?Amanda: One of the things that families can do is have the conversation together. Parents having the conversation about — and caregivers, right? Because it's a whole family kind of conversation — about what it is they're noticing, what it is the school is noticed, and then bring your child into that conversation "What is it that's hard for you? What have we not thought of? What is it that you want other people to know?" To bring that to the table. Making sure that their perspective is reflected is really important. It goes back to the we don't know what's in their head until we ask. So, asking the question, and doing it in a non-leading kind of way, right, like, "Well, I noticed you're having trouble with reading, isn't that true?" is very different than "Tell me which parts of the day are hardest for you in school."Julian: Right. And again, it's the idea of questions. You know, a lot of kids will open up a lot more than you think they would.Andy: So, we've been talking about ways to help kids understand the evaluation process in general. Now we're going to talk about how adults can help ease specific concerns once the evaluation gets underway. Maybe you can talk a little bit about describing things like classroom observers.Julian: All right, so in this case, "We've decided we're going to begin doing our evaluation. And at first, you might see some people that are not normally in your classroom coming in. They're not necessarily going to interact with you, they're just going to be hanging out, trying to see what you're doing. The most important thing that we want you to do is not change how you normally act in that space. So, you know, just pretend like they're not there. Just be yourself. And, you know, not necessarily trying to change how you act, it's not judging you on if you're doing well or not doing well, it's just getting a chance to see what's happening in the classroom so that we can then come back and talk about what we see." So, I think when we just frame it really clearly like that, I don't necessarily specify exactly what their roles are or what they're looking for, in particular, because, again, sometimes our students get really into their head about, "Oh, am I in trouble? Should I change the way I'm acting? Are the other kids going to say something about this?" So, making it somewhat broad, but just making it clear that during this class during this period, I might have somebody else in the room, and they're just seeing what's happening in general, that really helps alleviate some of those concerns.Amanda: I also think that sometimes it's OK to not share that ahead of time. Because you're right, kids get up in their own heads, and they start thinking like, "They're here, they want to see what I'm doing. So, I'm going to change what I'm doing, or I'm going to put on a show." Little kids will do that. They'll put on a show it will be, you know, "Did you see me do that? Did you see me do this?" So, I think knowing your child matters a ton. And knowing whether or not they're going to be super self-conscious and change how they act matters in terms of whether or not you say something as a parent when you know that there's gonna be somebody in the classroom.Julian: The flip side of that is, that's one part of the evaluation process. There's also the individualized portions. So, you know, if they're meeting with somebody like Andy, a psychologist, where they're going to be by themselves, and they're going to be having a conversation, I'll always make sure to do like a pre meeting with myself or with the teacher that the student trusts, just so that they can meet each other first before they go off and have the conversation. And that really helps a lot too.Andy: Julian, you sort of segued us in really naturally to talking about the assessment activities, which again, the observation is one of those activities. How do you describe some of those other activities to your kids in a way that you think is helpful?Julian: Yeah. So, you know, it all depends on what the evaluation is going to encompass. I know that, especially with our older students being clear about, like, "There's going to be an interview portion, it's not a test, this is not something you're going to get graded on, it's not going to reflect poorly on your report card. But this is more, again, just to get your sense of what's happening with your experience in school."Amanda: And this is one of those times where I tend to avoid using the word evaluation, right? When I'm talking to kids in particular, who you know you're going to be doing some activities with, because I think it's, it's a way to take some of the gravity out of the situation, right? And I mean, we all feel sort of a gravity around evaluation, it sounds like a very big sort of heavy word. So, I think just especially with the younger kids, to be able to just say "You're going to be doing some activities. Some of them may be things you're familiar with, some of them may be new to you."Andy: Yeah. Perfect. So, let's move on and talk a bit about how to discuss the results of the evaluation with your kid. Really, one of the most important things I always share with parents is that we don't make the evaluation results about defining who your kid is, it's really a much broader situation. But I'd like to get your input on how much of this information do you share any ways that you describe it to the kids that you work with, or the kids in your own household?Amanda: It really depends on the age of the child. And you know, I have a lot of personal experience with this; I have been dealing with evaluation results in our household for, holy moly, 18 years? something like that. So, I've had a span of young to older kids. And you know, when they're much younger, it's just a matter of saying like "Hey, look at this paper that I have in my hand here. Remember that those activities you did was so and so, this is telling us what that meant, like what they found out on that day; this is like a snapshot of that day and those activities. And I'm going to tell you the things that you did really great on and that that looks like you really are on top of it. And let's talk about some of the things that look like they were more difficult for you.v And then ask your child, vHow do you feel about that? What do you think about that? Do you have questions for me?" Right? But it relies on you as a parent having the time to digest that information first. I wouldn't sit down with them right away. Digest it first to make sure you understand it, make sure you've called your Julian or whoever's at your school, and asked what you need to understand that you don't understand yet, before you talk to your child. As they get a little bit older, I mean, I'm always encouraging parents to bring kids to IEP meetings as often as they can, so kids can have input, right? And will often be the parent in the room who says, "Anything you're going to say about my child, I would hope you'd be willing to say to my child," right? So, I'm trying to set the tone that we're respectful, we're talking about a real human, right? And so, I think, as my kids have gotten older, I've sat down with them with the evaluation report, we each have our own highlighter, right? One color is mine, one color is theirs, and we're highlighting the things that we want the other person to notice or have questions about.Julian: If I had to rank the more difficult parts of our job, sharing evaluation results is up there. Because it's really, really nuanced and it's hard. But this is going to be the start of more and more conversation. And I think that there's a lot of emotion that can come out and is just making sure that everybody that's involved understands that that is part of what it is. And it's OK.Andy: So, what's the best way to talk about recommendations with your child? And also asking them "Are they helpful?"Amanda: Well, first of all, if the report doesn't have a recommendation section, which sometimes happens, that's the time a parent should be reaching out to the school and saying, "Wait, what's the next, like, what are the recommendations?" So, I think it's important to note that sometimes you may not see that. So, if it isn't there, it's really hard to have that conversation. The other part of it is, with kids, to be able to go through that and sometimes it's helpful to be able to say, "Can you see what this might look like in your classroom?" Because some of the recommendations are sort of hard to picture in action. So, with older kids, I think it's OK to say like, "Have you seen this in a classroom before? Have you seen your teacher do this? Is this something that you're comfortable with?" All of those kinds of questions. With younger kids, you can say "This is one of the things that came up, do you think this would be helpful?" In part because kids have to buy in. Kids have to buy in to what we put into those plans, what we put into place. If we don't have our children's buy in It doesn't help at all to put that into place.Julian: Yeah. And I also would think that sometimes it's a who, like, who is this involving? For a lot of kids, they attach the experience to people. So, I know, in my own school, you know, our special education teachers are some of our most popular people in the building. So, when you attach a name, and there's already like a relationship built, or there's a reputation of that person, within the school, then a kid might get extremely excited about that, "Oh, I get to spend more time with so and so" or "Oh, that person is going to be helping me?" And then that really changes the outlook. So, you know, making sure you're translating what it says on the paper, you know, you're going to have extra time on a test, or you're going to have preferential seating or some of those terms. And like Amanda said, making it like in a student-friendly language, and actually couching it as "What is this actually going to look like in your day to day?" And then asking them, "Now that you've heard what this is actually going to look like, what do you think about it? What are your thoughts? And are you willing to try it for a certain amount of time, and then we can come back and see if it's working or not?"Andy: Folks, this has been such great input. I can't thank you enough for bringing all your unique and really rich perspectives to the show. Thank you so much for being here.So, we've been talking about how to talk to kids about evaluations. If there's one thing you can take away from this discussion is that evaluations can help kids understand their strengths, as well as what can help them in areas that are more challenging. As always remember that as a parent, you're the first and best expert on your child. But your child can have a lot of valuable input too. So, look for ways to partner with them during the evaluation process, and keep reminding them that the evaluation is something that is being done for them, not to them, and that the whole goal of evaluations is to help your child thrive.You've been listening to Season One of "Understood Explains" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we've mentioned in the episode.And now, just as a reminder of who we're doing all this for, I'm going to turn it over to Lincoln to read our credits. Take it away, Lincoln.Lincoln: "Understood Explains" is produced by Julie Rawe and Cody Nelson, who also made the sound design for this show. Brianna Berry is our production director. Andrew Lee is our editorial lead. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director. Scott Cocchiere is our creative director and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. A very special thanks to Amanda Morin and all the other parents and experts who helped us make this show. Thanks for listening and see you next time.Andy: Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more atunderstood.org/mission. 

  • Download: Sample letters for requesting evaluations and reports

    Putting your evaluation requests in writing can help protect your rights. Choose from the templates below based on where you are in the evaluation process. Copy and paste the text into an email or letter. Then use the notes in the template to add details about your child. The sample letters were adapted from The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education (Adams Media, 2014). Letter template: Request an evaluationOnce you’ve decided to ask the school to evaluate your child for special education, it’s time to write your request. Use this letter template to help you include key details:Describe your concerns about your child.Mention what you and the school have done to try to help.Include the date that you are making this request. (By law, the school district must respond to your request within a certain number of days. This time frame varies from state to state.)Learn more6 steps to request a free school evaluationEvaluation rights: What you need to knowLetter template: Accept the evaluation plan with conditionsAfter you request an evaluation, the next step is for your child’s school to approve or deny the request. If it’s approved, you’ll receive an evaluation plan. The school team can’t move forward until you give your consent. If you like the plan, sign it. If you think the plan doesn’t cover all of your concerns, use this letter template to ask the school team to add more testing.Learn moreThe school evaluation process: What to expectInformed consent: What you need to knowLetter template: Reject the evaluation planBy law, the school evaluation has to be comprehensive. It also has to be multidisciplinary. This means it must look at more than one aspect of your child, and it must include a variety of tests and data. Use this letter template if you want to reject the school evaluation plan. This template can help you raise concerns about key areas, like types of testing or an evaluator’s credentials. Learn moreDifferent types of evaluationsLetter template: Request the evaluation reportAfter the evaluation, the school team will meet to decide if your child is eligible for special education. You have the right to receive your child’s evaluation report before this meeting.Use this letter template to ask for a copy of the evaluation report at least a few days before the meeting. Reading the report in advance can give you time to process the information and think about what you want to ask.Learn moreWhat evaluation testing results meanWhat to expect at an IEP eligibility meetingLetter template: Request an independent educational evaluation at public expenseDo you disagree with the result of your child’s school evaluation? Or are you worried that it wasn’t thorough enough? You have the right to pay for a private evaluation, and the school must consider those results. But you also have the right to ask the school district to pay for an independent educational evaluation (IEE). Use this letter to request an IEE at public expense. The school district can approve or deny your request. If your request is denied, the school district has to explain why. Learn moreIndependent educational evaluations (IEEs): What you need to knowI disagree with the school evaluation results. Now what?

  • Understood Explains Season 1

    What happens after an evaluation for special education

    The evaluation report is done. Now what? Learn about eligibility determination meetings and different kinds of supports for struggling students. Adverse impact. Eligibility determination. IEPs. 504 plans. What are these things? And what do they have to do with evaluations? This episode of Understood Explains covers how school evaluation teams decide which kids need which kinds of support.Host Dr. Andy Kahn is a psychologist who has spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids for public and private schools. His first guest on this episode is special education teacher Lauren Jewett. They’ll explain:What happens at an eligibility determination meetingHow schools decide who qualifies for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) What other kinds of support can help struggling studentsAndy’s second guest is parenting expert Amanda Morin. They’ll share tips on what to say to your child after an eligibility meeting — and what not to say.Related resourcesWhat to expect at an IEP eligibility meetingThe 13 disability categories under IDEAThe difference between IEPs and 504 plans10 smart responses when the school cuts or denies servicesParent training centers: A free resource in your stateEpisode transcriptLeslie: Hi, I'm Leslie from Little Rock, Arkansas. In second grade, within the first couple of weeks, it was decided by these evaluations that Sarah needed speech therapy, occupational therapy, and I think physical therapy. She wasn't holding her pencil right, she had her wrist turned the wrong way, she had some speech impediments. And then we would receive the results of that and eventually she reached her milestone and those kind of fell away. But she did always receive accommodations for reading and math, and that was evaluated every semester. And that IEP followed her from second grade until she graduated from Central High School with a 3.5 grade point average that last semester.Andy: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "Understood Explains." You're listening to Season 1, where we explain evaluations for special education. Over 10 episodes, we cover the ins and outs of the process that school districts use to evaluate children for special education services. My name is Andy Kahn, and I'm a licensed psychologist and an in-house expert and understood.org. I've spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids for both public and private schools, I'll be your host.Today's episode is about what happens after the evaluation. All the testing and data collection is done, the evaluation report is done. The next step is a real mouthful; it's called eligibility determination. This is when the evaluation team meets to decide if the student is eligible for special education. Today's episode is going to cover three key things: how the eligibility determination process works, what kind of supports schools offer to students — including what's available to kids who don't qualify for special education — and what to say to your child after an eligibility meeting, and what not to say. But first, let's hear another parent story.Jennifer: Hi, my name is Jennifer and I live in Atlanta, Georgia. So, in the eligibility report, they enter all of the testing information into this program, and it automatically determines which categories the student could potentially qualify under. And so, one of those categories for my son was like, brain something, I can't remember. I wish I could remember what it was called. But it was something that was like crazy. And I was like, "Wait a minute, what?" It's just that even in the meeting, they'll tell you, you know, "This is automated, and just because it like flags it doesn't mean that we're really considering it, but we do have to talk through it."Andy: What Jennifer was just describing can be a jarring part of the eligibility determination meeting. This is the part of the meeting when the team goes through a dozen or so disability categories to see if the child qualifies for special education under any of them. And folks, just so you know, the name of the category that Jennifer was trying to remember is called traumatic brain injury. We're going to talk more about the disability categories and other key parts of the eligibility determination process.To help me explain all this, I want to bring in my first guest. Lauren Jewett is a special education teacher at an elementary school in New Orleans. She's also a special education case manager, which means she's been a part of a lot of evaluation teams. She's also a national board-certified teacher, and an Understood teacher fellow. Lauren, it's so great to have you here with us today. How're you doing?Lauren: I'm good. Thank you for having me on this show.Andy: So, Lauren, after an evaluation, the school team holds an important meeting called eligibility determination. This is where the team uses the evaluation report to help decide if the student qualifies for special education. So, if the student qualifies, then the next step is to develop an IEP, which stands for Individualized Education Program. So, this part of the process, determining eligibility for special education and then developing an IEP, this is all covered under IDEA. Lauren, can you remind everyone what IDEA stands for?Lauren: IDEA is the federal special education law that stands for the Individuals with Disabilities and Education Act. And it covers all the ways that a student would get into special education for their servicing, and all the different disability categories that they could qualify under. And then after the evaluation period or process, what they could get, you know, in terms of an IEP and what that looks like and all the legal procedures with the student.Andy: Gotcha. So, all states have to follow this federal law, but, you know, different states may handle eligibility determination in slightly different ways. I'm located in the state of Maine. So, in Maine, we determine eligibility, and we actually use a very specific form for eligibility determination, so we use what we call an adverse impact form. The purpose, really, is to see whether someone is eligible or not for services, based on all of the data that we have. We use our adverse impact form and we go through a series of checklists. But in different states, it's done in different ways. How do you guys do that in Louisiana?Lauren: So, our process is covered by a state bulletin; we have a state bulletin called Bulletin 1508, and Bulletin 1508 covers all of the ways that people appraisal and the school psychologists can qualify a student for the different disability categories. So, IDEA, which we talked about, that law has a bunch of different disability categories. And so that bulletin, 1508, outlines all of the different procedures that one would have to look at and use to determine what category or what classification the student would qualify under.Andy: OK, so taking a look at the big picture, you're talking about state regulations that make the evaluation team fill out checklists and answer very specific questions. And you have to do all this to determine if a child meets the IDEA’s two most important requirements to be eligible for special education. Number one, the child has to have a disabling condition, and number two, that disabling condition must adversely impact the child's education. So, when we talk about adverse impact, like an example, let's say we're looking at a specific learning disability, if a child was let's say, half a grade level behind, would that typically be adverse impact, or would that not be enough?Lauren: We usually, you know, if I'm thinking for an example of like, specific learning disability, you know, in our state, in order to qualify for a specific learning disability, there has to be an area of strength, and then an area where the student is, you know, struggling. And then they look at standard deviations below a mean, or above a mean.Andy: OK, so I'm going to decode some of this information. Because again, it's really, really helpful. When we talk about things like standard deviations, what we're talking about is, when you're comparing a child's piece of information to a large group, and how far they fall from that large group, if it's far enough away, that would be something that might be considered adverse impact, meaning adverse impact really refers to is the child able to do what they're needing to do, like other students of their age or grade level? The adverse impact would be "I can't do this because I have dyslexia," or they can't focus and engage and participate in a way that would be manageable for them because of severe ADHD or some other disabling condition. So adverse impact's really about there's a functional thing that isn't happening. You could have a diagnosis, but not necessarily show adverse impacts. And that can be confusing for people. How do you go about explaining adverse impact to your families if you're talking to them about that?Lauren: Yeah, I think when I'm thinking about adverse impact — especially when I look to write IEPs, right? — we think about a disability impact statement, which is kind of similar, you know, like, how is the disability impacting the student in class? So, for example, if the student has dyslexia, how is that affecting what they're doing in class across different subjects all day? So, if the student has a specific learning disability in reading, and they are two to three grade levels behind, thinking about, OK, this is the student's disability, this affects their ability to read on grade level texts that are going to be provided to them and given to them in class. So not just in reading class, but in all those content areas that have a lot of academic domain vocabulary, a lot of reading comprehension needs.And so, when I break that down, I'm trying to give more applicable information to a family, you know, because again, there's so much jargon. So then let's, like I say, let's take a step back and look at how is this going to look like in the classroom? How is this affecting them on a day-to-day basis?Andy: Gotcha. So really, adverse impact is important because you're talking about the how, right? How do we know that this child isn't doing as well as we hoped that they would do because of this disabling condition? OK, and that's really important for families. So, when we talk about the information being considered, who's typically present at the meetings where you're going over the evaluations and making that eligibility determination?Lauren: It usually would be the school psychologist or educational diagnostician — those are the people who maybe conducted the different set of tests and assessments that were given to the student, or the person, you know, who wrote and did the comprehensive report — you're gonna have the parent there, the parent may have another family member there, maybe an advocate. But you could have a special education coordinator there, the teacher, other members who contributed to the report, or additional teachers. You know, if it's a reevaluation for a student that's already been in special education, then it is likely that the special education teacher may be there because that student has already been receiving services.Andy: That was super helpful, Lauren. When we talk about the disability categories, we traditionally talk about the 13 disability categories in IDEA. I understand that in certain states, we can actually see as many as 14, or even 15 categories. The categories that I most commonly see us use in schools are specific learning disabilities, speech and language impairment, other health impairment, and autism. Less commonly, we might see intellectual disabilities, for example, or deaf-blindness.I'd like to shift our conversation a little bit. So, Lauren, when we have a child who's found eligible for special education services, and they meet those two requirements, they've got their identified disability, they meet the adverse impact, adverse effect criteria, what happens next? Let's assume we're at that next meeting.Lauren: Yeah. So, the next step would be for the IEP team to convene and meet, and look at the information that's been provided in the evaluation, and then create an IEP for the student. So oftentimes, you know, these evaluations are very long. And you know, when I receive those evaluations, I have to read them and go through everything and think about what makes sense for the student. But the main thing in that meeting, the IEP development, is really taking that information from the evaluation, and making sure that it's reflected in the spirit of the document.Andy: Yeah. So, let's pause on that for a minute. You're talking about how you can make sure the IEP reflects what's in the evaluation report. How can parents help with this? Like, what role can parents play in developing the IEP?Lauren: I always encourage families to, you know, as we start those meetings, those IEP meetings, I always say, "There's going to be a lot of information. You know, stop if you have questions." And also like, every page that we go through, whoever is leading that part of the meeting, we have the person who's leading that part, like stop and ask the parent like, ''How does that sound? Do you have input? Do you have anything you want to add?'' You know, it just depends. But I always, you know, tell parents ahead of time to, I explain — especially if it's their first meeting ever — I just say, you know, like, ''Bring your ideas of what you would like to see. What do you hope for your child to get out of this? What are your concerns? What's not currently working?''Andy: So, Lauren, what if the child has a disability, but isn't eligible for special education? What are we gonna do in a situation like that? Because if a child's not getting an IEP, how do you explain that to a parent?Lauren: In that conversation, you know, if they're not going to have an IEP, sometimes we do try to provide supports in the classroom through a 504 plan. So, a 504 plan comes from section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. And that's a civil rights law. So, a 504 plan is more like an accommodation plan that a student might have in the general education class. It's not specially designed instruction, it could be the student gets some extra time when they're doing assignments, it might be specified seating; it doesn't have as many accommodations or modifications listed as an IEP because an IEP is going to be more situated and individualized for the student on their goals.And then it is also allowing, like I said, specially designed instruction modifications, you're not going to see that as much with a 504 plan. A student could have a 504 plan for a short period of time as well. Maybe they break their arm, and they need a scribe or need some different assistance in class for that period of time. So, it could range in different situations. But again, it's different because it's not, you know, listing a bunch of different goals and related services like an IEP would.Andy: At the eligibility determination, is a common outcome that the team decides that the student qualifies for a 504? Or does that happen at a different meeting if they don't qualify for services under IDEA?Lauren: It may be a separate meeting; maybe the team comes together, they go over the evaluation — no exceptionality is found. And so, we talk as a team and say, well, you know, sometimes teachers will be indicating that they still have concerns about the student, and how they're going to be able to do everything in class without certain supports that are formalized. So, you know, maybe their recommendation would be a 504 plan. And so, it could be a separate meeting that happens with maybe not all the same people at the table, but definitely the teacher and the parent, and the person who's responsible for, you know, handling the 504 plans, because that's a whole other system, you know, a 504 plan versus the IEP. The team looks at what accommodations would be appropriate for the student. And it could be accommodations like the student gets some extra time on assignments and tests, maybe they get a small group or individual testing because they need to focus.So those are some examples of things that we put, you know, in 504 plans, and we have students that have 504 plans and still get those accommodations when it comes to standardized and state testing, they still get those things. So, it's not like they only get them in the classroom, and then they don't get them in other things. It goes through all the different situations and circumstances that the student could have those supports.Andy: So, you mentioned that for kids who don't qualify for an IEP, sometimes you try to provide a 504 plan. What about kids who have a disability, but don't have an IEP or a 504? What are some of the things a school can do to help support those kids?Lauren: You know, a student that has an IEP, right? They have specific rights that are outlined, but every kid has all different specific learning needs, whether they have that IEP or not. So, establishing a mindset of how do we make the classroom environment, as well as the learning materials more accessible? There's things that students might need from time to time, and we just have to provide them and make sure that there's still supports that are in place there that may not need to be supports that are there long-standing.But we know we don't just like, you know, not give supports as a teacher, if we see a student struggling, we want to help. And so, I think reframing it is like, "OK, well, just because they have an IEP, only those groups of students can get help." No, like all students can get help. So, I think that there's still a way to design supports within a classroom or for students, whether they have that IEP or not.Andy: So, Lauren, I want to circle back to some really good advice you gave about encouraging parents to come to these meetings ready to ask questions and make suggestions. And listeners, one thing that can help you do this is to make sure you get a copy of your child's evaluation report before you go to that meeting. You have a right to see that report in advance. We've got a lot more information in episode three about your evaluation rights.But I want to make sure you know that you have this right in particular, because it can be really helpful to look at the report ahead of time, think about what questions you want to ask and what suggestions you want to make, so you can be an active member of the team during the eligibility meeting. Lauren, thanks so much for being with us today. I've really appreciated your input and it's been so awesome to learn about how you do your work down in Louisiana.Lauren: Yeah, thank you, I really enjoyed this conversation.Michele: My name is Michele and I live in the Bronx, New York. My oldest son was not given a diagnosis because they deemed him not eligible for special education services, because they basically said there's nothing, there's no real issue. He's just very creative, his mind needs to be stimulated, but they couldn't justify providing services. So, he was never given an IEP, he was never in special education.Andy: So, we've been talking about what adults can expect after an evaluation, an IEP, a 504, or informal supports. But what can adults say to kids about these things? And how are kids likely to react? So, to help me unpack all this, I'd like to bring in my next guest, Amanda Morin, she co-hosts Understood's "In It" podcast, about the joys and frustrations of parenting kids who learn and think differently. She's the mom of two kids who learn differently, and she has also worked as a classroom teacher and as an early intervention specialist. Amanda, welcome.Amanda: Thank you so much, Andy. And as you know, I've also attended a number of IEP meetings on my own too, right? As a parent.  Andy: You've been at this table. Yeah. So, let's jump into this a bit. I mean, you know, what kind of things can parents talk to their kids about when we're talking about getting an IEP or a 504, or some of these supports?Amanda: So, I think the first thing is to know that kids have so many reactions to things, right? The same way we as parents have reactions to things, your child's gonna have a whole bunch of reactions to things, and it may not be what you expect, right? For some kids, it may be relief, "OK, phew! We're going to sit down and finally have this conversation. And maybe I'm going to feel better at school, maybe I'm going to feel like I can really do this, there's going to be more help." And a lot of parents don't expect that reaction. And so, as a parent, I think being open to whatever your child's reaction is, really matters.So, to be able to say to them "How do you feel?" instead of saying to them "Do you feel sad? Do you feel angry?" Like, don't put those emotions in their minds until they tell you what's on their minds. And I think that's important, too.Andy: Yeah. So, you're talking about their emotions relative to the reaction to all the things they're learning, which is a ton of information. And I think it's really important — you mentioned — when you ask about how they're feeling, the open-ended question, right? "What are you feeling? What's it feel like?" I mean, and I think for younger kids, they may struggle in expressing that. And yeah, I think you made a great point that you're not always going to know what to expect, because they may say things that just shock you or surprise you, or please you, I don't know.Amanda: Or they may not even care, right? Like sometimes kids don't care the way we do as parents, and we're like, "What? This is such a big deal." And your child's like, ''No, not really. Not that big a deal.'' And so, I think you can follow their lead in that situation and be like, "Oh, OK. Well, this is a big deal for me. And I'm sorry to assume that it was a big deal for you." And I don't mean that in a sarcastic way, I mean like sincerely to be able to say to your child "Oh, it feels like a big deal to me. I didn't mean to assume that it was a big deal for you too." And then sort of move on from there.Andy: For sure. For sure. So, let's say that your child's starting to express some of those, you know, unhappy emotions, that anger, or saying, "Well, this isn't true" or are feeling sort of down about it. Where do you go? How do you really navigate that?Amanda: That one's really hard. I mean, I'm just going to be honest, and say it's really hard. Because what it does is, your child is all of a sudden hearing about themselves in a totally different way, right? They're hearing about themselves, especially because unfortunately, a lot of evaluations are around looking for weaknesses, right? Looking for deficits is the word that comes up a lot. And I think the way to handle that with a child is to say, "Of course you're angry; of course you're sad. Of course this tells you about yourself in a way you hadn't thought about yourself before. But you're still you, you know. You haven't changed; the paperwork says one thing, it's just talking about you. It's a snapshot, it's a picture of you, but you're still the same person you were. And what this does is allow us to talk to the school about whether or not you're eligible for help, for additional support, for ways to make you feel like you are more you than you've ever been before." Because when kids have the support they need at a school, whether it's through an IEP or a 504 plan or informal accommodations and support, they really do feel like they get to be more of their full selves because they get to show what they know, right? In that moment, you can say "You're angry because you're not able yet to show what you know." But I think it's OK to just say, "You feel this, and we can sit with it. It's really hard, right? It's really hard." And they may be angry at you.And I think it's important to know that because you're the person delivering the information. You're the person who may have started this process. You're the person who's talking to them about this. If they're angry at you, that's hard. But I think you need to redirect it. And oftentimes that's about "I hear that you're angry, and I really want to talk to you about this. I'm not able to have this conversation while you're yelling at me." Right? ''So, we're gonna take a moment. When you can talk to me calmly, we can have this conversation.''Andy: Amanda, this is amazing advice. And I'm really glad we could do this today. Thanks so much for being here.Amanda: Yeah, thanks for having me.Andy: So, we've talked about how schools determine who is eligible for special education, and other ways schools support struggling students. We've also talked about how to ask open-ended questions to help your child talk about how they're feeling. If there's one thing you can take away from this discussion, is that you can play an active role in what happens after the evaluation. So don't be afraid to ask lots of questions until you understand what's happening and why. As always, remember that as a parent, you are the first and best expert on your child.In our next episode, we'll focus on the difference between private and school-based evaluations and why some families choose to get one or the other or both. We hope you'll join us.You've been listening to Season 1 of "Understood Explains" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we've mentioned in the episode. And now, just as a reminder of who we're doing all this for, I'm going to turn it over to Abraham to read our credits. Take it away, Abraham.Abram: "Understood Explains" is produced by Julie Rawe and Cody Nelson, who also did the sound design for this show. Briana Berry is our production director. Andrew Lee is our editorial lead. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director. Scott Cocchiere is our creative director. Seth Melnick is our executive producer. A very special thanks to Amanda Morin and all the other parents and experts who helped us make this show. Thanks for listening and see you next time.Andy: Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at understood.org/mission 

  • Different terms you may hear for evaluations

    Maybe you’ve decided to get an evaluation to better understand your child’s challenges, strengths, and needs. If so, you’ll start hearing a lot of different names for evaluations. How do you know which one you’re getting? Here’s a breakdown of different terms people use for evaluations.Public school evaluationThis is an evaluation of a child’s needs by a public school district. It can lead to the creation of an Individualized Education Program (IEP) or a 504 plan with school services for the child. The official term for this evaluation is comprehensive multidisciplinary evaluation. It may also be called:Comprehensive or full evaluationIEP evaluationSchool evaluationTeam evaluationPrivate evaluationA child may be evaluated by an outside specialist who doesn’t work within a public school district. Public schools must consider the results of this private evaluation. But having a private evaluation doesn’t guarantee that a child will get an IEP or services.An independent educational evaluation (IEE) is a kind of private evaluation. Sometimes, when a public school district is evaluating a child, testing by an outside professional is needed. And in some cases, the school pays for it.Any of the evaluations below can be part of a public school or private evaluation.Behavior and learningPsychological evaluation: Focuses on a child’s emotions, behavior, and social skills.Psychoeducational evaluation: Focuses on a child’s classroom and education needs. It involves basic cognitive testing in areas like IQ and learning differences, with a look at academic performance, too.Cognitive testing: Focuses on how a child thinks. It may use a variety of tests for IQ and learning differences.Educational evaluation: Focuses on academics — how a child performs in school-related skills, based on age or grade.Neuropsychological evaluation: Focuses on how a child’s brain functions, and how that impacts behavior and learning. It involves a wide range of cognitive testing on learning differences, plus behavioral testing and a look at academics. It may go deeper than a psychoeducational evaluation. Related evaluationsSpeech and language evaluation: Focuses on a child’s spoken language, as well as verbal and nonverbal communication skills.Social history evaluation: Focuses on how a child’s family history, environment, and culture may impact behavior and learning.Occupational therapy evaluation: Focuses on a child’s motor skills, self-regulation, and visual and sensory processing.Physical therapy evaluation: Focuses on a child’s gross motor skills, like mobility, strength, balance, and coordination.Medical or psychiatric evaluation: Focuses on diagnosing and treating a child’s mental health issues.Keep in mind that these evaluation terms aren’t always used the same way by schools or private evaluators. The names can vary by where you live, your state’s laws, and insurance requirements.Want to know more about evaluations? Read about what to expect during the evaluation process.

  • Understood Explains Season 1

    What is a special education evaluation?

    Is your child struggling in school? Are you wondering what supports might help? Get an overview of how schools evaluate kids for special education. Is your child struggling in school? Are you wondering what supports might help? This episode of Understood Explains gives an overview of how schools evaluate kids for special education.Host Dr. Andy Kahn is a psychologist who has spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids for public and private schools. Andy’s first guest in this episode is educator Julian Saavedra. They’ll cover a few key areas:Why schools evaluate kidsWhat evaluations look likeHow special education has changed over the yearsAndy’s second guest is parenting expert Amanda Morin. They’ll end each episode this season with tips on what to say to your child about getting evaluated.Related resourcesWhat is an evaluation for special education?6 benefits of having your child evaluatedDifferent terms you may hear for evaluationsParent training centers: A free resource in your stateEpisode transcriptLisa: Hi, my name is Lisa and I'm from Marin County, which is in California just north of San Francisco. By the time our son was in first grade, it was really apparent to us that something was off. He clearly was unable to do the basic homework that other first-grade students were trying to do. We were not able to get him to write, as an example, the word "cat." That would be a four-hour process. Unfortunately, at that time, we didn't realize we had the right to request an evaluation. We didn't understand. We didn't even know what we were supposed to be googling.Andy: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "Understood Explains." You're listening to Season 1, where we explain evaluations for special education. Over 10 episodes, we cover the ins and now of the process that school districts use to evaluate children for special education services. My name is Andy Kahn, and I'm a licensed psychologist, and an in-house expert at Understood.org. I've spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids for both public and private schools. I'll be your host.Today's episode will give you an overview of what an evaluation is. We're going to cover a few key things: the purpose of school-based evaluations, who's on the evaluation team, how long the process takes, and the benefits of evaluating kids who are struggling in school. But first, let's go back to Lisa. Her story shows the many emotions and experiences that come along with the evaluation process.Lisa: We did feel completely alone. We didn't have anybody else to run this by or who had been through this experience other than, you know, little tidbits here and there. And so we were really piecing it all together ourselves. And it was, you know, a frustrating journey. And it really wasn't until we had that tutor that said, "This is crazy. This child should have been sent to us and evaluated years ago." And she was really the one who told us that those were our rights. And in a way, I feel guilt to this day that I didn't research it properly enough to understand that earlier. But again, you don't know what you're looking for if you don't know.Andy: My first guest today is going to help give everyone an overview of what an evaluation is and how it can help kids who are struggling in school. Julian Saavedra is an assistant principal at a Philadelphia high school. He's also father of two and co-hosts the Understood podcast "The Opportunity Gap," about kids of color with ADHD, dyslexia, and other learning differences.Julian: Hey, thank you so much for having me.Andy: Thanks for being here, Julian. Before we get into it, I want to start off by addressing a common myth that might make a lot of parents hesitate to evaluate their child for special education services. When I was a kid, special education meant like spending the whole day in a separate classroom. But special education changed like tremendously since then. Today, most kids who receive special education are in the general education classrooms for most of the day, and might only get pulled out for an hour or two of specialized instruction. I mean, Julian, when you think about it, it's really incredible how much special education has changed.Julian: Yeah, and I think, Andy, touching upon the generational shift that's happened with special education is something that we don't talk about a lot. If you're not in schools on a daily basis, you might not know how much education has transformed in the last 20 years, right? And, you know, I've been an educator for — this is my 19th year. And what special education is now, compared to when I first started as a classroom teacher, is dramatically different. So there's a lot of just historical memories that we have, as people of our age range, that are very different than what's happening in education across the country.Andy: So as an administrator and teacher, you've been a part of the evaluation process in a variety of roles. What are some of the basic things you tell parents about what happens in an evaluation?Julian: A lot of times our families have a misconception about what evaluation actually means. They might think that this is a test that's going to happen over the course of one or two days. Sometimes a family might ask me, "Well, Mr. Saavedra, do they have to study for this?" And I'll tell them like, "No, this is not something that you're traditionally used to testing."Andy: Yeah, very common question.Julian: So evaluations encompass a variety of factors that are looked at. They include academics. Maybe a student might be observed over the course of multiple classrooms. Or this might include behavioral, so there might be an assessment that one of the student's teachers might take. A family member or parent might fill out a questionnaire, and somebody else that's a trusted adult that's able to observe the child in different settings might fill out. There might be conversations that happen between an evaluator and the student to evaluate the social-emotional aspect of a student's personality. So there's a variety of things that are looked at. It's not just a specific aspect of the child, it's trying to get an idea of who the child is on a holistic level.Andy: Can you tell me a bit about how you explain this process to your families? And maybe some tips and tricks you have that might help describe the process to them.Julian: The way I like to break it down for families is, you know, I like food. I'm definitely a big like food guy. And I like to make a lot of references to food. So I use the analogy of a menu: that this is a menu of options that we're trying to figure out as a school for your child. You know, everybody doesn't want the same dish. And we all know that there's different ways to cook the same food. But ultimately, we can make it delicious. We just have to figure out what ingredients and what strategies are we going to use to make this incredibly beautiful dish. So when I talk to families, and I break it down that way, it helps them alleviate some of the stress of figuring out well, they're not really saying something's wrong with my kid, they're saying that maybe we need to figure out what are the things that are going to work well.Andy: Yeah, I love, love, love the analogy, because I think what we're talking about is, is well, let me stick to your theme here: making it more appetizing to families, right?Julian: I try to really focus on the positives, you know? Everybody likes to hear great things about their child. And a lot of times the evaluation process brings out some of those positive strengths that a child might not get shine for normally. So when families get a chance to see all these positive things coming out from the evaluation process, it makes them feel good about it. But if you go into the process with the mindset that there's something wrong, and we're doing this because they're not doing well, or they're messing up, that shuts them down immediately.Andy: This is about finding out the student's strengths and weaknesses. When we talk about weaknesses, it's really important to share with families that our focus is on figuring out how the school can do things differently to help them. It's not about something that's wrong with the child, but rather what the program needs to do to change to help the child. It's to help and not to blame the child. That's, that's a key. It's also about describing to them how this process can make sense and help focus on that this is to help them, not to identify or to stigmatize them.Julian: I mean, it can be incredibly intimidating. And so I think having the idea of trust, and an understanding that there's a two-way process happening, is really important, right? There's a lot of intelligence that our parents are bringing to the table. They just might not have the same vocabulary that we do. So making sure that we're making the jump and breaking things down so that everybody's on the same page, because our children are the most important thing that we have in our lives. Right? So making sure that that process is crystal clear, and it's streamlined for everybody to feel comfortable, is of prime importance.Andy: Julian, let's talk about why we do these evaluations. You know, when we do evaluations, we're looking for specific things. What are we supposed to be on the lookout for? What is this process about?Julian: One thing that families need to know is that by federal law, schools are mandated to look for students that may be struggling in school. So it's not a choice, it is by law, that all schools have the ability and the mandate to look for students who may be having struggles. And all families have a choice to have their students evaluated, if they believe that there may be struggles that are happening.Andy: So we're talking about the idea of Child Find here — the idea that schools are supposed to be on the lookout for kids who might have disabilities that needs support. Do you find that some of your families misunderstand the idea that these evaluations are free, or aren't aware of that process?Julian: I think that's been pretty well communicated. People know that it is for free. But we always want to just make sure that it's crystal clear that it is not to any cost of the families. And the bigger issue is more the timeline of how long this is going to happen. Just communicating what the rights are within those laws, so that families are clear as to what should be happening and what the timeline is for it to be happening.Andy: Right. And I think in the process, Julian, it's very important for folks to know that most commonly, schools are doing some interventions and doing some supports of children before they go into the evaluation process.Julian: Right, right. Yeah, many, many schools have a process called MTSS, or multi-tiered support systems, where tier one, or tier two, or tier three interventions occur. And those, again, are things that are preliminary that happen before the evaluation process actually starts. And just again, the schools are attempting to try as many different things as possible to really support the students and intervene if students are struggling. But then the parents need to understand that at any point during their school experience, they have the right to request an evaluation. And so that's something that we make really clear to all families: that they have the right, and they can request an evaluation to happen at any point when they choose.Andy: So one of the key things I'd like to chat with you about here today is talking about terminology, I always find that being able to speak the same language as the school staff and administrators can be a huge stress reliever for families.Julian: So having the same vocabulary is credibly important. In Pennsylvania, we use the term "evaluation." I know that in other states, they use different terminology. Some states may use "assessment," some states may use "testing," some states may use "evaluation and/or assessment." But in Pennsylvania, we use the word "evaluation." And then I would also recommend any families that are considering this process to make sure that they research what are the terms that are used in your state. Because the laws vary from state to state. And so making sure that you get yourself acclimated with the vocabulary is incredibly important.Andy: So here in Maine, we use the term "evaluation" and "assessment" almost interchangeably. In our show notes, we have a link to state-specific information that might be helpful for some of our listeners.So Julian, let's talk a little bit about who are the people at the table, so to speak? Who are the players in this evaluation process that our families may be introduced to?Julian: In many cases, the primary contact person is going to be the special education team. So that may include a special education teacher. That may include a special education coordinator. There's also going to be a school administrator that's designated to oversee the process. There will be potentially a speech pathologist. There might be a school psychologist. There might be an occupational therapist to evaluate the physical needs of the child. There could be a guidance counselor or a counselor that's involved to kind of evaluate the social-emotional aspect of the student. Of course, general education teachers, that will be a part of this process, too. And in some cases, a parent might even bring a parent advocate or child advocate to the table.Andy: Yeah, so you're describing this, this whole group of people who are likely to be on the evaluation team. And they all need to do certain things within a certain amount of time. So for example, the evaluation process can take as long as 60 days. And that's the time frame for federal special education law. But some states may have shorter time frames. So Julian, there's a deadline that the team needs to meet. And during this time, the child might get pulled out of class to talk to one of the specialists. Teachers might get asked to share what they're seeing in the class. And parents and caregivers might get asked to share what they're seeing at home. And, you know, I gotta say, as someone who's evaluated many, many kids over the years, the parent questionnaires are just a hugely important part of the puzzle. Because what you see in your child, when you're at home, might be completely different than what's going on in school.Julian: So parents, we really encourage you to be completely open and honest about what you're seeing at home. Because the more global picture that we can get of the student, the better it is for everybody. And really, the whole purpose of this is to understand where are the gaps? And where are the strengths? What can we do to replicate some of the things that are going well? For example, if you see that your child is doing an excellent job of organizational task at home, right, they have a whole list of chores they have to do at home, and they do it really well. That's executive functioning. Whereas maybe they're struggling in their second-grade class to put their books away or have their desk organized or to get started. That's something that needs to be known, because that can help the team understand, well, maybe there's something happening with a disconnect and how the instructions are given. Maybe there's something that you as a family are doing really well that's working with how you break down chores that our teachers need to know at school, and they can replicate that at school. But if there's not that conversation or that strength analysis filled out by the family, then it makes it really hard to figure that out. So, again, it's really about a combination of a whole swath of people that are trying to get this holistic picture of who the child is, and what they do, across all places in their life, not just what they do in school or not just what's happening at home. And, you know, I think when families hear that, they start to feel a little bit more comfortable. It's not just trying to find the things that are not going well. It's trying to find everything. Then I think that really helps the comfort level increase.Andy: Wow, that's, that's a lot. And it's really important for families to know that an assessment isn't just about weaknesses and problems. But we want to know about what's going well. Because if a parent has something that's really working for their child, gosh, I know so many teachers who would love to borrow and steal those skills, and use them in their settings. And I think that's where it becomes a collaboration. So for so much of this, getting information is about parents giving their best honest view of their kids, and also helping us identify their strengths and weaknesses, not about labeling, not about diagnosing, but about really getting a big picture view as best as we can get. So what are some of the biggest benefits of evaluating kids? And how have you seen this process help kids that you've worked with thrive over time?Julian: You know, there's so many benefits to the process, because in many cases, it gives the child, it gives the family, and it gives the school a holistic picture of who that child is. And ultimately, education should be as personalized as possible. And when we have a better idea of what works and what might not be working, and what areas might need to be helped, then it gives the school a much better shot of actually providing the services that are required. I've had families that come in, and they just don't feel comfortable with the whole process. They don't know what's going to happen. But they realize that this IEP is something that's going to be beneficial for them. And, you know, when they walk out and you tell the child, you know, these are the things that you're going to get. And these are the different services that you're going to have at your disposal. And here's another teacher that's going to help you really get what you need to get — the smiles that you see when a kid finally feels like somebody is hearing them? That makes all the difference. You know, I forgot to say earlier, when I talked about the whole team that is involved, I forgot the most important person: the student themselves. Like, and it doesn't matter what age this kid is. Whether it's a kindergartner, or whether it's a 12th grader, they are at the center of all this. And if we can make sure families and children know that, then everybody wins.Lisa: My son had his first public school evaluation in the sixth grade. We set up a meeting. It was the tutor, a few of his teachers, and the school psychologist. And we went in with a much more aggressive approach than we had the first time. My husband, the first thing out of his mouth was, you know, "Thank you everybody for coming. And we don't mean to be aggressive. But we were told by the school in first grade that we needed to sit back and see what happens. And we took your advice. And our son is now in a really bad situation. And we're not going to wait any longer. So we need to get him tested."Andy: What Lisa was just describing is an all-too-common problem of waiting to evaluate, taking a wait-and-see approach that can leave kids in a tough situation. Sometimes it's the parents who want to wait to evaluate their child, because they're really nervous about how getting an evaluation for special education might affect their child's self-esteem. My next guest is going to offer advice on how to talk to kids about these things in a positive way. Amanda Morin is the co-host of the Understood's "In It" podcast, and the mom of three kids, two of whom learn differently. She's also a former classroom teacher and an early intervention specialist. Hey, Amanda.Amanda: Hey, Andy. It's really good to join you.Andy: So what's your first piece of advice that you give to parents?Amanda: I think the first piece of advice that I would give is to be really cautious about the word "evaluation" when you're talking to kids, because it can be a very tricky word. So I think one of the things I start with with parents is to say to them, "Don't use the word 'evaluation' right off the bat." You know, talk to your child about the fact that you're going to be doing a closer look at their strengths and weaknesses, looking a little more at what can be supportive for them, because you know that they're struggling a little bit.Andy: And how do you help explain to parents what "a closer look" actually means?Amanda: It's important for both parents and kids to understand that this is not just one day, right? It's not a one-day process. Your child is probably going to talk to a number of different people, see new people in their classroom, have conversations, do activities with a bunch of different people over time. So I think it's important for them to understand that that "closer look" is really going to be more of a process. Because it's important to see what you're really good at, and also what you're having some difficulty with. And I think it's important for kids to know that this is an overtime kind of thing. So that "closer look" is really not just about "Today we're going to look at what you can do." We want to see the whole story, we don't want to just see one picture of one moment in time. And I think it's important for parents to know that too. We don't want you to think this is one day that you have to be really prepared for. It's many days that you don't have to be really prepared for it. You just have to be there for it.Andy: Oh, absolutely. Any other information you might share, or advice about just talking about what evaluations are with your kids?Amanda: I think with kids, it's important to sort of clue into how much information they want. And we can see that and how they're reacting to us. And if you're a parent, you absolutely have been in a situation where you've talked longer than your child is willing to listen. Pay attention to those things, right? It doesn't have to be a one-and-done conversation. You can sit down, you can start the conversation, and then just keep the lines of communication open, which for parents basically means bring up again if you need to. Listen when they're asking questions. And give as much information as you can without overwhelming your child right now.Andy: Yeah, that's so crucial. I always think about when I was working with families on parenting, we often talked about the two- to three-minute rule, which is if you're talking for longer than two to three minutes, you can be pretty darn well sure your kid's gone. So on the other side of this equation, what's some of the things that you shouldn't say — the not to say advice we give parents?Amanda: The "not to says" are the things that might make a child feels like it's their fault. You don't want your kids to think that they've done something wrong. I would not want you to say to your child, "You know, you're having a lot of trouble in school. And it's really clear. Your teachers are talking about it. I'm noticing it, and we need to do something about this." Right? That's a lot of responsibility on a kid. The other piece of it is probably just paying attention to the looks on their face. So if you say something and your child looks crestfallen, they look like they have just had a weight drop right on them, you're gonna want to say to them, "What did you just hear me say?" Right? And so having them reflect it back to you can really show whether or not you've said something that hit a nerve that you need to go back and correct. One of the things I say to parents over and over and over again, is you can always go back and try again. You can always go back and say, "You know what? I don't know that you heard that the way I meant it in my head. So we're going to try again, and I want to tell it to you differently." There's nothing wrong with knowing that you have to try again. And that's something that I wished I'd known as a parent much earlier in my parenting journey. Because I think there were a lot of things I could have said differently.Andy: And I'll say this over and over again: It's a heck of a lot harder to break your kid than you think it is. They are far more durable and forgiving. And owning when you have a misstep as a parent, because we're going to make thousands and thousands of those missteps, is really the key here.Lisa: So when we finally got the report back from the school evaluation, it was — it was a relief to both my husband and I. It was a relief because it backed up what we thought all along. And it confirmed that we were not mishandling our son or just not doing a good job helping him through school. It was a relief that everything we thought was true — as strange as that sounds, because you wouldn't wish these problems on anybody. But you can't begin to fix a problem unless you know what the problem is. And we had confirmation of what the problem was.Andy: In today's episode, we've talked about the whys and hows of the school evaluation process, breaking down common myths and highlighting how kids can benefit from evaluations. Over the next nine episodes, we'll have a chance to dig deeper into various parts of the evaluation process. But if you there's one thing you can take away from this introductory episode, it's that evaluations are designed to help kids thrive by learning about both their strengths and their needs. The other big takeaway is that the more schools can help kids and families understand the evaluation process, the more likely they are to fully engage in the process and benefit from it. As always, remember that as a parent, you're the first and best expert on your child.In our next episode, we'll talk about how schools and families decide if a child needs to be evaluated. We hope you'll join us. You've been listening to Season 1 of "Understood Explains" from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources, as well as links to anything we've mentioned in the episode. And now, just as a reminder of who we're doing this all for, I'm going to turn it over to Benjamin to read our credits. Take it away, Benjamin.Benjamin: "Understood Explains" is produced by Julie Rawe and Cody Nelson, who also did the sound design for the show. Briana Berry is our production director. Andrew Lee is our editorial lead. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also makes the show, For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. A very special thanks to Amanda Morin and all the other parents and experts who helped us make this show. Thanks for listening and see you next time.Andy: Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at understood.org/mission.

  • Understood Explains Season 1

    Your rights during the special education evaluation process

    What rights do families have in a school evaluation? Learn how special education law protects your rights during the evaluation process. rights families school evaluation? episode Understood Explains highlights five key ways special education law protects rights evaluation process. Host Dr. Andy Kahn psychologist spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids public private schools. Andy’s first guest episode lawyer Andrew M.I. Lee. They’ll cover key areas:What rights evaluation processWhy helps polite assertive partnering child’s schoolWhat think school isn’t following rulesAndy’s second guest parenting expert Amanda Morin. She’ll give tips avoid saying child disputes school.Related resourcesEvaluation rights: need knowYou disagree school’s evaluation results. what?Independent educational evaluations: need know10 smart responses school cuts denies servicesDownloadable letter templates talking pointsSample letters requesting evaluations reportsSample letters dispute resolutionSample scripts dispute resolutionEpisode transcriptLisa: Hi! name Lisa, son first public school evaluation sixth grade. looking back, wish, one, known rights push school demand tested, despite fact shouldn't demanding shouldn't aggressive school get need. wish known right that.Andy: Understood Podcast Network, "Understood Explains." You're listening Season 1, explain evaluations special education. 10 episodes, cover ins outs process school districts use evaluate children special education services. name Andy Kahn, I'm licensed psychologist in-house expert Understood.org. I've spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids public private schools. I'll host.Today's episode focuses legal rights. We're going cover three key things: rights evaluation process, advocate think school isn't following rules, say say child disputes school. first, let's hear another parent.Jennifer: I'm Jennifer, Atlanta. son Nathan 11, dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD. requested evaluation, knew time could request evaluation report five days prior. that, thankfully. knew ask that. know time could ask draft eligibility report beforehand, game-changer.Andy: evaluation process feel complicated overwhelming students families. lot rights protect families along way. starters, school can't evaluate child unless give permission. disagree evaluation results, right ask independent evaluator another evaluation public expense, means cost you. help explain evaluation rights, want bring first guest today. Andrew Lee editor Understood. He's also lawyer expertise disability law, including federal state special education laws. Andrew also key player Understood's Podcast Network, including helping launch first season "Understood Explains." Andrew, welcome show.Andrew: Thanks me. Super excited here.Andy: Andrew, let's start talking hugely important federal law families need know about. Give us quick overview IDEA.Andrew: Yeah, IDEA Individuals Disabilities Education Act. That's quite mouthful. IDEA nation's special education law. law grants students disabilities one important rights, that's right free appropriate public education. includes basically supports services student might need make progress school. Along special education, determine who's entitled rights. covers evaluations, you're going ask here. that's IDEA important law child disability, including learning thinking difference school.Andy: talking evaluation rights, know, one things that's awesome that, Andrew, wrote really great article Understood called "Evaluation Rights: Need Know." folks, access show notes. Now, article includes 11 evaluation rights — specific rights. know, we're going cover today, hoping maybe could pick top five, maybe talk top five important rights want share audience today.Andrew: Yeah, pick five evaluation rights think impactful, I'd start right number one: right ask evaluation. think parents lot times think wait school start process off. that's correct. right ask evaluation time.Right number two top five evaluation rights would right comprehensive multidisciplinary evaluation. That's lot words, basically means evaluation can't use one test measure determine child qualifies special education. involve variety tests data. goal really get full picture what's going on.Right number three right involved. Again, think schools sort always come us parents anything happens. within context special education evaluations, right parent attend meetings, see evaluation reports. right things explained you, part process. that's important.Right number four, would say, right prompt evaluation. means evaluation doesn't go forever. federal law, IDEA, mentioned, timeline 60 calendar days. Now, states specific rules sometimes change number days account vacations, etc., important thing date. know end, can't go limitless amount time.And right number five, would say, that's among top five evaluation rights, right disagree challenge evaluation process itself. Even you're involved evaluation meetings, right say, "Hey, know what? don't think best way things." Or, "I think testing reading also focus. think looking this." That's really important right know about. formal processes involved that, like independent educational evaluation, ask someone outside school evaluation school's expense. due process, involved — it's kind like mini trial school really get kind loggerheads happen. top five evaluation rights. many more, think ones want remember.Andy: Perfect. let circle back second. used term talked comprehensive multidisciplinary evaluation. think talked "comprehensive" terms of, know, variety different kinds tests, use words "tests" "measures," talking specific activities child would evaluated. When talk "multidisciplinary," think it's important parents know might mean someone's academic evaluation, look specific skills. psychological, we're looking mental health behavioral questions. speech language, occupational therapy. considered discipline, speak. idea get best image child across useful areas school. So, Andrew, think steps learning rights, families think school district isn't following rules? suggestions point even start conversation?Andrew: rules schools sometimes don't follow, though think schools always try best, teams best. I've seen number ways parents react, two ways want highlight aren't helpful really important know. first one parents kind go flow don't like conflict. I'll see sometimes parent part evaluation process. They'll — may think themselves, know, "This doesn't seem right, but, uh, I'm gonna, seem like know they're doing. know, this, I'm really comfortable this, don't want raise it, don't want make waves." And think issue type reaction that's best way advocate child. doesn't help team either. doesn't help evaluation process you're — need to, think there's something wrong, think know something important child what's happening, expert shouldn't go flow. raise voice say, "Hey, know, don't think right." And, that's really important

  • 13 questions to ask before hiring a private evaluator

    Private evaluations are different from evaluations done by the school. One difference is that the process isn’t covered under IDEA like school evaluations are. (IDEA is the federal special education law.) So you don’t have the same legal protections.They’re also not arranged and paid for by the school. You’ll need to find and hire the private evaluator yourself. The costs can be very high. Sometimes, insurance will cover private evaluations. You might be able to get a low-cost or free private evaluation. But for the most part, parents pay out of pocket.A private evaluation is a tool to better understand your child’s challenges and get the best help possible. But it’s also a business transaction. Asking lots of questions will help you choose a good evaluator for your child and avoid disagreements.This checklist can help you get the answers you need to find the right fit. Are you a licensed provider?What is your area of specialization?How many years have you been in practice?Do you have expertise in evaluating kids with learning and thinking differences?How many children have you evaluated who have difficulties like my child’s?How much will the evaluation cost?What is the wait time for starting the evaluation? (It’s usually a good sign if the evaluator isn’t available immediately.)What should my child and I expect on the day of the evaluation? How long will it take?What types of tests are you planning to give my child?Will you be completing the evaluation yourself, or will you have interns or assistants doing some of it?When will the results of the evaluation be ready?Can you make specific recommendations for interventions and accommodations to me, teachers, schools psychologists, and others who work with my child?Would you be willing to talk to these professionals before and/or after the evaluation process?Find out steps to take if you’re not satisfied with a private evaluation. And watch a video that shows what happens in a dyslexia evaluation.

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD, oversharing, and mom guilt (Lacey’s story)

    Both Lacey and her daughter have ADHD, but their ADHD symptoms show up in different ways. Lacey has ADHD, and so does her daughter. But their ADHD shows up differently. Lacey is more hyperactive, while her daughter is more on the inattentive side. In this episode of ADHD Aha!,  Lacey shares how her daughter’s evaluation shed light on her own ADHD challenges. Lacey and host Laura Key have a funny conversation about oversharing intimate life details. And they talk about the guilt some moms with ADHD feel.Related resourcesThe 3 types of ADHDADHD and oversharingADHD and feeling guiltyEpisode transcriptLacey: My daughter was actually diagnosed with ADHD through some evaluations with her school teachers and her primary care doctor. We decided that she was going to be put on medication for it as well. And going through that entire process with the evaluation and the questions that they were asking, I slowly started to realize that I had a lot of those traits, and I knew I needed to get myself evaluated.Laura: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "ADHD Aha!" — a podcast where people share the moment when it finally clicked that they or someone they know has ADHD. My name is Laura Key. I'm the editorial director here at Understood. And as someone who's had my own ADHD "aha" moment, I'll be your host.I'm here today with Lacey Armstrong. Lacey is the mother of three kids. She lives in South Carolina and is a marketing manager of the Charlotte Soccer Academy. She also coaches two teams, has a daughter with ADHD, and has ADHD herself. Welcome, Lacey. Lacey: Thank you, Laura. I'm so excited to be here. Laura: Tell me what it was like for Candice to go through the evaluation process and what that brought up for you.Lacey: Yeah. So it was super interesting. It was also really hard and difficult to deal with. But she was having a lot of issues in grade school, as far as reading and paying attention, forgetting everything. And so for years, we worked with her teachers on doing just some behavior modification things, extra checklists, sitting in front of the class. Her teachers would give her extra time on tests. And when we really realized that it was not working, and we were having her evaluated with her primary doctor, ADHD came into the picture. And so we realized that yeah, she was diagnosed with ADHD. And I mean, it was multiple visits. People think, oh, you just got diagnosed. No, it was like multiple visits that doctors, multiple things that the teachers had to fill out and give to the doctors to let them know what they were experiencing in the classroom as far as her attention span and her being able to finish tasks without having to be told multiple times. We filled out this questionnaire and she answered high in almost every category, except the hyperactivity.She had no problem sitting in a chair. Like she could sit in a chair, but she was not listening to you. So she got diagnosed and we started her on a medication regimen.Laura: For those listening, there are three different types of ADHD. There's ADHD that's predominantly hyperactive and impulsive presentation. There's ADHD that is predominantly inattentive presentation. It sounds like that's Candice, right? And then the third one is ADHD combined presentation. But that second one, that predominantly inattentive presentation, is what people often refer to as ADD — which ADD is ADHD. It's just, it's a subtype of ADHD.So Lacey you have ADHD.Lacey: Yes. So going through those questions with Candice, I started realizing these questions that maybe she wasn't answering as far as the fidgeting goes and the feeling like you're on a motor and you're constantly on the go. Maybe she answered those no, she wasn't like that. I was, though, a hundred percent. But then you also have to add in, I also lose things all the time. I start a task before I finish the other one. I have to be reminded of what I'm doing constantly. I get hyper fixated on certain hobbies. So as we're going through this questionnaire with her doctors, I was like, oh my gosh. I feel like my world is just kind of opening up and I'm understanding myself.And when the doctor's even asked her, like, is there anyone in your family ADHD or ADD? And I was like, I probably am. I don't know. I've never been diagnosed. Yeah. So like shortly after getting her diagnosed, I got sent to a psychiatrist who in 2019 diagnosed me with the third — the one that you described about the combined ADHD.Laura: What did that process feel like to you? Did you have doubts? Were you relieved? Tell me how you felt. Lacey: I was shocked. Because, one, I felt like everything was making sense for once in my life. Everyone would say, how do you do everything that you do? And it's not that I — I felt like I never had a choice. It was like just that, like, physical impulse to be everywhere, do everything, run on a motor. And so when I'm sitting down there with the psychiatrist that's going over these questions with me and asking me all sorts of wild things, pertaining to how I grew up and my childhood, everything was making sense. Laura: Tell me about growing up. Like what kinds of things were coming into place for you?Lacey: I was a person that was involved in every sport possible. Everything that I could compete in — swimming, lacrosse, soccer — anything that I could do. But then also on top of that, I was doing chess club, chorus, band, anything that I could learn and challenge myself. Now, I might not be really good at all of those things, but I get hyper fixated and I'd want to do all those things.Also, if I wasn't challenged in school, I was not paying attention. And I was on to the next thing, which is for me, it was — I figure that ADHD people are, it's not that they're not smart. And it's not that they can't finish tasks. But if they're not challenged, which I had a lot of, I was in GT classes, high level. If you're not challenged, you get bored and you tune everything out. And that's why you get bad grades. Also, doing homework? I'm not going to do it. Not doing homework. I don't want to do it.Laura: Totally. ADHD has nothing to do with intelligence. You know, it's not a mark of whether or not you're quote unquote smart or not smart. It's about those executive functioning skills and task management.Lacey: Exactly. And I was like, everything I did growing up was directly related to, is this going to give me enjoyment right now? And if it's not, I'm not doing it. And if I want to break rules, I'm going to break rules. If I don't want to listen to this person, I'm not going to. Like, I was like, oh my goodness, it wasn't that I was a bad kid. It was just, I didn't have anything to help me with my ADHD. Besides sports. Sports really, really helped me. And if I didn't have sports, I don't even know where I would be right now.Laura: Totally. I was a hardcore volleyball and basketball player growing up. I didn't get diagnosed till I was 30. And sports. I mean, looking back I'm like, what would I have done had it not been for sports?Lacey: Yeah. And it's perfect for ADHD people because the competition, you have to be the best. I'd be like, that's pretty common in that physical exertion, just to get your brain going, your dopamine going, you know, endorphins, anything to get that naturally.Looking back, I realize that I didn't have a lot of friends. Like I didn't have many close friends. I always felt like kind of an outsider. And I've talked to a lot of ADHD people that say that that's very common for them. I just, I felt like I never got along with people or they didn't ever understand me.tLaura: Tell me more about that. What is it that you think was causing that or what you think they didn't get? Lacey: I don't know. It could just be anxiety overall, but I just always felt like I never fit in. And I don't know if it was just, my mind was constantly thinking while people were talking to me. So I couldn't be in the moment.That was something that I found out later, too. It was like someone was talking to me, but I could not pay attention to what they were saying. I was listening to what was going on in the background. And I remember that was getting worse and worse as I was getting older. And I was like, there's gotta be something to stop that. But I feel like maybe me not fitting in was I never was really in the moment. My brain was just constantly going.Laura: Yeah, I relate to that. I was at a high school guidance counselor, who I'm still close with today. She's just a wonderful woman. When I told her much later in life that I have ADHD, she's like, you know, Laura, I remember this time that we were trying to talk to you or interview you for something. And you were running around because you couldn't figure out where you had left your backpack. And you were freaking out because you didn't know where your backpack was. And nobody could get you to pay attention to them because you were so hyperfocused on finding your backpack.She's one of those people who — when she retells a story, she'll tell it to you every single time you talk to her. And she reminds me of that every single time. To me, it wasn't noticeable, but to her, it just stuck out.Lacey: That's really funny that you say that about the backpack, because if I'm looking for something or I need to do something, and then, you know, my kids are asking me things, or my husband was asking me things, oh my gosh, I can't, I can't focus right now, OK?Laura: I feel like that came out of my mouth exactly the way that you said it.Lacey: And if there's too much noise, if there's too many people asking me too many questions, it's like, my temper just goes through the roof. It's crazy. And I'm like, now that I'm aware, I tell my husband or my kids. I'm like, hey guys, I'm getting a little overwhelmed. And they're like, stop. Don't talk to Mom.Laura: Good for you. Oh my God, Lacey, I do the exact same thing. My kids are 3 and 5, and they're like, Mom's getting upset.Lacey: It's like, OK. All right, we'll be quiet. Oh, just for one second. I can't even hear myself think.Laura: I know. And those poor things. Cause like my time that I get to spend with them is after work obviously, and when they're back from school and preschool. And my medication has worn off at that point. So it's like, I really have to, like, rein it in if I'm going to be on with them.Lacey: Yes. And not only do you have to deal with mom guilt because now you're like, I really do want to spend time with them. And I really do want to hear about their day. And I do want to listen to their little stories about whatever they want to say. But a lot of ADHD people need that isolation when they get done with work. You can't have any more socializing. It doesn't matter if it's your kids, your husband, you need quiet. I'll find myself like in the car and it's just quiet.And I'm like, oh, this is so nice because my brain just needs a moment to transition. And I feel bad sometimes because I want to talk to my kids, but I'm like, I can't do it. I can't mentally do it. Laura: I know. God, I'm going to stop saying how much I'm relating to what you're saying, because it's going to sound like a broken record. But I get so excited all day to see my kids when they come home. But that time when they're home and I'm finishing work, I just need to walk away. And bless my husband, he's amazing. And he knows. And, you know, he helps out in that regard, but that's tricky.Lacey: Yeah. Now is your husband ADHD or neurodivergent in any way?Laura: No, he's just French. Lacey: OK. So blunt and just tells it like it is. OK, I got it.Laura: Everybody said that. See, OK? So that's a good transition. Cause I´— you've mentioned before about oversharing. Lacey: Yes, OK. Laura: Is this a new thing for you? Has this been since you can remember? Tell me about oversharing.Lacey: So, OK. This is not a new thing, but I'm newly self-aware, if you will. Because as I was diagnosed with ADHD and my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD, I wanted to read and learn everything there was available about ADHD and behavior modification, behavior therapy, all kinds of things. So, as I'm reading through material, I'm starting to read other people's stories. And there's this thing that ADHD people do, where they just talk a lot because either it's like, they're just nervous or they don't want, like, silence, or they don't want to, you know — they just want to keep the conversation going. So oversharing is a big characteristic for ADHD people, at least for me it is. And I now am so aware when I'm oversharing that it's like cringy. I think about it afterwards. Like, oh my gosh. I'm like, why did I say all that? That was not needed. I'll tell you a story. I was at the soccer fields. It was after one of the games that I coached, and I saw a friend of mine from an old neighborhood that I used to live in. And we were just chatting and it was just a normal, hey, how are you? You know, casual. She was like, how are the kids doing? I was like, you know, they're great. I said, but I think, I think we're done. I think we're done. And I'm getting an IUD next week. And you know, because, well, I, wasn't going to get one, you know, a couple of years ago because you know, I had the LEEP procedures and I had, like, some stuff on my cervix. I was, just kept going and going. And I was like, OK, when am I going to shut up? Because this is like way, like we're talking about where she has to go with the kids. And I'm like, all of a sudden, now we're talking about my cervix. I'm like, really? Like, does this need to be stated?Laura: I actually relate to that too, but I'm not going to explain why. First of all, I think that more people should be open about birth control. I'm just going to say that. This is not a podcast about birth control, but, OK. So that happened. You get home. What's your thought process? Like how do you treat yourself after it's something like that happens?Lacey: I usually replay the conversation. I'm like, how did I get to talking about that? And I'm like, why did I, does she think that that was crazy? Is she like, wow, that was personal? Or, I mean, I know her. She's probably like, whatever, that's fine. But I constantly replay it. Was that oversharing? Was that, what was that? Why did I say that? I'm like, oh, it's just like my ADHD. So then eventually forget about it. But there'll be a couple of days of me just dwelling on it, and then I'll tell my husband and he laughs that he thinks it's hilarious. He thinks all of my oversharing stories are funny, unless it's about him. Then he's like, why did you do that? I'm like, see, no one is safe.Laura: Oh, wow.Lacey: Yeah. So it's, it's a lot of like, I'm mean to myself, which I'm working on. And I'm working on therapy, which it's like constantly, you know, I wouldn't let my kids be mean to themselves. So I have to treat myself with some kindness and some grace. But I'm aware of everything I say now, which is hard. I almost liked being like ignorant, but….Laura: We've written on our website about ADHD and feelings of remorse, and how that feeling of remorse can be like — you can perseverate or get obsessed with feeling bad about what you've done when you do something that, especially now you have that self-awareness, right? Which is beautiful. You overshared, you maybe were a little bit impulsive and sharing information. And then because you're aware of it, you come home and usually like you ruminate on it, right. You spin. And that can be related to trouble with managing emotions, which is also part of ADHD.Lacey: Yes, absolutely. Laura: It can be a vicious cycle.Lacey: And I want to control it. I just can't. And so what I feel like I need to do is give myself more grace and understand it's OK to overshare and that's who you are. I mean, honestly, I'm very authentic. I truly believe that. But sometimes I'm like, people don't always appreciate your authentic self.And have you heard of masking? Where ADHD people mask who they are, so that way they feel accepted? And maybe oh, of tying back in to how I said I felt like I didn't belong. So I felt like I was constantly masking. I was trying to be relatable. So now that I'm trying to be my authentic self, I'm like, OK, that's who I am. I'm impulsive. As long as I'm not hurting anyone. I think that's just who I am. And I have to learn to appreciate and love that about myself. And that maybe like you said, we do need to talk about birth control or whatever we want to talk about, you know?Laura: Yeah. First of all, I bet people love that about you. One thing I love about ADHD: It brings a lot of spice of life, right?Lacey: Yes.Laura: Hey, it brought you here. I'm grateful that you're here.Lacey: I am too. And it really is nice. I mean, you know, you keep saying that you relate to that, but for me it feels good to hear that, because then I know that I'm not alone and that it's not just a me thing. And that there are the people that feel exactly how I feel. I mean, that feels really good to be related to. Laura: We have the numbers and we are powerful, Lacey. Lacey: Yeah.Laura: I want to talk more about Candice. And I want to hear about your relationship with Candice. Does she know that you have ADHD as well? Lacey: Yes. I remember telling her that I was going to go get tested for ADHD as well. And she was like, you are? She was very excited for me, and I feel like we've been closer since I was diagnosed.And now we can both talk about — we've had medicine increases, both of us. 'Cause I started on a very low dose and it's only been, you know, three years. And she started on a low dose. We've had medicine increases. And medicine isn't the end. It's not the key to ADHD. It's just something to help you, right? It's just a tool.And so we still have a lot of things that we forget and that we can't correct. You know, we just have to be aware of it. And so when she forgets things, like the other day, literally, my husband went to go pick up her soccer bag from her dad's house. She gets back to the house and her cleats aren't in the bag.So then we have to go back to the house to go get it. And this just happened yesterday. This is, I mean, but it's constant. And so we both are like aware of that and say, it's OK, because we both have ADHD. We both are forgetting things and we can commiserate together. So it definitely has brought us closer. I look back on it now and I'm very thankful that I was diagnosed later in life to be able to tell her like, it's all good, you know?It doesn't mean that there's anything wrong with you. It's just something that we're going to both work on together. And we laugh at each other a lot.Laura: That's awesome. You have that little shorthand.Lacey: Yes, we do. And we'll be like, oh, my ADHD is acting up again. And she laughs and, and even my younger kids, like they laugh. And my middle child is very serious and he will say, does it make you sad that you have ADHD and that you forget everything?And I'm like, no. I'm like, because I forget sometimes that I have ADHD. So, no, I, it doesn't make me sad.Laura: Lacey, it was so nice to have you here. Seriously, so much fun to talk to you. I relate to so much of your story. Thanks for coming by.Lacey: Same, likewise. It was so nice to talk to someone that relates to everything that I'm going through. So thank you for having me and letting me be a part of your podcast.Laura: You've been listening to "ADHD Aha!" from the Understood Podcast Network. You can listen and subscribe to "ADHD Aha!" on Apple, Spotify, or anywhere you get your podcasts. And if you like what you heard today, tell someone about the show. We rely on listeners like you to reach and support more people. And if you want to share your own "aha" moment, email us at ADHDAha@understood.org. I'd love to hear from you. You can go to u.org/ADHDAha to find details on each episode and related resources. That's the letter U, as in Understood, dot O R G slash ADHDAha. Understood is a nonprofit and social impact organization. We have no affiliation with pharmaceutical companies. Learn more at understood.org/mission. "ADHD Aha!" is produced by Jessamine Molli. Say hi, Jessamine. Jessamine: Hi, everyone. Laura: Justin D. Wright created our music. Seth Melnick and Briana Berry are our production directors. Scott Cocchiere is our creative director. And I'm your host, Laura Key, editorial director at Understood. Thanks so much for listening.

  • How to get a free or low-cost private evaluation

    By law, school evaluations for kids who struggle with learning are free. But for the most part, private evaluations are not free, and they can be expensive. Still, there are places that offer low-cost or free private evaluations for kids and adults. Here’s a list of resources that can help you find options in your area.1. Local universitiesMost universities have graduate programs in clinical psychology. Many also have programs in school psychology.These programs typically have clinics where students do their training. They may offer free evaluations to people who need them. Students do the evaluations under the supervision of an experienced psychologist. You can contact your local college or university and ask if they have this type of clinic.2. Teaching hospitalsTeaching hospitals may evaluate kids and adults for free as part of research projects they’re working on. Check with hospitals in your area to see if that’s an option. The psychiatry department is the most likely to be doing research. You can also try the psychology and neurology departments.3. Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA)LDA provides information and resources to people with learning disabilities and their families. Each state has a local chapter. Call and ask if they can help you find low-cost evaluation options in your area.4. Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs)Every state has at least one PTI that provides support and information to families. Staff at the PTI may be able to suggest where to get a low-cost private evaluation. Some states also have Community Parent Resource Centers, which have more resources for low-income families. Learn how to find a PTI near you.5. Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (ECTA Center)ECTA is the central hub to find the early intervention services in your state. If your baby or toddler is behind other kids in development, visit ECTA to find out about a free early intervention evaluation. You can also look up the early intervention program in your state.6. Samhsa.govSamhsa.gov is the website of the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. One of the challenges they cover is ADHD. Their site has a section called the Behavioral Health Treatment Services Locator that provides confidential information about local providers.7. American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP) ADHD Resource CenterAACAP is a nonprofit resource center that provides information and clinical resources for parents. Use the AACAP website to find child and adolescent psychiatrists and other mental health professionals in your area.8. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) NetworkHRSA provides a nationwide network of community health centers for families who don’t have access to primary health care. Finding a center near you can be a good way to look for a low-cost specialist.9. Children’s Dyslexia Centers, Inc.This Scottish Rite Masons project has centers that provide free dyslexia tutoring services in over a dozen states. The centers don’t do diagnostic testing, but you can contact them to help you find someone who does. (If you live in Texas, the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children will take referrals for evaluation at the Luke Waites Center for Dyslexia.)10. 211.orgThis free service connects people with a range of services in their area. In almost every state, you can call 2-1-1 to get easy access to information about health and human services. 211’s specialists help evaluate your needs and figure out your options for local programs and services to help.11. Health insuranceIf you have health insurance, it’s a good idea to contact your insurance company, too. Your policy may cover some or all of the cost of an evaluation. Some types of evaluations may not be covered, though.Knowing where to look for help is the first step in advocating for yourself or for your child. If you’re considering a private evaluation, this list of resources is a good start. You may also want to see the pros and cons of a school evaluation versus a private evaluation. Also, explore questions to ask before choosing a private evaluator.

  • Understood Explains Season 2

    Is ADHD online diagnosis legit?

    The wait time may be shorter, but is online diagnosis accurate? And can it help you get ADHD treatment? Learn the pros and cons of online testing. The wait time may be shorter, but is online ADHD diagnosis accurate? And can it help you get ADHD treatment? In this episode of Understood Explains, learn the pros and cons of ADHD online diagnosis and get answers to common questions: What are online ADHD diagnoses? [00:49]Is online ADHD diagnosis legit? [02:53]Does online ADHD testing cost a lot less than conventional testing? [06:16]Any other concerns about online ADHD diagnosis? [07:18]Key takeaway, next episode, and credits [09:05]Related resourcesWhere to find free or low-cost evaluationsBiden proposal would ban online prescribing of certain drugsHow to tell ADHD and bipolar disorder apartEpisode transcriptYou’re listening to Season 2 of Understood Explains: ADHD Diagnosis in Adults.Today’s episode covers a very hot topic: online ADHD diagnosis. My name is Dr. Roberto Olivardia, and I’m a clinical psychologist with more than 20 years of experience evaluating people for things like ADHD. I’m also one of the millions of people who have been diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. I’ll be your host.My goal here is to answer the most common questions about ADHD diagnosis. Along the way, you’ll learn a lot about ADHD in general.We’re going to do this quickly — in the next 10 or so minutes. So, let’s get to it.What are online ADHD diagnoses? [00:49]Before we get into the legitimacy of online ADHD diagnoses, I want to differentiate between two common types of online testing and explain what they do.First, there are the quizzes or “screeners.” If you type in a search engine “Do I have ADHD?,” you’ll pull up a gazillion sites that have quick quizzes. But their goal isn’t to diagnose you with ADHD. It’s to give you a sense of whether you should get more rigorous testing. Now, it’s very common for primary care providers to ask a few quick questions to “screen” patients to see if they need more formal testing for Condition X, Y, or Z. But it’s only fairly recently that these screener-type questions have jumped from something you’d do in a doctor’s office to something you could do on a website at 3 a.m. You can find some very good screener-type quizzes for free online. You can also find some really crappy ones.But no matter how good or reputable the source is, it’s important to know that a super-short ADHD test or quiz should just be a starting point. For example, if the quiz results say you’re likely to have ADHD, that doesn’t mean you actually have it. It might mean you should go see a professional to get formally tested. And if the quiz results say the opposite — that you aren’t likely to have ADHD — that doesn’t mean you for sure don’t have it. Maybe the quiz isn’t asking enough questions or isn’t asking the right questions. A 10-question quiz is a teeny, tiny bit of data. You need a lot more information to get a diagnosis.Now, moving on from the realm of super-quick quizzes … there are also sites that say they can formally diagnose you with ADHD. And these sites tend to take one of two paths:Some include a face-to-face meeting with a licensed psychologist in a video call. Other sites may only have a questionnaire you fill out on your own, without any one-on-one interactions with a provider. So the big-picture summary here is that some online evaluations may be OK, and some may be way too skimpy. Is online ADHD diagnosis legit? [02:53]So I want to start off with a big note of caution here. I can definitely see how it might be appealing to go with a company that offers 24/7 diagnosis — especially for folks who are really eager to start getting treated as soon as possible. But I also want to be clear that I do not recommend getting a diagnosis unless it involves spending a good amount of time with a specialist that fits the criteria we covered in Episode 2.OK, so now that I've gotten that out in the open, I want to cover some of the reasons why folks may be interested in this — and also why I’m urging caution here.One reason people might be attracted to an online diagnosis is because they believe it’ll get them evaluated sooner than if they waited to see a specialist in person. Your wait time might be shorter. But that also raises the question of why is the wait so short? It could mean that the website is churning out evaluations too quickly without being thorough enough to provide quality care. I’d be very cautious about a company that suggests it can evaluate most adults in a single hour-long visit. Another reason people may be drawn to online diagnosis is that you don’t need to leave home, or even change out of your pajamas. And speaking of not wanting to get out of your pj’s, this is a good place for me to mention that ADHD can make it hard to take action, even if the result is something you really want or need — especially if taking action seems like it involves a lot of steps, like making an appointment, getting dressed, going to the doctor’s office, etc.But wanting simplicity or convenience doesn’t mean you need to reduce the quality of your health care. So many conventional providers like me offer telehealth visits, so it’s very feasible to have face time with a provider while you’re at home.And then there’s cost. An online evaluation that is totally asynchronous — meaning there is no one-on-one telehealth visit — is likely to be less expensive than conventional testing. But this could come at a huge cost to your well-being. Face-to-face time with a provider is so, so crucial. And I have three reasons for urging so much caution about this. And those three reasons are three of my patients, who I’m going to call Luke, Leia, and Han — because who doesn’t like a Star Wars reference? 😆 Luke and Leia were both diagnosed online without speaking to anyone one-on-one. And Han was diagnosed online after a short video call with a provider. Luke was misdiagnosed with ADHD, when what he really had was obsessive-compulsive disorder, or OCD. He was prescribed ADHD stimulants that unfortunately had the effect of dramatically exacerbating his OCD symptoms. Leia was also misdiagnosed with ADHD, when the real root of the problem is that she was engaging in drug-seeking behavior for an addiction to amphetamines. Meanwhile, Han did get to speak with a provider for a little bit, but there was no screening for other mental health issues. So although he did actually have ADHD, he also had bipolar disorder, which was missed by the online evaluation. I am glad, relieved, you name it, that Luke, Leia, and Han eventually started getting the support they need. But their experiences are just some of the many reasons why I am very suspicious of any site that advertises quick, same-day assessments.Does online ADHD testing cost a lot less than conventional testing? [06:16] I know it’s common for a lot of folks to assume that it will cost an arm and a leg to speak to a professional. But if you have insurance, then your only cost may be the co-pay to see a doctor who’s “in network.” That co-pay will likely be less costly than paying for an online assessment if it isn’t covered by your insurance.And if you don’t have insurance, try calling a college or university near you that has a graduate program in clinical psychology. These programs tend to have free or low-cost clinics where you’d be evaluated by a grad student who is being closely supervised by an expert.You will no doubt have to wait longer to see someone in person than if you go to a website that does same-day assessments. But it may be well worth your time to wait several weeks or even months to get a thorough evaluation so you can get an accurate diagnosis. As with any health care decision, talk with your primary care provider to help decide what’s best for you.Any other concerns about online ADHD diagnosis? [07:18]Coming back to the Luke, Leia, and Han examples I just shared, the biggest issue with an online evaluation is that it probably won’t be comprehensive. It’ll most likely be very focused on ADHD. And that can be a problem because there are a lot of things that can look like ADHD — such as anxiety or depression.So if you get an online evaluation that is very focused on ADHD, you might come out of it getting misdiagnosed with ADHD. This can be dangerous in some cases. For example — and, just as a warning, this is gonna be a very heavy example — if the source of your ADHD-like symptoms is actually bipolar disorder, and you start taking an ADHD stimulant medication, it might trigger a manic or psychotic episode, and possibly increase suicidal thinking or ideation.Another thing to keep in mind about an evaluation that is narrowly focused on ADHD is that you might be told you’re showing signs of — and I’m doing air quotes here — “something other than ADHD,” and that you need to go elsewhere to find out what that “something” is. The other huge area of concern about an online ADHD diagnosis is that it might not get you the help you need. For example, some websites or apps can diagnose people anywhere in the U.S., but can only provide treatment in certain states. So depending on where you live, you might need to go to a different provider to get treatment. And it’s also important to know that federal regulators are taking a close look at online prescriptions in general. In 2023, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration announced it may start requiring at least one in-person visit to get a new prescription or a refill for ADHD medications.Key takeaway, next episode, and credits [09:05]OK, listeners, that’s it for Episode 4. If there’s one thing I want you to take away from this episode it’s that…I do not recommend getting a diagnosis without speaking to a live person on video or telephone. Getting misdiagnosed can be dangerous. So, please remember that. The other big thing to remember is that if you’re speaking to an ADHD specialist who has the kind of training that we discussed in Episode 2 — and who is asking a wide range of questions to help figure out if you have ADHD or something else — an online diagnosis could be quicker and may be less expensive. But there may be more steps involved if the site where you got the diagnosis isn’t allowed to provide treatment in your state. So stay focused on the ultimate goal. You want to figure out what’s really going on so you can start to get the support you need to feel better and to function better in all aspects of your life.  Thanks for listening, and I hope you’ll join me for Episode 5, which explains what you need to know about ADHD medication, whether you’re eager to start taking it or you’re worried about taking it.You’ve been listening to Season 2 of Understood Explains from the Understood Podcast Network. If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources, as well as links to anything we’ve mentioned in the episode. One important note: I don’t prescribe ADHD medication and I don’t have any affiliation with pharmaceutical companies — and neither does Understood. This podcast is intended solely for informational purposes and is not a substitute for a professional diagnosis or for medical advice or treatment. Talk with your health care provider before making any medical decisions.Understood Explains is produced by Julie Rawe and Cody Nelson, who also edited the show. Briana Berry is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show.For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at understood.org/mission.

  • 11 tips on informal negotiation strategies

    Informal meetings with your school — such as evaluations, meetings with teachers, and IEP team meetings — can be a good time to negotiate for the educational services your child needs. Here are 11 tips on informal negotiation strategies.1. Give the school the benefit of the doubt.The vast majority of schools and teachers want the best for your child. Keeping this in mind will help you establish a collaborative atmosphere for any negotiation. It’s important not to create a disagreement where there really isn’t one. Starting with this mindset will help you identify possible allies among teachers and school employees. And it will help you better apply other negotiation strategies.2. Be prepared for the meeting.The more prepared you are, the better you can negotiate. At a minimum, know the basic details of the meeting. Where will it be? What time? Who will be there? It’s also important that parents understand their child’s learning and thinking differences, their rights, how their child learns, and what helps them thrive. Before the meeting, write down your goals and the points you want to make. This shows the school that you’re prepared and know your rights.3. Be polite and respectful, but firm.It can be frustrating if your child is struggling and the school doesn’t seem to be able to help. Nevertheless, it’s important to be polite and respectful to school personnel. Bringing food or coffee to the meeting can help things start off on a positive note. If you personally attack a school employee, chances are the employee will be reluctant to help you. At the same time, be firm about your child’s needs.4. Understand the school’s interests.Sometimes the school doesn’t have the staff or training needed to help your child. In an informal negotiation, make it a point to understand the school’s interests and limits. By understanding what the school wants and can do, you can avoid miscommunication and be in a better position to negotiate. Sometimes, the school is willing to provide services for your child, but only in a certain location or with a certain program.5. Make sure the school understands your interests.A misunderstanding can delay the services that your child needs. So it’s important to make clear to the school how you want to help your child. If you want to improve your child’s behavior, say so. If you’re concerned about reading skills, tell the school. A school that understands your child’s needs may focus on solutions, rather than just resisting your requests.6. Know your “best alternative to a negotiated agreement.”The term “Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement” (BATNA) comes from the best-selling negotiation book Getting to Yes. Your BATNA is your best option if you can’t reach an agreement with the school. For example, if the school doesn’t agree to the reading program your child needs, is sending your child to private school the best option for you? Or is it mediation? Knowing your BATNA helps you figure out whether or not to accept a school’s offer.7. Focus on mutual problem-solving.Informal negotiations can break down when schools and parents focus on winning, rather than focusing on the interests of the child. Get around this by setting up your discussion with the school as mutual problem-solving. Work with the school to identify the issue. Then ask how you can work together to solve it. If the school proposes a solution you don’t want, emphasize how the proposal doesn’t solve the issue. Then redirect the conversation back to problem solving.8. Help the school save face.Sometimes when a school says it won’t do something, it can get stuck in that position — even if school employees realize later they’re wrong. Look for solutions that help the school “save face.” For example, if the school’s already rejected one type of therapy, ask if there are other therapies available. You may be surprised when the school suggests one that is just as good. Also, never gloat or brag if you get what you want.9. Support your negotiation with objective data.If you’re trying to get a school to give your child a particular service, you’re more likely to succeed if you support your request with data. For instance, if your child struggles with math, look at the most recent math test scores. How have other students improved in math with this service? How did your child respond when the school tried out the service? When you present facts and data, it’s more difficult for the school to say no.10. Follow up negotiations with letters.After a meeting, send a polite letter or email describing what was agreed on. It can be helpful to make this a thank-you note. Begin by expressing appreciation, then detail your understanding of the meeting. Even the best-negotiated agreement can fall apart if you and the school later disagree on what was said. Even if no agreement was reached, it’s important to make a record of how you are working with the school to find a solution.11. Take time to think about an offer.If a school offers services, you may be tempted to accept on the spot. This can be a bad idea. You may want to take some time to fully consider the offer. Don’t hesitate to ask the school for time to think it over — even if you’re sure that you’ll accept the offer. Take a few days to consider the offer and ask others about it. Then you’ll feel more confident that you’re making the right decision.

  • Understood Explains Season 3

    IEPs: Resolving IEP disputes

    Discover your options for when you disagree with the school about something in your child’s IEP. You and the school may not always agree on every detail in your child’s IEP. If you’re having trouble working things out, it’s good to know your option for resolving a dispute. On this episode of Understood Explains, host Juliana Urtubey will go through your dispute resolution options and how to handle common disagreements. She’ll also share information on advocates and attorneys who can help you in a disagreement. Timestamps[01:39] Dispute resolution options[05:41] Disagreeing about evaluation results[08:07] Changing a child’s placement[09:32] Reducing a child’s services [10:40] Special education advocates and attorneys [12:09] Key takeaways Related resources6 options for resolving an IEP disputeIndependent educational evaluations (IEEs): What you need to know10 smart responses for when the school cuts or denies servicesThe difference between special education advocates and attorneysEpisode transcriptJuliana: You and the school may not always agree on every detail in your child's IEP. So, if you're having trouble working things out, it's good to know what your options are for resolving a dispute. And I'm going to explain them to you. From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "Understood Explains IEPs." On this episode, we're talking about how to resolve IEP disputes. My name is Juliana Urtubey, and I'm your host. I'm the 2021 National Teacher of the Year, and I'm an expert in special education for multilingual learners. As a reminder, all of the episodes this season are available in English y en español. OK, let's get started. We're going to start this episode by looking at how parents and schools need to work together to develop a child's IEP or Individualized Education Program. Then, we'll do an overview of all the different ways you can work things out if there's a dispute. And after that, we'll talk about three common situations where disagreements tend to happen and what you can do about it. OK, so the big picture here is that you have the right to disagree with the school about any part of your child's IEP. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, is very clear that you're a part of the team that develops the IEP. You have to be invited to all IEP meetings. You have to get looped in before the team can make any changes. And there are key moments where the team cannot move forward unless you give the go ahead.Special education is set up to encourage families and schools to work together, and when disagreements come up, it doesn't always mean that there has to be a big fight. [01:39] Dispute resolution optionsThe law lays out six options for resolving disputes, and they range from pretty low-key, like requesting another IEP meeting all the way up to filing a civil rights complaint. We're going to look at each of these options starting with the least formal one. And that's good old-fashioned negotiation. This includes having a conversation with the team trying to talk things through. You can do this by asking for another IEP meeting. You can use the meeting to talk about how you want to fix whatever problem you're having with the IEP. It's as simple as that. If the issue doesn't get resolved, the next step up is to ask for a mediation meeting. This is where you sit down with a neutral third party called the mediator. This person doesn't take sides or tell anybody what to do. Instead, their job is to try to come up with a solution that works for you and the rest of the IEP team. You can ask for mediation at any time. It's a voluntary process, so you get to choose whether you want to go this route. But I want you to keep in mind that the decisions made during mediation are legally binding. This means once you reach an agreement, you can't back out of it.Option number three is a due process hearing. This is a formal process that starts with you filing a written complaint. And this complaint has to include why you think the school isn't doing what IDEA says it needs to do. And here are some examples of ways you might think the school violated your child's rights. Like if your child didn't qualify for special education, or if your child qualified but you think the school isn't providing appropriate services, or maybe you think your child isn't being educated in the least restrictive setting. And by the way, we're going to get into more detail about each of these examples later in this episode. OK, so you file your due process complaint. The next step is to have a resolution session with the school where both sides try to reach an agreement. But if you can't agree, then there will be a due process hearing. And this looks kind of like a courtroom trial. Evidence is presented. There are witnesses, and there's a hearing officer who acts like a judge and will make a decision on the case. Now, as you can probably tell, due process involves a lot of knowledge about the law. You need to know your rights under IDEA. So, if you're thinking of going this route, it's a good idea to speak with a special education advocate or attorney before you file a complaint. OK, resolution option number four is a lawsuit. You can file a civil lawsuit, but you can't do this until after you've gone through due process. And it's a really good idea to hire a lawyer if you're going to file a lawsuit. Another way you can resolve an IEP dispute is by filing a state complaint. You write a letter explaining why you think the school violated IDEA, and you send it to your state's Department of Education and ask them to do an investigation. You can file this complaint on your own, or you can file it with other parents if you see a situation at school that affects more than just your child. Once a complaint is filed, the state may investigate and decide if the school violated the law. The last dispute resolution option I want to mention is filing a civil rights complaint. This option is similar to filing a state complaint, but this one escalates the issue even higher to the federal government. You send the complaint to the U.S. Department of Education, then its office for Civil Rights, or OCR will decide whether to investigate the school. OK, so those are the six main options for resolving an IEP dispute. And I get that most of these options sound very formal. But I want to emphasize that the first option, negotiation, includes a bunch of informal strategies that can help you work out a dispute. There's a good Understood article outlining these options, and I'll put a link in the show notes. [05:41] Disagreeing about evaluation resultsNow that we're done with the overview, I want to talk about three common things that can lead to a dispute between families and schools. And the first one is disagreeing about your child's evaluation results. It can be frustrating to go through a lengthy evaluation process, only to be told that your child doesn't qualify for special education. Or maybe your child qualifies, but the results don't seem to accurately describe your child. If you disagree with the results of your child's initial evaluation, you have the right to request what's called an independent educational evaluation, or IEE. The school must consider the results of the IEE, and these results can also be used as evidence if you end up using a formal dispute resolution option, like a due process hearing. Broadly speaking, families get IEEs if they think the school didn't test the right things, didn't test in the right ways, or aren't interpreting the results correctly. And let me give you a couple of examples. Let's say you requested an evaluation for anxiety and trouble staying focused, but your child was only tested for academic challenges. Or maybe your child was only evaluated in English and not in their home language. Whatever the reason, you have the right to get an IEE. You'll most likely have to pay for it, but there are some situations where the school may be required to cover that cost. I'll put a link in the show notes if you want to learn more about IEEs, including how you can request one at public expense. Another way an evaluation dispute can come up is if the school says your child no longer qualifies for an IEP. You might hear the team refer to this as "exiting special education," and it can happen after your child is reevaluated for special education, which happens at least once every three years. Now, I know many parents worry about their child's IEP being taken away too soon, but I want you to try to be objective and remember this can be a good thing. If your child has made a lot of progress and is meeting grade-level standards, that's a reason to celebrate. I also want to mention that many kids switch from an IEP to a 504 plan, which can offer a lot of the same supports. But if you think your child still needs an IEP, you may want to go get a private evaluation or consider using your dispute resolution options. [08:07] Changing a child’s placementAnother common source of IEP disputes is when the school wants to change your child's placement. This is the term for where your child will be taught. Examples include general education classrooms and self-contained classrooms where all the kids have IEPs. If the school wants to change your child's placement, there are two key rights for you to know about. First, your child has the right to be educated in the least restrictive environment. And your child also has the right to stay put while you and the school work out the disagreement. It's important to note the school cannot change your child's placement without telling you ahead of time and giving you a chance to discuss it at an IEP meeting. I want to pause here for a moment and talk about bias. Research shows that students who are Black or Hispanic are more likely to be placed in self-contained classrooms than white students. So, parents and guardians of Black and Hispanic kids need to be extra aware and know your rights. In particular, I want you to listen to the previous episode about IEPs and behavioral supports. I also want to mention that placement changes tend to happen slowly. So, chances are the team will tell you well in advance, so you'll have opportunities to ask questions and weigh in. [09:32] Reducing a child’s services OK, there's one more common reason that families in schools get into disputes, and it's reducing or denying services. Understood has a good article on ten common but incorrect reasons schools may give to try to cut or deny services. I'll put a link in the show notes so you can check it out. The article gives you sample responses you can say to the IEP team. For example, if the team says "We don't have enough funding for that," you can respond with, "The U.S. Department of Education says that even if the school has budget concerns, that doesn't change its legal obligations to my child." This is an example of how knowing your rights can help you negotiate with the school.Another strategy is to wait to sign the IEP. The team cannot move forward without you. You can ask for more time to gather more data to help you make a decision. And speaking of data, use it to help you negotiate. When you present test scores and other data, it's harder for the school to say no. [10:40] Special education advocates and attorneys OK, so we've talked about different options for resolving IEP disputes. And we've talked about common situations where families may disagree with the school. As you think about your options, you might wonder, "Do I need to hire somebody to help me? Do I need a special education advocate?" or "Do I need an attorney?" Advocates and attorneys can do a lot of the same things. Both can negotiate with the school on your behalf. Both can write letters on your behalf or help you write them, and both can advise you on strategies for working with the school. But there are some big differences. One example is training. Attorneys have a law degree, but advocates may not have any formal training. They tend to be parents with kids who've been through the special education process. Or maybe they know how to navigate the system because they used to work at a school. Another difference may be in how the school reacts. Some schools are open to working with advocates and having them participate in meetings, but many schools are wary of attorneys. So, if you bring an attorney to a meeting, expect the school might want to bring its attorney, too. If you're trying to find an advocate or lawyer, you may want to start by reaching out to the special education parent group in your school district. Understood also has a list of questions to ask before hiring an advocate or an attorney. I'll link to it in the show notes. [12:09] Key takeaways OK, before we go, let's sum up with some key takeaways. You have six main options for resolving an IEP dispute: negotiation, mediation, a due process hearing, a lawsuit, a state complaint, and a federal civil rights complaint. If you disagree with the school about your child's evaluation results, you may want to get an independent education evaluation. If you disagree about your child's services, you can ask for another IEP meeting and use informal negotiation strategies before you consider a more formal route. If you disagree about a change in your child's placement, you may want to use your stay put rights while you work out the dispute with the school. And last but not least, special education advocates and attorneys can do some of the same things, but be sure to research which one is most appropriate for your situation. All right. That's it for this episode of "Understood Explains." I hope you'll join us next time when we'll talk about IEPs and multilingual learners. You've been listening to "Understood Explains IEPs". This season was developed in partnership with UnidosUS, which is the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization. Gracias, Unidos! If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we've mentioned in the episode. Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at Understood.org/mission.  Credits Understood Explains IEPs was produced by Julie Rawe and Cody Nelson, with editing support by Daniella Tello-Garzon. Video was produced by Calvin Knie and Christoph Manuel, with support from Denver Milord.Mixing and music by Justin D. Wright.Ilana Millner was our production director. Margie DeSantis provided editorial support, and Whitney Reynolds was our web producer. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer.Special thanks to the team of expert advisors who helped shape this season: Shivohn Garcia, Claudia Rinaldi, and Julian Saavedra.

  • Unilateral placement: Moving from public to private school

    Maybe public school isn’t working for your child. The evaluations, the IEP, the small classes, speech therapy, and accommodations are all in place. And yet, your child is still falling behind. You feel you’ve got to make a change — and you’ve found a special private school with a great track record of working with children like yours. You want to move your child to a private school. But will the public school district pay for the hefty tuition? The answer is maybe. Federal law guarantees a free appropriate public education to children with learning and thinking differences. So if your child isn’t making progress in public school, the question is, Is the education “appropriate” — in other words, is it working for your child? When a parent moves a child to a private school to get better special education, that’s called “unilateral placement.” But if you don’t get the public school’s approval ahead of time, the school district doesn’t have to pay for private school. It’s important to do your homework before you make a change. A little extra research could give you the best chance of having the public school district pay for private school. Getting adviceYou might want to talk to an advisor at your state’s Parent Training and Information Center. Or get in touch with a parent advocate or lawyer before you make any move. They can explain your rights and share information about other cases like yours. Notification requirementBefore you enroll your child in private school, tell the public school about your plans. The best way is to send them a written letter 10 business days before you make the switch. This is required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act if you want the public school to pay for the private school. A school can legally deny funding if you don’t share concerns in advance. So it also makes sense to tell the school at an IEP meeting or a progress meeting that your child isn’t making progress and you plan to switch to private school. It’s always a good idea to document your concerns in writing, too. There’s still no guarantee the district will agree to pay, but at least you’re following the law. Emergency placementIf you can prove that you needed to make an emergency move to private school, the school district might consider your request to pay for it even if you haven’t given the 10-business-day notice in writing. Such cases, however, are rare. Private school, public funds A due process hearing will be held by a hearing officer or a court to decide whether the school district should pay for your child’s private school education. You’ll be asked to prove your child was not learning in public school and wasn’t getting FAPE — a free appropriate public education. You will want to hand over school records, such as progress reports, report cards, emails to teachers and anything else that supports your claim. Another idea is to wait until you can prove your child is doing well in private school before you ask the public school to pay. Often, school districts fight requests to pay. But if the hearing officer or court sides with you, the district will have to pay.

  • Understood Explains Season 3

    IEPs: How do kids qualify for IEPs?

    Host Juliana Urtubey explains the school evaluation process for special education. Kids don’t just get an IEP all of a sudden.Schools have an evaluation process to decide if a child qualifies for special education services. This includes getting an IEP. On this episode of Understood Explains, join host Juliana Urtubey as she discusses the evaluation process and requirements for getting an IEP. She’ll also share what to do if the school says your child doesn’t qualify for an IEP and more. Timestamps[00:37] How do kids qualify for IEPs?[03:14] Does my child need a diagnosis to get an IEP?[04:45] How do I request an evaluation?[06:12] What if the school wants to wait to evaluate my child?[08:10] What if the school says my child doesn’t qualify for an IEP?[08:49] Key takeaways Related resources Understood Explains Season 1 on special education evaluationsDownload: Sample letters for requesting evaluations and reportsWhy your child’s school may deny your evaluation requestEpisode transcriptJuliana: Kids don't get an IEP all of a sudden. The school needs to do an evaluation and decide if your child qualifies for special education. I'm going to explain how this process works. From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "Understood Explains IEPs." On this episode, we'll talk about how to get an IEP and what to do if the school says your child isn't eligible. My name is Juliana Urtubey and I'm the 2021 National Teacher of the Year. I'm also an expert in special education for multilingual learners, and I'm your host for this season of "Understood Explains," which is available in English y en español. Let's get started.[00:37] How do kids qualify for IEPs?How do kids qualify for IEPs? There are two big things that need to happen to qualify for an Individualized Education Program, or IEP. The first thing is, your child needs to get an evaluation. Public schools have a whole process for evaluating kids using a team of professionals. It's free for families, and I'm going to talk more about this in a minute. The second big thing is called eligibility determination. This is what happens at the end of the evaluation process. To qualify for an IEP, the school needs to determine that your child has a disability and that the disability negatively impacts how your child is doing in school. There's a jargony phrase that schools use for this. "The disability needs to adversely affect your child's educational performance." And by the way, educational performance can be viewed very broadly. It's not limited to academics. Kids can qualify for IEPs because they have a disability that affects their attention, behavior, social skills, etc. So to recap, to get an IEP, your child needs to get evaluated by the school and the evaluation team needs to find that your child has a disability that adversely affects your child's education. OK, so where did these requirements come from? They're part of a federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. or IDEA. And there are three things that I want to highlight about this part of the law. First, public schools have a big responsibility. They must identify and evaluate any kids who may need special education. This is called Child Find, and it's the first step towards getting kids the support they need to thrive in school. Second, not all kids with disabilities will qualify for IEPs. Maybe your child doesn't need specially designed instruction or services. Maybe all your child needs is some assistive technology or classroom accommodations. If so, the school may recommend a 504 plan, which we talked a little bit about in Episode 2. Third, to qualify for an IEP, the school needs to determine that your child has a disability that falls into one of the 13 categories in IDEA. Now, this doesn't mean the law only covers 13 disabilities. It means that there are 13 really big buckets of disabilities. For example, ADHD is covered under the category called Other Health Impairments. This season we're going to have a whole episode about disability categories. But, for now I'll just say that even if your child has a really rare disability, they can still qualify for an IEP. The key thing is that the disability needs to adversely impact your child's education. [03:14] Does my child need a diagnosis to get an IEP?Does my child need a diagnosis to get an IEP? This is a very common question, and the official answer is no, or at least no in the way most families think about having to go to a doctor to get a medical diagnosis. Schools don't diagnose kids. They do something a little different, which is identify a child as having a disability. So no, you don't need to get a diagnosis from your health care provider. But if you want to, you can share a diagnosis with the school evaluation team. OK, so what does an evaluation look like? Schools do special education evaluations for free. And they have to complete them within a certain time frame, usually within 60 days. But this can vary a bit from state to state. The team will use this time to gather data from a bunch of sources to help decide if your child qualifies for an IEP. Evaluations often include special tests, observations in your child's classroom, and interviews with family members and teachers. And if your child is learning English, their language instructor will help with the evaluation too. As a parent or guardian, your participation is really important. The team cannot evaluate your child without your permission. And the more you work together, the more you can help keep the evaluation centered on your child's strengths as well as your child's needs. If you want to learn more about evaluations, check out the first season of "Understood Explains," which is all about getting evaluated for special education. [04:45] How do I request an evaluation?How do I request an evaluation? So, before we get into this, I want to mention that there are two ways to start the evaluation process. Either the school can reach out to you in what's called a referral, or you can request an evaluation. Season 1 of "Understood Explains" has a whole episode about this exact topic. Here are some highlights. The first step in requesting an evaluation is finding out who you should send the request to. Your child's teacher should know. But this is also a good time to ask the school's front office if there's a community liaison or a family support provider. Lots of school districts have this type of person who can help you navigate the system. The next step is to put your request in writing. Write an email or a letter that includes the month and day you sent it, because that date is important. By law, schools must respond within a certain time frame, which varies from state to state. As you're writing your letter, be sure to describe why you're requesting an evaluation. Try to be as specific as possible. You can say things like, "My child has a lot of trouble with spelling. He studies hard, but he can't remember how to spell even the most basic words. And I'm concerned he may have a learning difference or disability. He may need more support at school." If you need help getting started on your letter, we have some templates on Understood.org. I'll put a link in the show notes. [06:12] What if the school wants to wait to evaluate my child?What if the school wants to wait to evaluate my child? This can be a tough situation to be in. I know a lot of parents don't want to be seen as the squeaky wheel, or maybe feel like it's not their role to tell the school what to do. But you know your child best. So, if you think it's time to evaluate your child, advocate for it. And remember, special education law says that schools need to be actively looking for kids who may have a disability. Now, I want to be clear. Schools don't have to say yes to every request for an evaluation. But sometimes schools want to wait for reasons that aren't allowed. And I want to give you two examples. If your child is struggling, the school may try an instructional intervention. But here's the thing about interventions. They're designed to take several weeks so the school can see how your child responds to this kind of intensive instruction. The goal is to give the child effective support and time to show progress. But let's say you're pretty confident that you're seeing signs of dyslexia or ADHD or whatever you think might be going on with your child. You don't have to wait until the end of the intervention to ask for an evaluation. You can wait if you want to. Or you can remind the school that an intervention is not a valid reason to delay or deny your evaluation request. Another example is if your child is an English language learner, or what I prefer to call a multilingual learner. It's not uncommon for multilingual kids to fall behind their peers while they learn formal academic English skills. So, the school might just think your child needs more language instruction and not special education. But that's not a valid reason for delaying an evaluation. You can request an evaluation for special education even if your child is still learning English. One thing that can be a big help is to let the school know if your child is struggling with things like reading or speaking in your home language. Understood has an article about some common reasons why a school might deny your request and how you can respond. We'll put a link in the show notes. [08:10] What if the school says my child doesn’t qualify for an IEP?What if the school says my child doesn't qualify for an IEP? So, if this happens, you have some important rights. Schools have to explain in writing how they made their decision. If you disagree, you can get something called an independent educational evaluation. And in some cases, the school may even be required to pay for this private evaluation for you. You can also ask for mediation with a neutral third party or a due process hearing, which is kind of like a mini trial. And we're going to talk more about your dispute resolution options later in the season. [08:49] Key takeaways OK, before we go, let's sum up what we've learned with a few key takeaways. First, your child doesn't need a medical diagnosis to get an IEP. The school needs to do an evaluation and find that your child has a disability that negatively impacts their learning. You can ask the school to evaluate your child, but the team cannot get started until you give your consent. And lastly, you have a lot of legal rights in this process. Remember, you know your child best. And you can be a powerful advocate to help your child thrive. All right. That's it for this episode of "Understood Explains." Next time we're talking about IEP disability categories. You've been listening to "Understood Explains IEPs." This season was developed in partnership with UnidosUS, which is the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization. Gracias, Unidos! If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we've mentioned in the episode. Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at understood.org/mission. CreditsUnderstood Explains IEPs was produced by Julie Rawe and Cody Nelson, with editing support by Daniella Tello-Garzón. Video was produced by Calvin Knie and Christoph Manuel, with support from Denver Milord.Mixing and music by Justin D. Wright.Ilana Millner was our production director. Margie DeSantis provided editorial support, and Whitney Reynolds was our web producer.For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer.Special thanks to the team of expert advisors who helped shape this season: Shivohn Garcia, Claudia Rinaldi, and Julian Saavedra.

  • What is a neuropsychological evaluation?

    If you have a child or student who is struggling in school, you might have heard about neuropsychological evaluations. But you may not know what they are or how they work. You may also wonder how this type of private testing is different from the free evaluations at public schools.A neuropsychological exam looks at a wide range of brain functions and skills. The term can sound a little scary. But the tests are just a series of questions and activities like putting puzzles together and naming pictures.The testing measures things like attention span and memory. It looks at other areas too, like language and thinking skills. These evaluations can pinpoint problem areas and also show strengths. The testing results also include recommendations for support at school.Some families choose to get a private evaluation instead of or in addition to an evaluation at school. Schools don’t have to agree with the results of a private evaluation. But schools have to at least look at those testing results when deciding if a child is eligible for special education.

  • The Opportunity Gap

    What is a learning disability?

    What is a learning disability? What is the difference between an IEP and a 504 plan? Get useful information on learning disabilities and discover the ins and outs of special education. Learning disabilities are real challenges that are not related to intelligence. They impact millions of kids and adults in the U.S. And people who have them are not at all “lazy.” Learning disabilities are caused by differences in the brain. And they often are hereditary. These challenges can impact people at school, at work, and in everyday life. But the good news is there are strategies and supports that can help people with learning disabilities thrive.In this episode, listen as Julian explains:What learning disabilities are and how they are diagnosedThe differences between an IEP and a 504 planWays to tell if a child is struggling with a learning disabilityRelated resourcesUnderstood Explains podcast episode: How to decide if your child needs a special education evaluationWhat are learning disabilities?Learning about evaluationsEpisode transcriptJulian: From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "The Opportunity Gap." Kids of color who have ADHD and other common learning differences often face a double stigma. And there's a lot that families can do to address the opportunity gap in our communities. This podcast explains key issues and offers tips to help you advocate for your child. My name is Julian Saavedra. I'm a father of two and an assistant principal in Philadelphia, where I've spent nearly 20 years working in public schools. I'll be your host. Welcome to Season 3. Welcome back, listeners. It's me, your boy, Julian. I am here and we have a really great episode for you today. You know, all our episodes are great, but this is an extra great one. Yeah, it turned into a solo episode. It is just little old me today. But we really want to talk about the things that some people have been asking us a lot about, specifically around learning disabilities. And I'm going to try to answer some of those few common questions that so many families have about special ed. Let's get right to it. Number one: "Mr. Saavedra, what is a learning disability?" So, what is a learning disability? They are defined as lifelong challenges with learning skills like reading, writing, and math. These challenges are caused by brain differences, and they're not related to intelligence. So, let me say that one more time so it's clear, it is a challenge and it's not an intelligence-based thing. It's a difference in the way that you learn. Learning disabilities are real. They can impact people at school, at work, everyday life. They've been around forever since humans have been around, and they will continue to be around. You don't outgrow most learning disabilities, but there are strategies, there are supports, and there's teaching approaches that can really help people thrive with the learning disability, not despite the learning disability with the learning disability. We'll talk a little bit more about what those supports look like specifically for our students in just a minute. But again, a learning disability is a challenge caused by brain differences and it's not related to intelligence. "Mr. Saavedra, What is an IEP?" I'm sure a lot of your listeners have heard this mentioned constantly, but again, we just want to make sure that we clarify so everybody is on the same page. When kids struggle in school, you may hear the term IEP. But what is an IEP and how do IEP support kids with learning disabilities? IEP is an acronym that stands for Individualized Education Program. Individualized, key on individualized education program. It's more than just a written legal document, although that's what it is. But it's more than that. It maps out the entire program of special education, which means the instruction that the student is receiving, the type of support that a student might get, and the services that are necessary to make progress so that school can be a positive experience. But this IEP really is a legal document that not only gives the students, but it gives the families, it gives the schools, protections. And making sure that these protections are in place so that the student is getting everything that they need. They allow families to be involved with decisions that impact their child's education. You know, I have a lot of students that come in and they know they have an IEP, but they're not really sure what does that mean. So, we always try to stress when you have an IEP, it's an individual education program. It's individualized, which means, you know, you're getting customer service specialized for you. That's what you want to think about when you have an IEP in place. It's a customized, individual experience that is especially for the learning disability or learning differences that your child has. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, also known as IDEA, I-D-E-A, federal law, it requires public and charter schools to create an IEP for a student who qualifies for special education services. Children can get an IEP starting at age three until they graduate from high school or up to age 21. So, whichever comes first, in order for you to be eligible for an IEP, the student must have at least one of the 13 different disabilities covered by IDEA. And as a consequence of having it, the student requires special education to be able to advance in school. There is a process to receive an IEP, and it really begins with something called an evaluation. Families listening: evaluation. Remember that word. It's really, really important. Evaluation. It has to begin with that. And this evaluation is conducted to show the strengths and the challenges that the student may face. This can be a combination of a pediatrician could get involved, a school psychologist, a team of teachers, a whole host of people are going to evaluate the student's skills. It's not just going to be one person saying, "I think something's going on. This kid needs an IEP." Doesn't work that way. There's a whole team of people that have to get involved and they have to really do a deep dive to evaluate all the different aspects of the child to really figure out "Well, what do we need to do to support this student and do they truly need extra help or are there other interventions that we can do?" I also want to make sure that we mention, unfortunately, private schools are not compelled to offer IEPs. So, that umbrella could be religious schools or private schools that they are not compelled or they are not they don't have to follow IEPs. So, if you are a family that is sending a child to a private school, you are able to get special education services. It just might not be through the school. It could be through a service plan, better known as an individualized services plan. Next question: "All right. Mr. Saavedra, I heard about these numbers, 504. What is it?" It's another question I get all the time. What is a 504 plan? I'm sure people have heard of that, too. So, let's make sure we clarify for everybody out there. IEP and 504 are two different things. Sometimes they cover the same thing, but they are two different things. So, let's jump in. In school, some students receive support under a 504 plan rather than an IEP. A 504 plan isn't part of special education, and it serves a different purpose than an IEP. So, if you come to school saying, "I got a 504," that's not something that's covered under special education. It's not under IDEA. It's a totally different thing. 504 is really based on two specific requirements. Number one, the child or the student has to have a disability, and this disability could fall under a host of different situations. But there has to be a disability in place. It covers a wide range of different struggles in school. And the second is that the disability must interfere with the child's ability to learn on a general education classroom. If you can think of it as, sometimes this relates to like a physical situation. So, if a child has a health condition that prevents them from being in a general education classroom or they need extra support in that classroom, this could fall under the purview of the counselors, but also the school nurse. They might be heavily involved in creating a 504 plan. 504 also has a broader definition of what a disability is than IDEA. It says that a disability must substantially limit one are more basic life activities. This can include learning, reading, communicating, and thinking. That's why a child who doesn't qualify for an IEP might still be able to get a 504 plan. We've gone into it in a host of different episodes, and the Understood Network has plenty of information around the differences between IEP and 504. Those of us that work with students or we have a child with ADHD, sometimes ADHD might fall under a 504 plan as opposed to an IEP. So, if you're somebody that wants to learn more about that, obviously go check out Understood.org. You get everything you need. Next question. This is one that I get all the time: "Mr. Saavedra, how can you tell if your child or my child is struggling with a learning disability?" So, there's not an easy answer to that question, right? It's not something that just you do checklists and "All right, now I got it. I figured it out," it really boils down to observation and evaluation. So, the signs really depend on what the learning disability is, right? They can look really different at different ages and within different people. And not everybody has the same level of difficulty, right? A child could be struggling with reading at four years old, whereas by the time they're nine, they could be completely different and caught up. Whereas a child might be struggling with attention issues after spring break, but then they're perfectly fine in the middle of the wintertime. And so, it all depends on what the situation is. It depends on what their history of learning is. It depends on the team of people that are paying close attention. But as a parent or as a parenting adult, you want to make sure that you're paying attention to how your child's progressing. What are some signs that you notice that might not directly be related to their skills? Right? It's not just what they can do. It's a host of other things involved. People with learning disabilities are more likely to develop anxiety or low self-esteem, right? And so we know we want to pay attention to that. If your child is coming home and saying, "Mom, Dad, I'm really not feeling school," or "Mom, Dad, I'm really nervous to go to school tomorrow. I don't want to go," that's something you want to pay attention to. And I always recommend: ask your child lots and lots of questions, open-ended questions, right? Don't fill in the blanks for them. Something that we do at home with our own children, I pick my kids up today and I put them in the back of the car and I tell them, "How was your day today?" And I leave it open-ended. It's not "Did you have a good day?" It's just "How was your day? Tell me about it." And so, it leaves it open because it's not saying, "Oh, you had to have a good day today, so I'm going to make something up that makes it good." I want to know, like, was it a good day? Was it not a good day? Was it an OK day? What's happening? Fill in the blanks. So, when you notice signs like that and you allow your children to tell you what's happening, it really can help you figure out "Is there something deeper going on?" Sometimes kids may try to cover up some of the challenges by acting out at school or at home. We've done a few episodes on how challenging behaviors manifest themselves, and so, there's a times when some of that is a coping mechanism because students are struggling. And so, again, really paying attention and asking questions is most important. People of all ages, me included, may avoid a task that they struggle with. And so, ask questions. Pay attention. See what you can find out. Next question, "Mr. Saavedra, how are learning disabilities diagnosed? How are they officially diagnosed?" So, I'm going back to the word that I said multiple times, but I'm going to say it again so that we're crystal clear. The only way to know for sure if a child has a learning disability is through an evaluation. An evaluation is going to look for any specific strengths and challenges in reading, writing, math skills. There also might be a psychological evaluation. There might be a behavioral evaluation. But these evaluations are comprehensive. So, it's not looking at one thing. It's a comprehensive look at the student as a full child and a full learner. They can happen at school or they can be privately conducted. There are some professionals who assess students for learning disabilities. These, again, can include school psychologists, clinical psychologists, and neuropsychologists. And sometimes you might find that there's pediatricians that are involved or even a psychological group that focus on specific learning disabilities that can help with this process. But the key is that it's not something that you just say, "Oh, my kid got a learning disability. There's nothing wrong with that." And if you ever hear somebody say that, then you immediately go back to this episode and say that Mr. Saavedra, a.k.a. your boy Julian, said, "You have to use evaluations to diagnose any learning disabilities," and that's it. That's the only way. So, this leads into a next question: "What rights do families and students have in terms of their school experience?" This is one that is incredibly important. And if I'm being 100% honest, our podcast is called The Opportunity Gap. This is really where the rubber hits the road right here, where there is a gap in how the legal rights of families are provided by schools based on income, based on socioeconomic status, based on race, based on gender, based on a host of other demographic challenges. And so, we want to make it clear that those of us that are listening, especially our families of color, you have rights and you're hearing from an assistant principal. I am part of the system. And I'm telling you, you have rights. You deserve those rights. And you need to be very clear on what type of educational experience you should be receiving. So, parents who are considering having their child evaluated, make sure you know which rights you're entitled to legally before you even begin the process. There's a fantastic article by Understood.org that goes through all the different rights that parents have. But the long and short is that an evaluation is a process. It's not a quick thing. It's not something that happens overnight. It takes some time. It could take up to three, four, five days, or sometimes in some cases a couple of weeks. It all depends on what the schedule is. It depends on who is involved in the team. Just know that there are a couple of important things that, as families and as people who live in this country, based on federal law, you have every right to have. And these can include, one: You have the right to request an evaluation. I always recommend that if you are requesting an evaluation, the school should receive that request in writing. So, either writing it on a note or asking for an evaluation in an email to an administrator or a teacher. And that written documentation that's time-stamped, that tells the school, "All right," at least in Pennsylvania, we have 60 days, 60 school days to process that evaluation. So, legally, if you requested, then the schools have to honor that request. You also have a right to receive written notice of the school's decision, right? So, you can request the evaluation, but then you need to have notice and clear clarification as to what the results of that evaluation are in a certain amount of time. And that's a legal right. You have the right to give or refuse consent. And, you know, once you start this process, there is a host of documents that will be sent to you for you to agree or not agree. So, at any step of the process, if something is not feeling right, you can say, "I'm not providing consent to this and step out." All right, so that's your right. You don't feel like you're ever being forced to do something that you as a family don't believe in. You also have the right to a thorough evaluation, like I've mentioned a few times. An evaluation is a full team of people. Ask for their credentials. What is there, there's stuff behind what they're doing? Do they have the proper credentials to be doing this evaluation? Well, I mean, it's not the end all be all, but ask for where did they get their own school degrees? Where did they go to school for their information? What kind of experience do they have? So that you understand clearly who are these people that are evaluating my student? And lastly, you have a right to be free of discrimination. And you know, those of us that are people of color, this is something that we've talked about extensively on the podcast, that there is rampant discrimination in schools. I mean, it's a fact. And special education specifically, there is discrimination that comes out in many forms, whether it be explicit bias, like explicitly saying things that are based in discriminatory practices, or implicit meaning it's not come outright and said, but you just feel it. And, you know, many of us have experience that we know what that feels like. We know that that's not right. And if you get any inkling of that feeling, those families of color or those that are not but are allies of people of color, if you get any inkling of that, please make sure that you write down what was said. You make sure that you timestamp when it happened, and you put it in writing so that you can go back and document that for later on. Because those practices are not legal. It is not legal. It is not what you or anybody that is involved with you deserves to have. And so, your rights as a family and as somebody being educated in this country is that you deserve certain legal protections, especially when it comes to discriminatory practices and special education. A school can only deny an evaluation request if it believes that there's no evidence your child has a disability and they have to make sure that they explain in writing why the school is denying the request for evaluation. Woah, that's a lot of information. But it's information that you need to know. So, again, the big hits from this are those of you that are parents and you have children, make sure that you're paying close attention to the signs of any struggles that they're having. Ask them lots and lots and lots of questions. IEPs and 504s are two different things, but an evaluation is incredibly important. You have a legal right to get the information, to get the evaluation, to be supported by schools at any point in this process. I really hope you enjoyed listening to my solo episode. I like talking to other people too, but sometimes we've just got to break it down with just me, and I hope that this helps you have a greater understanding of learning disabilities and the special education process. We could go on and on and on about it, but these are just really the nitty gritty, most important things you need to know. Before we go, I have to share some of our helpful resources. Number one, one of our sister podcasts "Understood Explains," they have an episode that is entitled "How to decide if your child needs a special education evaluation." Check it out. It really breaks down every step by step in the process to decide if that is the route you need to go. So, check it out. Also another resource, Understood.org's article "What are learning disabilities?" And lastly, another article from Understood.org "Learning about evaluations." If you don't remember anything about this podcast, remember the word "evaluations." It's incredibly important in the process. Again, I can't thank you enough for choosing to take the time to listen to us and join us. Spread the word. We're really trying to get this information out there. It is incredibly important. I deal with this on a daily basis in the honored position of being an assistant principal. I love my job and I love the work that we do. But I also know that there are families out there struggling to get this information. And so, if you're listening, share. Share this information with others, because we want to make sure that everybody has the tools they need. Thank you once again, Opportunity Gap. We'll see you on the next one. Take care. "The Opportunity Gap" is produced by Tara Drinks, edited by Cin Pim. Ilana Millner is our production director. Our theme music was written by Justin D. Wright, who also mixes the show for the Understood Podcast Network. Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer. Thanks for listening. See you next time.

  • How to get your child help in school without an evaluation

    Your child is having trouble in school and needs a little help. You may have heard about special education and evaluations, but you’re looking for something simpler that can help right away. Can your child get support without going through a formal process? The answer is yes, and it starts with your child’s teacher. Good teachers know that all kids have strengths and challenges. Some struggle with writing. Others have trouble focusing. There are also kids who struggle once in a while, or just with a specific task or type of schoolwork.When kids struggle in class, teachers try different strategies to see which ones help. For example, if a child comes to class all worked up and is having trouble sitting still, the teacher might let the child take a short break. If another child can’t understand a spoken direction, the teacher might write it on the board.Some strategies work for the whole classroom, while others work for only one child. The everyday strategies teachers use don’t require an evaluation, a diagnosis, or a formal plan. Teachers decide when and how to use them.Examples of strategies teachers use Here are some strategies you may see teachers use in the classroom to support kids:Quick breaks after kids finish tasksSeating where kids learn best, like at the front of the classTools to reduce fidgeting, like squeeze ballsFrequent eye contact from the teacher to help with focus Cues to help kids stay on task, like hand signals Homework notebooks that teachers and families sign off on dailyWriting key points from the day’s lessons on the board Computers for taking notes during classAudio versions of books and textDaily check-ins with the teacher after class to talk about the lessonFor many more examples, explore common strategies teachers use with struggling students.How to talk to your teacher about getting helpThere’s no set process for how teachers decide which classroom strategies might work for your child.To get help, start a conversation with your child’s teacher. Be specific about your child’s struggles. For example, don’t just say your child has trouble taking notes. Tell the teacher your child writes very slowly by hand and can’t keep up with the class lecture. Ask if there are strategies that might help. Be sure to tell the teacher about anything that’s worked in the past. At the same time, try to be open to new ideas. It’s possible the teacher has already tried some strategies to help your child. If so, ask how they’ve been working. As you talk, the teacher may suggest having other school staff weigh in. Sometimes, people like guidance counselors or reading specialists can be helpful. Some schools may have a team of teachers or an in-school program to help kids who are struggling. (This is often called an intervention team.)When kids need more than strategiesThe strategies teachers use every day can be a big boost for your child. However, there’s a limit to the kinds of help teachers can offer without a formal plan in place. Your child might need more. But how do you know? A few weeks after talking with the teacher, check in to see how things are going. If your child is still struggling, ask the teacher what your options are. The teacher might suggest a school evaluation for a formal plan, like an IEP.Even if classroom strategies are working, it’s still important to ask if the teacher will keep using them. Kids who need help long term are often better off with a formal plan. That’s because the plan will list the support your child gets and track your child’s progress.Learn more about the benefits of a school evaluation. And if you’re uncomfortable about having your child get extra help in school, learn more here.

  • Understood Explains Season 3

    IEPs: Does my child need an IEP?

    Get tips from a special education teacher on how to tell if your child needs an Individualized Education Program (IEP) — or if you may want to wait.If your child has been struggling in school, you might be wondering if they need special education. And once you start exploring special education, you’re going to run into the term IEP, which stands for Individualized Education Program.But what exactly is an IEP, anyway? On this episode of Understood Explains, host Juliana Urtubey will cover IEP basics and how to figure out if your child needs this kind of support. Timestamps[00:57] What is the purpose of an IEP?[03:27] What’s in an IEP?[05:42] Does my child need an IEP?[07:42] Should I wait to get my child an IEP?[10:05] What if my child is learning English? [11:36] Key takeawaysRelated resourcesUnderstanding IEPsAre my child’s struggles serious enough for an evaluation?How to help if English language learners are struggling in schoolSeason 1 of Understood Explains: Evaluations for Special EducationEpisode transcriptJuliana: So, your child is having some struggles in school and you're wondering if they might need an IEP. But what does this mean? On this episode of "Understood Explains," we'll cover IEP basics and how to figure out if your child needs this kind of support. From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "Understood Explains IEPs." My name is Juliana Urtubey and I'm the 2021 National Teacher of the Year. I'm also an expert in special education for multilingual learners, and I'm so excited to be your host for this season of "Understood Explains."Quick note about how we're going to structure the season: Most of the episodes focus on information that's important for all parents or guardians to know. But we also have a few episodes that are tailored for different groups of families: families with younger kids, older kids, and multilingual learners. And all the episodes are available in English y en español. OK, let's get started. [00:57] What is the purpose of an IEP?So, what's the purpose of an IEP? Before we answer that question, I want to quickly explain what an IEP is. IEP stands for Individualized Education Program. It's a formal plan that details the special education instruction, supports, and services that are designed to help a student with a disability make progress in school. IEPs are covered by a federal law called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. This law applies to all public schools in the U.S., including charter schools. If your child qualifies for an IEP, you'll work with the school to develop annual goals and monitor your child's progress throughout the year. So the purpose of an IEP is basically to be a road map, showing how the school will help your child catch up with their peers. It might surprise you to know that IEPs are very common. Nearly 1 in 6 public school students has an IEP. That means millions and millions of kids have Individualized Education Programs. And each IEP is customized to a student's needs. So if your child has dyslexia, the IEP might specify an hour of special reading instruction a few times a week. Or let's say your child has ADHD and autism. Maybe you and the school think your child needs to be in a smaller classroom to get more individualized instruction throughout the day. These are the kinds of details that get spelled out in an IEP. And it's important to know that most kids who have IEPs spend most of their day in general education classrooms. By law, IEPs need to keep kids with their peers as much as possible. There's one other really important thing that all parents need to know. Having an IEP is not a sign of low intelligence. I've taught many, many kids, and all of my students have unique strengths and needs. But sometimes, people's strengths can be overlooked if they have a learning difference. For example, during my first year of teaching, I had a student named Abelardo, who really struggled with reading and writing. The most I had ever seen him write was "Yes," "No," and his name. But one day, we discovered that Abelardo was selling candy and fun school supplies out of his backpack. And he was so good at it. He even had charts to keep track of his inventory and charts to show what was the most popular. And his charts were even color-coded. It was clear to me that Abelardo had incredible math, reasoning, and entrepreneurial skills. But he needed formal supports to help him with reading and writing. So remember, kids can do really well in some areas and still need an IEP to help them thrive in school. [03:27] What's in an IEP?Let's get into a bit more detail and talk about what's in an IEP. There are lots of important parts, but I want to give you an overview of four key things in an IEP. First, there will be a section detailing your child's present level of educational performance. This is the jargony term for how your child is doing in school. You might hear the school use acronyms for this, like "PLOP," or "PLP," or "PLAAFP," which is short for "Present Level of Academic Achievement and Functional Performance." This part of the IEP outlines the student's strengths, challenges, and how their classroom scores compare to their peers. This section may also mention some of your child's behaviors or interests, like the subjects they enjoy and how they get along with other kids. Next, there will be an "Annual Goals" section. This describes what progress the IEP team is hoping to accomplish. It will list each goal and break down shorter-term objectives to reach along the way. And later this season, we'll have a whole episode on how you can help the school come up with these goals. The third main part of an IEP is the "Services" section. This part details how the IEP will help your child meet the annual goals. This section lists any services your child will get and for how long, such as 30 minutes of speech therapy twice a week. There are also a gazillion different kinds of services that can go into an IEP. Anything from mental health counseling to physical therapy to training in things like social skills or time management. Remember that “I” in IEP is short for "Individualized," which means the IEP can include whatever special services your child needs to make progress in school. And last but not least, is the section that details the accommodations, which are changes in how your child does things at school. This section of the IEP is often called "Supplementary Aids and Services." It could include things like more time on tests and a seat at the front of the classroom to help your child pay attention. It could also include assistive technology like text-to-speech software or audiobooks. The other important thing to note is that an IEP is a legal document. And later this season, we'll have an episode about your rights during the special education process. [05:42] Does my child need an IEP?All right, here we go. One of the biggest questions: Does my child need an IEP? Sometimes the answer to this question is very clear: "My child is blind and needs to be taught how to read Braille." But sometimes the question is harder to answer. Here's an example: "My child has ADHD and needs a lot of support to get organized and follow directions. Will classroom accommodations be enough to help my child make progress in school? Or does my child need specialized instruction?" Schools look at a bunch of different kinds of data to figure out which kids qualify for an IEP. And to help you understand this process, I recommend you listen to the first season of "Understood Explains," which is all about evaluations for special education. We'll include a link in the show notes. But the school cannot evaluate your child for special education unless you give permission first. So you play a very important role here. If your child is struggling in school and you're wondering if these struggles are serious enough to need an IEP, I want you to ask yourself a few questions:Why an IEP now? What got you thinking about this? Was it something a teacher said or that your child brought up? Are your concerns new or have you been worried for a while? Thinking about what prompted your concerns can help you talk about them with your child's school or health care provider. How are your child's struggles getting in the way at school? Is your child having trouble with a certain subject like reading or math? Is your child struggling socially or with things like concentrating in class? Try to write down a few examples, even if you don't know the root cause. What are you observing at home? Does homework take hours and hours and often end in tears? How often is your child worried about school? How intense are these worries? Is your child wanting to stay home from school because it's too hard? These are the kinds of questions that can help you get ready to talk to the school about giving your child more support. [07:42] Should I wait to get my child an IEP?Should I wait to get my child an IEP? OK, so you've noticed your child is struggling and you think school supports might help. There's a very common question that parents ask themselves next: Is now the right time, or should I wait? I've worked with a lot of parents who wanted to wait because they were hoping their child would grow out of their challenges. But I found that the sooner we meet children's needs, the better. Being proactive can help kids in many different ways: academically, socially, emotionally. So if you're wondering if your child needs an IEP now or if you can wait, I want you to do three key things:First, ask the school what kind of interventions they've tried with your child and for how long. Interventions are much more formal than simply giving a student some extra help. They typically take place over several weeks, and during that time the school keeps track of your child's progress. If you think your child's skills are improving with the intervention, you may decide to wait to ask for a special education evaluation. But you don't have to wait. You can ask for an evaluation at any time. The second thing I want you to do is find an ally at your child's school, whether it's a teacher or an aide or another staff member. Sometimes schools have family liaisons. You can ask the front office to guide you to one. Having a relationship with someone you trust at the school will help you understand the process, ask questions, and get help for your child. And the last thing I want you to think about is time of year. Remember, you have the right to request an evaluation at any time, but practically speaking, it's better to avoid asking during the first few weeks of the school year unless you had concerns from the previous year. And likewise, it's better to avoid asking for an IEP at the very end of the school year, when school's winding down for the summer. So, those are a few concrete things you can do to help you think about whether now is the right time to talk about an IEP, or if you want to wait. As a general note, I know many families may be reluctant to speak up or be seen as the squeaky wheel at school. And in particular, I know some Latino families may not feel like it's their place to tell the school how to educate their child. But I want to be really clear here. Schools in the U.S. want families to tell teachers when they're worried about their child's progress. And teachers want to partner with families. So I encourage you to talk with your child's teacher and share your concerns — whether you're asking for an IEP or not. [10:05] What if my child is learning English? So, this next question is near and dear to my heart: What if my child is learning English? Before we dig into this, I want to note that schools use different terms to describe students who speak languages at home, in addition to, or other than English. Many educators use the term "English language learners." I prefer the term "multilingual," and better yet, "linguistically gifted."The important thing to keep in mind is that all children learn languages at different rates, and that's OK. It can be hard to become fluent in English while also learning to read, write, and do math in that new language. But there are ways to tell if a child's struggles are due to a language barrier or something else, like a learning difference, such as dyslexia. We're going to talk more about this later this season, but for now, I'm going to put a link in the show notes to an Understood article to read if your multilingual learner is struggling in school. It includes lots of good questions to help think about whether your child might need an IEP. And there's one more thing I want to mention while we're on this topic. Learning more than one language cannot cause a learning difference or disability. All children, even children with learning and thinking differences, can be multilingual. Families often ask me if they should stop speaking to their child in their native language because they worry it's causing harm. That's just not true. In fact, educational experts recommend that families keep using their home languages. Speaking multiple languages is good for a child's learning and brain development. [11:36] Key takeaways OK, we've covered a lot of information in this episode, so I want to wrap up with a few key takeaways to help you think about whether your child needs an IEP:Think about how much or how often your child is struggling. Being proactive can help your child in the long run, not just academically, but also socially and emotionally. Kids can do really well in some areas and still need an IEP to thrive in school. All right. That's it for this episode of "Understood Explains." Tune in for the next episode to learn the difference between IEPs and 504 plans, which is another common type of school support. You've been listening to "Understood Explains IEPs." This season was developed in partnership with UnidosUS, which is the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization. Gracias, Unidos! If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we've mentioned in the episode. Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at understood.org/mission. Credits Understood Explains IEPs was produced by Julie Rawe and Cody Nelson, with editing support by Daniella Tello-Garzon.Video was produced by Calvin Knie and Christoph Manuel with support from Denver Milord.Mixing and music by Justin D. Wright.Ilana Millner was our production director. Margie DeSantis provided editorial support, and Whitney Reynolds was our web producer. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer.Special thanks to the team of expert advisors who helped shape this season: Shivohn García, Claudia Rinaldi, and Julian Saavedra.

  • The school evaluation process: What to expect

    What happens during the school evaluation process? A key part of that question is the word process. That’s because in the case of school evaluations, evaluation doesn’t mean the same thing as test.It’s called an evaluation process because there are a series of steps that go into it. A school evaluation looks at a student’s areas of challenges and strengths. Doing just one test or assessment wouldn’t provide all the information an IEP team needs to make decisions about services, supports, and interventions. In most schools, an evaluation is called a comprehensive educational evaluation. Keep in mind that not all schools handle this evaluation process the same way. But here are some typical parts to the process:Creating an evaluation planParents can request an evaluation, or the school can refer students for one. In either case, an evaluation team meets to review the request/referral. That team includes teachers who work with the student. Others on the team include the student’s family, a special education teacher, and a school administrator. The team talks about the reasons for the request/referral, and they decide what tests the student needs. Then, they come up with a plan that outlines the recommended testing. That may include: Psycho-educational testing: This involves two types of testing. One is cognitive. The other is achievement. Cognitive tests look at how a student processes information. Achievement tests focus on academics — how a student does with school-related skills, based on age or grade.Interviews: These may be in person. They may also be through questionnaires with the family, the student, and teachers. The goal is to get a detailed look at the child’s social, functional, and academic history.Classroom observation: This gives a sense of how the student functions in the classroom.Functional behavioral assessment (FBA): This gives a better understanding of any behavior challenges that may have been getting in the way of learning. Psychological evaluation: This takes a closer look at the student’s emotions, behavior, and social skills. Other evaluations: These may include speech-language, physical therapy, occupational therapy, or other specialized evaluations. Getting consent to do the evaluationAs your child’s parent or legal guardian, you have to give written consent before the testing happens. As you look over the evaluation plan, ask questions before you provide consent. Here are some questions to ask: 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 case manager or coordinator to explain.) What does each test measure? What’s the format of the test (like written or verbal)? Is there a specific purpose for the classroom observation? Will the observation be done during a class that my child is struggling in? Which evaluator will work with my child? What are the evaluator’s credentials and experience? Having the evaluationFor the most part, testing happens at school. Sometimes, a school district doesn’t have a specific type of evaluator on staff. In that case, a student may have to go to an outside professional’s office.If the student is taking many tests, the evaluation may take place over many days. But it must be finished within 60 days of the referral. (Most states use that time frame, but not all.)Listen to Season 1 of the Understood Explains podcast, which covers the ins and outs of the process that schools use to evaluate kids for special education.An evaluation looks at all areas of a child’s development, and at least two professionals evaluate and observe. The professionals who evaluate students: Have training and credentials in the area of development they’re testing, like speech and language Have experience working with kids Know the expected behaviors and skills of kids of various ages Share information to help get the best picture of a studentTest results aren’t the only things evaluators look at to assess a student’s skills. They read and review a student’s records, work samples, and screenings. They also speak with families, teachers, and the student. You may or may not be present during your child’s testing, depending on the type of assessment and the school’s policies. But even if you’re not there, you can still play an active role. Help your child understand the evaluation process. Make sure to tell your child that the evaluation isn’t something you study for. Knowing that can help reduce stress. Your child will probably be pulled out of the classroom to participate in some testing. Talk about this ahead of time so it doesn’t come as a surprise.  Expect to hear from the evaluator about finding time to share information. But if you don’t hear, it’s OK to reach out to set up some time.Going over the resultsThe evaluation ends with a written report. Each evaluator writes about their part. The report includes the reasons for the request/referral. It should also provide scores and a summary of what the evaluator learned.Many reports also give recommendations for how to help a student. The evaluation team will meet with the IEP team to talk about the results and recommendations. This is called an eligibility meeting. Parents find out at this meeting if their child is eligible for special education services.As a parent, you have the right to see evaluation results at least three business days before the eligibility meeting. If you haven’t gotten a copy before then, get in touch with the IEP coordinator to ask for them. The information from an evaluation can point everyone in the right direction to help a student. If you’re a parent, read more about preparing for an evaluation. Are you an educator? Learn more about what to expect and how to participate in an IEP meeting. 

  • Understood Explains Season 3

    IEPs: English language learners and IEPs

    Learn how IEPs can help kids who are learning English as an additional language. Many kids in the U.S. are learning English as an additional language. For some, it may be their second, third, or fourth language. Their English skills can vary widely, too. Some kids may speak conversational English and need to learn academic words, like “add” and “subtract.” And others may be learning a lot of words in English and in their home language at the same time. So there can be a lot of different starting points for what some schools call English language learners or multilingual learners. As a parent, it can be hard to tell if you’re seeing common challenges that come with learning a new language. Or if you're seeing signs of a learning difference, like dyslexia or ADHD. Fortunately, schools can help in both of these areas. And part of that help could include an IEP, or Individualized Education Program. On this episode of Understood Explains, host Juliana Urtubey will share how. Timestamps[01:52] School supports for multilingual learners [04:32] Myths and facts[07:47] Evaluations and IEPs[10:24] Your rights as a parent or guardian [12:00] Key takeawaysRelated resourcesFor ELL families: Why and how to partner with teachersListen: Understanding common IEP challenges for families of colorHow to help if English language learners are struggling in schoolEpisode transcriptJuliana: Many kids in the U.S. are learning English as an additional language. For some kids, English may be their second or third or even fourth language. Some kids may speak conversational English and need to learn academic words like "add" and "subtract," and some kids may be learning a lot of words in English and in their home language at the same time. So there can be a lot of different starting points for what some schools call English language learners. As a parent, it can be hard to tell if you're seeing common challenges that come with learning a new language, or if you might also be seeing signs of a learning difference like dyslexia or ADHD. Schools can help in both of these areas, and I'm going to tell you how. From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "Understood Explains IEPs." On this episode, we're talking about IEPs and multilingual learners. My name is Juliana Urtubey and I'm the 2021 National Teacher of the Year. I'm also an expert in special education for multilingual learners. And I'm your host for this season of "Understood Explains," which is available in English y en español. Before we get into this episode, a quick vocab note. A lot of schools use a term "English language learner," but I prefer the term "multilingual learner." And here's why. When I first started teaching, I had a student who I'll call Jessica. Jessica was in third grade and she spoke four languages. She was using American Sign Language at home with her parents, who are both deaf. She spoke Tagalog with her Lola, her grandmother from the Philippines, and Spanish with her abuelita from Mexico, and she was learning English at school. Jessica was so much more than just an English language learner. She's what I like to call linguistically gifted.So, I want to start this episode by giving a shout out to all the multilingual learners who, like Jessica, have many strengths that aren't always fully recognized in school. [01:52] School supports for multilingual learners OK, there are two kinds of school supports I want you to know about for multilingual learners. First, there's English language development, and this is the class that helps students learn how to listen, speak, read, and write in English. Some schools call it English as a second language or ESL. There's also English as a new language, and some schools call it English for multilingual students. So, this class can be called many things, and it teaches two kinds of language skills that you might hear the school talk about. First, there's BICS, which is short for Basic interpersonal communication skills. BICS is a term for conversational English. It involves common words that people use in everyday life, like saying you want to eat an apple or that you can't find your backpack. Kids tend to develop these social language skills pretty quickly, often within six months to two years. The other set of language skills you may hear the school talk about is called CALP. This is short for cognitive academic language proficiency, and this is the term for more formal language that gets used in classrooms and textbooks. CALP covers academic language. According to Jim Cummins' BICS and CALP theory, these language skills can take a lot longer to develop. A lot of kids may have not learned these academic words in their home language in school. They may even take 5 to 7 years to reach this kind of fluency in English. OK, so BICS and CALP are important acronyms for parents to know, and schools can help kids develop both of these kinds of language skills. Now there's a totally different type of school service called special education. And this is designed to meet the unique needs of each child who has a disability. This might involve teaching some of the same skills that are taught in ESL class, but these skills are taught in a different way. Here's an example. Let's say a child is a native Spanish speaker and has dyslexia. So, the regular way of teaching reading in English class won't be enough to help them make progress. They need specialized instruction, just like a native English speaker with dyslexia would. Special education and ESL aren't the same thing. But your child can get supports in both if they need them, and your child can get both at the same time, like getting specialized reading instruction in Spanish while they keep working on their English skills in their language acquisition class. Later in this episode, we'll get into specifics on how to tell if your child needs English language instruction and special education, and how these services can fit together. But first, I want to spend the next section busting a few myths about disabilities. [04:32] Myths and facts Earlier this season we had a whole episode about special education myths. I want to mention four myths that are especially important for families of multilingual students to know. Myth number one: Speaking more than one language can confuse kids to the point of causing some sort of disability. I know a lot of families worry about this, so I want to be really clear here. Talking with your child in your native language while they're learning English can not cause a learning difference or disability. Our kids learn languages at different paces and that's OK. It's actually good for your child's brain to learn more than one language. So keep exposing your child to more words and ideas in your native language. The more knowledge your child builds, the more knowledge they can transfer into English. Myth number two: You can tell someone has a disability just by looking at them. This myth goes along with another common misconception that only kids with severe physical or intellectual disabilities qualify for special education. But the truth is that many students have disabilities like ADHD and dyslexia. These are hard to notice just by looking at someone, unless you see them trying to read out loud. You may not know that they have a reading disability like dyslexia, and unless you can climb inside their head and see all the thoughts racing around, you may not know that they have ADHD. These kinds of learning differences are very common, and kids can thrive in school if they get the right support. Myth number three: Kids who are well-behaved don't need more support in school. For example, in Spanish-speaking cultures, when someone is polite and kind, we say "Es muy educado." This means that they're very educated. If a child is well-behaved, many Latino families may think it's a sign that their child is doing well in school. But the truth is that many kids are quietly struggling in school. Their struggles can be overlooked. Or maybe the teacher has noticed but can't do more until you give permission. I know many families may think it's not their place or their role to ask the school if their child needs more support. But the key thing to remember here is that in the United States, teachers want to hear from you. Understood has a good article on why teachers want to partner with multilingual families, and tips to help you do this. I'll put a link in the show notes. Myth number four is about immigration enforcement. A lot of families worry that getting school services may increase the risk of getting deported. Things like meeting with the school and signing paperwork can be a big source of worry. If there's a member in the family who is undocumented. But the truth is that all children have a right to a free and public education, regardless of whether the student or their parents are citizens. And schools, as well as school bus stops are sensitive locations. This means immigration enforcement cannot happen in these places. Schools also have to follow rules about confidentiality. They cannot share paperwork with police or immigration enforcement unless there's a big emergency, like a threat to national security or public safety. So, remember, schools are safe places and they want to help your child succeed. Understood has an article with even more myths about special education and English language learners. I'll put a link in the show notes if you want to dive deeper. [07:47] Evaluations and IEPsThere are four things I want families to know about evaluations and IEPs for multilingual learners. First, you don't have to wait for your multilingual learner to be evaluated for special education. Schools often want to wait and see if skills like reading and writing improve when a student's English improves. But this could leave your child struggling for years without the right support. So, you don't have to wait. You can ask for an evaluation now. Second, you can help the school understand your child. As a parent, you know a lot of things about your child's history that are very important to share with the evaluation team. Sharing this information can help the team tease apart challenges that are related to language acquisition and challenges that are related to something else, like ADHD or dyslexia. And here are some of the kinds of details you can share. You can talk about your child's developmental milestones. For example, when your child was a baby or a toddler. Did you have any concerns about when they started walking or talking in their home language? You can also help by telling the school what you've been noticing at home. For example, if your child struggles with reading or following directions in your home language. Another way you can help is by telling the team about your child's schooling up until now. Did your child ever go to a school where their home language is spoken? If so, up until what grade? And it's also important to tell the team if your child has missed a lot of school. For example, maybe you moved around a lot. Or maybe it took a long time to get to the United States from your home country. It will help the school know if there are gaps in your child's education. You can also talk to your child's language instruction teacher and make sure they play a big role in the evaluation process. You can also ask the school to evaluate your child's skills in English and in your home language. OK, here's a third important thing I want you to know. If your child qualifies for an IEP, make sure the IEP includes both language acquisition goals and special education goals. Ask the team how much time your child will get, language services, and how much time your child will get special education services each week. The IEP should give you a really clear idea of what your child's school day will look like. And last but not least, ask the school if your child can get specialized instruction in subjects like reading or math in your home language. This might not be possible in every school, but you can advocate for what you think your child needs. Understood has a good article on how to help multilingual learners who are struggling in school. The article includes some really important questions to ask. I'll put a link in the show notes. [10:24] Your rights as a parent or guardian As a parent or guardian, you have many rights under special education law, and I want to highlight a few that are especially important for parents of multilingual learners. One of the most important rights involves the very beginning of the special education process. The school cannot evaluate your child for special education unless you give permission. And if your child qualifies for an IEP, the school cannot start providing special education services until you sign off on the plan. And this leads me to another really important right. You have the right to understand what's happening with your child's education, so you shouldn't sign off on your child's IEP until you understand and agree with what's in it. And you can also ask to get frequent updates from the IEP team. Maybe once a month or once each quarter. Think about how often you'd like to get updates. But right about now, you may be wondering "What if my English isn't very good?" You have the right to ask for a translator to help you understand what's happening at IEP meetings. So, if you aren't 100% comfortable speaking or understanding English, ask for a translator. The school must provide you one. The school also needs to translate any letters it sends to you about your child's IEP, and the school should translate your child's IEP too. If the school doesn't do this automatically, you can show them a letter from the U.S. Department of Education that says schools should translate IEPs. I'll put a link in the show notes, and if you want to learn more about special education terms and legal rights that are important for all parents to know, go back and listen to Episode 6. [12:00] Key takeawaysOK, before we go, let's sum up with some key takeaways. Learning another language cannot cause a learning difference or disability. Disabilities can be hard to notice, and even kids who are well-behaved may need more support in school. If you're multilingual, child is getting evaluated for special education. Make sure they're getting tested in English and in your home language. As a parent, you have a lot of rights, including having the school translate information into your native language. And finally, schools are safe spaces. Getting school services will not increase your risk of immigration enforcement. All right. That's it for this episode of "Understood Explains." I hope you'll join me next time when we'll talk about IEPs for young kids, for tweens, and for teens. You've been listening to "Understood Explains IEPs." This season was developed in partnership with UnidosUS, which is the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization. Gracias, Unidos! If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we've mentioned in the episode. Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at Understood.org/mission. CreditsUnderstood Explains IEPs was produced by Julie Rawe and Cody Nelson, with editing support by Daniella Tello-Garzon. Video was produced by Calvin Knie and Christoph Manuel, with support from Denver Milord.Mixing and music by Justin D. Wright.Ilana Millner was our production director. Margie DeSantis provided editorial support, and Whitney Reynolds was our web producer. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer.Special thanks to the team of expert advisors who helped shape this season: Shivohn Garcia, Claudia Rinaldi, and Julian Saavedra.

  • Requesting an evaluation

    Need a refresher on evaluation basics? Or maybe you’re still deciding whether your child needs an evaluation. If so, go back to previous steps in our evaluation journey:Learning about evaluationsDeciding on an evaluationOnce you’ve made the decision to have your child evaluated, you have to get the process rolling. It starts with a formal request letter from you. The process is fairly simple, even though it’s formal. And there are steps you can take ahead of time to get prepared.This guide provides the information you need to make your request and follow up on it to make sure the process goes smoothly.How to request a school evaluationThe request process begins with a formal letter that you write to the school. It’s not complicated, but there are certain things that definitely have to be in the letter. Once you deliver that letter, it’s important to follow up with the school to make sure your request is moving forward.Follow these steps to request a free school evaluation.Download sample letters for requesting an evaluation. You can use them as guides for writing your own.Learn why the school needs your consent to evaluate your child.If your child is under age 3, get information on how to request an early intervention evaluation.If your child goes to private school, find out if private schools have to provide free school evaluations, how the request process works, and who pays that bill.How to request a private evaluationNo matter what type of school your child goes to, you have the option for a private evaluation instead of a free school evaluation. The process for getting one is very different from getting one at school, though. Instead of making a request, you have to find and hire a professional to do the testing. These evaluations can be expensive. But you may be able to get them for free or at a low cost.Follow these steps to request a private evaluation for your child.If you’re concerned your child has ADHD, learn what to look for in an evaluation for ADHD. And if you’re thinking about getting an evaluation yourself, or your young adult child is, find out where adults can get evaluated for dyslexia or for ADHD.Waiting for the evaluationOnce you give your consent for an evaluation, special education law requires that the school complete your child’s evaluation within 60 days. (Some states use calendar days, while others use school or business days.)In the meantime, there are things you can do to get support for your child. You can ask your child’s teacher to give extra support in the classroom. You can also ask about getting your child targeted support through response to intervention (RTI).Find out what to do if the school moves too slowly with an evaluation.Learn about informal supports you can ask for while you’re waiting.Understand your child’s rights in the case that your child gets in trouble at school before having an IEP or a 504 plan.What to do if your evaluation request is deniedSometimes schools deny a request for an evaluation. There are things you can do if that happens. One option is to request an independent educational evaluation (IEE). This is an evaluation done by an outside professional, but paid for by the school.Follow these steps to take if your evaluation request is denied. You can also:Learn about options for resolving a disagreement with the school.Get help and information from the Parent Training and Information Center (PTI) in your area.Looking aheadRequesting an evaluation is the first step toward getting your child help at school. Testing will let you understand why your child struggles, and what accommodations may be helpful. Testing will also reveal your child’s strengths. It might have taken you awhile to decide to request an evaluation. Once you start the evaluation process, though, things usually move pretty quickly.Here are the next steps in your evaluation journey:Preparing for an evaluationUnderstanding evaluation results and next steps

  • Understood Explains Season 3

    IEPs: How IEPs can help with behavior challenges

    Learn the many ways that IEPs can help with your child’s behavioral challenges, and help them make progress in school. Does your child have trouble following the teacher’s rules? Are you getting a lot of calls from the principal? An IEP, or Individualized Education Program, can do a lot of things to help with behavioral challenges in school. But as you explore getting an IEP and putting it into action, things can get confusing. Along the way, you might run into wonky terms like FBA, BIP, and manifestation determination. Those terms might all sound confusing now. But in this episode of Understood Explains, host Juliana Urtubey will help you understand what they mean and how they can help your child make progress in school. Timestamps[00:46] Does my child need behavioral support at school?[04:20] Can my child get an IEP for ADHD?[05:50] What is a functional behavioral assessment?[06:58] What is a behavior intervention plan?[08:50] Can schools discipline kids with IEPs?[10:33] Key takeawaysRelated resourcesWhat is PBIS?School discipline rights for kids with IEPs and 504 plansPodcast: Understood Explains Evaluations for Special EducationTranscriptJuliana: Does your child have trouble following the teacher's rules? Are you getting a lot of calls from the principal? IEPs can do different things to help with behavior. Along the way, you might run into some wonky terms like FBA, BIP, and manifestation determination.  But by the end of this episode, you'll understand what these things mean and how they can help your child make progress in school. From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "Understood Explains IEPs." My name is Juliana Urtubey, and I'm your host. I'm the 2021 National Teacher of the Year and I'm an expert in special education for multilingual learners. And a quick reminder all of the season's episodes are available in English y en español. OK, let's get started. [00:46] Does my child need behavioral support at school? Does my child need behavioral support at school? This is a really important question, and as a teacher, I wish more parents would ask about this. Many families have a pretty old-fashioned idea of what special education is. They may think it helps mainly with academics or services like speech therapy, but there's a lot more that special education can do. If your child qualifies for special education, the team will customize your child's IEP or Individualized Education Program, and this plan can help with pretty much any type of behavior challenge like how to get started on tasks, how to get along with other kids, and even how to ask for help. The important thing to keep in mind is that behavior is a form of communication. Kids often have trouble expressing how they feel or what they need, and the IEP team can help translate what your child is trying to say. So, if you're debating whether your child needs behavioral support, here's a key question to ask, "Does my child's behavior interfere with their learning or with other kids learning?" If the answer is yes, then by law, the team must consider ways to address those behaviors. And in particular, the team needs to consider using a system called PBIS Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. I'll put a link in the show notes if you want to learn how PBIS works. But the big picture here is that there's a positive way to help kids with behavior challenges instead of just disciplining them. Schools can teach kids how to behave and reward them for meeting expectations. And this is all really important because behavior challenges can get in the way of making progress at school, even if it's something that doesn't seem like that big of a deal. Like cracking jokes to get out of schoolwork. Whatever the behavior challenge is. Talk with the IEP team about it. Together, you and the school can develop IEP goals that can help your child learn how to replace challenging behaviors. Now, earlier this season, we talked about using the SMART acronym to help develop annual goals. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results-oriented, and Time-bound. The team can use this acronym when developing annual goals for behavior, too. And let me give you an example of a behavior goal for a fifth grader who has trouble getting started on tasks. It might read "By June 1st, when Ariana is given a task or direction, she will start that task within one minute, and with no more than one verbal prompt from a school staff member. She will succeed in doing this in four out of five opportunities as measured by a teacher or paraprofessional."Here's another example, and this one's for a 10th grader who often calls out in class. "By April 30th, Jalen will track his behavior for a week and wait to be called on in five out of seven daily classes, as measured by his teachers." Now, what do we like about these goals? They're specific. They're measurable. They're all the things you want in a SMART goal. And if you want to learn more about how to set annual goals in your child's IEP, go back and listen to the previous episode. And remember, you are an equal member of your child's IEP team. So, if you have an idea for a behavior goal, suggest it. And if a new behavior issue pops up after you've already finalized the IEP, you can always request another meeting and talk about adding more goals. You don't have to wait. You can advocate for what your child needs now. [04:20] Can my child get an IEP for ADHD? One question I hear a lot from parents,"Can my child get an IEP for ADHD?" And the answer is yes. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, has 13 disability categories, and ADHD is part of the category called "Other Health Impairments," which we talk about in episode five. We also talked about how IEPs can include more than one disability. So, let's say your child has dyslexia and ADHD. It's important for the IEP to include both. The big thing to remember here is that to qualify for an IEP, the disability needs to affect your child enough to need specially designed instruction and supports. And with ADHD, that instruction could involve being taught skills or strategies for things like organization or impulse control or task completion. But if the ADHD symptoms are relatively mild, your child might not qualify for an IEP. And if this happens, the school might recommend a 504 plan instead. This type of school support is easier to qualify for and can provide classroom accommodations, like sitting near the teacher and taking tests in a quiet room with fewer distractions. A lot of kids with ADHD have IEPs, and a lot of kids with ADHD have 504 plans. If you want to learn more about the difference between these kinds of school supports, go back and listen to Episode 2. [05:50] What is a functional behavioral assessment or FBA? What is a functional behavioral assessment, or FBA? This is a term you might hear if your child is having behavior challenges at school. And the goal of an FBA is to figure out why a child is behaving in disruptive or challenging ways. As part of the FBA, the school interview the student and family, observe the student in class, and analyze any behavior incident reports, like getting sent to the principal's office. There might be some additional testing too. Sometimes schools will do an FBA as a part of the evaluation process to see if a child qualifies for special education. And the school may need to do an FBA for a child who already has an IEP if a new behavior concern arises. But as a parent or guardian, you can also request an FBA. And it's a good idea to put this request in writing and to keep a copy for your records. Remember, the goal of an FBA is to figure out what's fueling the behavior. This information will help the school develop a support plan, and we'll talk more about that in the next section. [06:58] What is a behavior intervention plan? So, what is a behavior intervention plan? This is a formal written plan that teaches and rewards positive behavior. Lots of teachers like me call it a bip, but you might hear it called BIP. BIPs are designed to help prevent behaviors that get in the way of learning. There are three key parts to a BIP. It names the challenging behaviors, describes why they're happening, and it puts into place strategies or supports to help.For example, BIPs can be great for students who struggle with social skills and aren't sure how to connect with others. One of my former students, who we'll call Eduardo, often hit others and called them names because he had trouble expressing what he needed or wanted. So, as a part of his behavior intervention plan, I taught him how to take turns and interact with his peers. I also made a daily chart where the words would reflect on his goal of speaking respectfully to others. There was also space in his chart for his general education teachers to give him feedback. And every day we'd write a quick note to his family to celebrate his growth. We also set up his BIP so he could earn special activities to help him stay motivated. But the ultimate motivation was the positive connections he started making with his peers. Eduardo made so much improvement that year thanks to his BIP and like an IEP, a behavior intervention plan will bring together a whole team of people to focus on your child's needs. And this team approach can help address teacher bias too. If you look at federal data, it shows that Black and Latino students get disciplined more often than other kids. So, if your child is having behavior challenges, a BIP is one way to make sure that your child is treated fairly and gets the support that they need in school to succeed. [08:50] Can schools discipline kids with IEPs? Can schools discipline kids with IEPs? The answer is yes, but IEPs come with some protections if kids break school rules. These protections kick in if a child gets suspended for more than ten days total, or if there's a pattern of suspending a child for the same behavior, even if it's less than ten days. If either of these things happen, the school needs to have a special meeting. This meeting is called a manifestation determination. And there are three things that I want you to know about this meeting. First, the team will decide if the behavior is caused by the child's disability, and if so, the team needs to create a BIP and the child can return to school. This is why earlier this season, we mentioned the importance of documenting all of your child's disabilities in the IEP. Second, if the team decides the behavior was caused by not following the IEP, the school has to fix the situation right away and the child can return to school. And third, if the team decides the behavior wasn't caused by the child's disability, the time away from school can continue, but the child must keep getting the services in their IEP. For example, if a child has dyslexia, the school needs to keep providing specialized reading instruction even while the child is suspended. The key thing to remember is that the school needs to figure out what caused the behavior, and look for ways to address it. I'll put a link in the show notes if you want to learn more about school discipline and the rights of kids with disabilities. [10:33] Key takeawaysOkay, before we go, let's sum up what we learned today with a few key takeaways. Behavior is a form of communication, and schools can take a close look at it to figure out where kids need more support. As a parent, you can ask the IEP team to include annual goals for behavior. You can also ask for a functional behavioral assessment and a behavior intervention plan. And if your child gets suspended, you'll want to know what special education law says about manifestation determination, and discipline in kids with IEPs. All right. That's it for this episode of "Understood Explains." Next time, we'll talk about resolving IEP disputes, including what to do if you think your child's IEP isn't working. You've been listening to "Understood Explains IEPs." This season was developed in partnership with UnidosUS, which is the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization. Gracias, Unidos! If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we've mentioned in the episode. Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at Understood.org/mission. CreditsUnderstood Explains IEPs was produced by Julie Rawe and Cody Nelson, with editing support by Daniella Tello-Garzon. Video was produced by Calvin Knie and Christoph Manuel, with support from Denver Milord.Mixing and music by Justin D. Wright.Ilana Millner was our production director. Margie DeSantis provided editorial support, and Whitney Reynolds was our web producer. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer.Special thanks to the team of expert advisors who helped shape this season: Shivohn Garcia, Claudia Rinaldi, and Julian Saavedra.

  • Conversation starters to use with your child’s teachers

    Not sure how to talk to teachers about your child’s struggles in school? Try these conversation starters. They’ll help you bring up topics like school services, evaluations, behavior challenges, and more.

  • Understood Explains Season 1

    How to decide if your child needs a special education evaluation

    How do schools and families decide if a child needs an evaluation? Get tips to help decide if now is the right time or if you should wait. schools decide child needs evaluation special education? role families play? episode Understood Explains focuses beginning process — deciding child needs get evaluated. Host Dr. Andy Kahn psychologist spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids public private schools. Andy’s first guest episode educator Julian Saavedra. They’ll cover key areas:Deciding right time evaluate, waitAddressing stigma, myths, common challenges get wayFinding ally help partner child’s schoolAndy’s second guest parenting expert Amanda Morin. They’ll give ideas say child deciding get evaluation — say.Related resourcesDeciding evaluationAre child’s struggles serious enough evaluation?What response intervention (RTI)?10 special education myths may hearEpisode transcriptMichele: name Michele, live Bronx, New York. I've road three different times, three different sons. youngest son, say, even though sat discussed first evaluated, eighth grade upset. took hard. felt being, know, viewed slow, smart, crazy. means conversation little different him, wanted understand didn't mean damaged something wrong him, see struggling. Andy: Understood Podcast Network, "Understood Explains." You're listening Season 1, explain evaluations special education. 10 episodes, cover ins outs process school districts use evaluate children special education services. name Andy Kahn, I'm licensed psychologist in-house expert Understood.org. I've spent nearly 20 years evaluating kids public private schools. I'll host.Today's episode focus beginning evaluation process — deciding child needs evaluated. We're going cover three key things: deciding now's right time evaluate wait, addressing stigma challenges get way, finding ally help partner child's school. We're also going give ideas say child deciding get evaluation say. First, let's hear Michele's story.Michele: never, time, go school asking. asked child evaluated, don't fight it, like, "Oh, child, doesn't need evaluated." say, "OK, great. that's think, he's school, don't know what's going he's every day. explain what's going on. Yes, let's it."Andy: It's big decision deciding child needs evaluated special education services. It's decision families schools need make together. it's common wonder child's struggles serious enough child might outgrow whatever issue is. schools families decide child needs evaluated really important. it's extremely important know, "Should evaluate now?" first guest today going help unpack this.Julian Saavedra assistant principal Philadelphia high school. He's also father two co-host Understood podcast "The Opportunity Gap," kids color ADHD, dyslexia, learning differences. glad here, Julian.Julian: Hey!Andy: let's dive in. common questions schools families ask whether evaluate child wait? biggest factors come play?Julian: think types questions schools ask, it's really progression student's abilities. Like, student regular education setting, student progressing, factors impeding progress? thing families — lot times families might wondering, know, what's going child? come they're well peers? lot times try figure specific things impacting student's learning? evaluation process hopefully designed uncover specific things happening student best served.Andy: really common, know, work life, family might conversation me, come say, "You know, really don't know — Johnny's, Johnny's struggling needs math. we're seeing he's getting upset home. we're really sure do. here's things we've tried." qualitative pieces helpful conversation, know, it's grade number piece paper grade-level standard. think much talk making decisions, talks academics well sort emotional response.Julian: Mm-hm.Andy: So, Julian, let's take couple minutes talk key terms families need know. always talk about, like, terminology important. families aware terminology language we're using, they're going better able collaborate participate that. maybe talk little bit terms like "prereferral," "referral," "response intervention," things along lines.Julian: Sure. One terms you'll likely hear lot parts process idea referral. sometimes term little bit scary sounds like something related doctor's office medical thing, it's not. really referring idea there's recommendation made.And earliest part process, team teachers school staff come together, they're trying discern — determine — figure what's happening child. cases, may determine recommendation, may want consider evaluating child deem child good candidate special education services. case, would referral evaluation. parents families parenting adults involved child's life say yes agree evaluation. cannot move forward without families people child's life agreeing process starting.Now, another term may hear "prereferral." prereferral conversation data collection involved official referral process occurs. That's there's block time team people school starts come together figure what's happening. may start looking what's going specific classrooms. may start conversations student. may even try different interventions hopefully assist student improve performance.And another word might hear idea "intervention," meaning team adults school intervening general education program try something different, try something may help student. there's different levels intervention. Andy: So, Julian, let's dig little bit. different levels look like?Julian: Tier 1 intervention something going intervene students. Everybody classroom going change. may teacher going change seats classroom, may teacher going post agenda board. Something going impact everybody.A Tier 2 intervention may something that's specific targeted group students. maybe child within targeted group. Tier 2 intervention is, again, another change regular programming attempt see whether help.Tier 3 prereferral starts really catch up. that's that's individualized approach. key families understanding processes intervention supposed happen certain amount time. time evaluate, course span intervention happening, whether change occurs. find they've tried things multiple times they're working, team might decide, right, well, maybe need go ahead referral official evaluation determine, student fall category requiring special education services?Andy: really good description prereferral intervention. case folks curious: show notes, resource there, article "What response intervention?" go back look pieces information detail. talk schools decide evaluate child special education, we're thinking school perspective, parents? Now, parents legal rights here. parents take active role deciding whether evaluate child?Julian: Parenting adults right legally say, "Yes, would like move forward evaluation process," "No." side it, parent, also right ask request

  • Preparing for an evaluation

    Need a refresher on evaluation basics? Or maybe you’re still deciding whether your child needs an evaluation or you haven’t yet requested one. If so, go back to a previous step in our evaluation journey:Learning about evaluationsDeciding on an evaluationRequesting an evaluationOnce you request an evaluation, how can you prepare yourself and your child for the evaluation itself? There’s a lot to know about the evaluation process, from who will do the testing to the tests themselves.If your child is having a private evaluation, the process and some of the terms you hear will be different. But the tests used in both types of evaluations are mostly the same.This guide can help you understand the evaluation process and how to help your child prepare for the experience.The school evaluation processUnderstanding the process helps you and your child be prepared for an evaluation. Both of you can feel more relaxed and confident knowing what to expect. If your child is having more than one type of evaluation, do your best to get familiar with how each evaluation will work.Get basic information on how the school evaluation process works.Is your child having a functional assessment? Learn about this type of evaluation.If your young child is having an early intervention evaluation, find out how that process works.Some families wonder if there’s a difference between evaluations for 504 plans and IEPs. Find out.The evaluation teamThe school psychologist might be the person who does the actual testing. But there will be others working as a team throughout your child’s evaluation process. That team might include a classroom teacher and a special education teacher, for example. One important player on the team, however, is you.Learn about who’s on the school evaluation team.If your child is having an early intervention evaluation, find out who might be on that team.Preparing for a private evaluationWhen your child is evaluated by an outside professional for ADHD or learning differences, you choose who that person will be. Often, it’s a child psychologist or neuropsychologist. Whoever you hire to evaluate your child, be sure to ask what you can expect from the process.Not sure how to choose a private evaluator? Here are some things to consider.Read about neuropsychological evaluations, which are different from educational evaluations.Learn more about the private evaluation process, and independent educational evaluations (IEEs).Maybe your child is being evaluated specifically for ADHD. If so, here are some things to keep in mind:Find out what goes into a proper ADHD evaluation.Learn about types of professionals who diagnose and work with kids with ADHD.And if you or your young adult child is being evaluated, get details on ADHD evaluations for adults or dyslexia evaluations for adults.Types of testsWhat does the actual testing involve? There are many types of tests that look for strengths and challenges in different areas. Full evaluations should look at all of those areas, not just the ones where your child seems to be struggling.For example, you and the school may suspect your child has dyslexia. But the evaluation should look at more than just reading skills. A full evaluation would include tests that look at your child’s math skills, writing skills, and other aspects of learning.Learn about the following types of tests.Tests for dyslexiaTests for dysgraphiaTests for dyscalculiaTests for executive functioning issuesTests for DCDRapid automatized naming testsPreparing your child for the evaluationEven when you know what happens in an evaluation, you may wonder how to prepare your child. Should your child study for the testing? What’s the best way to talk together about your child’s strengths and challenges? How can you manage your child’s worries?There are lots of things you can do to make your child feel more at ease about being evaluated.Get tips for responding to your child’s concerns about being evaluated.Learn the best way to talk to your child about getting evaluated.Get advice on what to say if your child says, “I’m dumb.”Finally, find out how to show empathy to your child. Kids are often nervous about getting evaluated. Showing kids that you understand and respect their concerns can motivate them and build their confidence.Your rights in the evaluation processYour immediate focus might be on the testing and what lies ahead for your child. But it’s also good to be familiar with the laws that protect you (and your child) during the evaluation process.Learn all about your evaluation rights.Find out what happens if your family transfers in the middle of your child’s evaluation.If your child gets in trouble at school and doesn’t yet have an IEP or a 504 plan, here are your rights.You may also want to become familiar with special education law, or the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). Read how kids qualify under IDEA.Looking aheadIt will likely take weeks to get the results of your child’s evaluation. But you don’t need to wait to discuss with the school any questions or concerns. You can also talk with your child’s teacher about classroom strategies that might help.You can even use this downtime to have some fun together. Being an advocate for your child is important. But it’s just as important to take a break from school struggles and spend time together.Look into supports your child’s teacher can offer while you wait for evaluation results.Discover how to give praise that builds self-esteem.Read about how to keep your child motivated.Here’s the next step in your evaluation journey:Understanding evaluation results

  • Understood Explains Season 3

    IEPs: The difference between IEPs and 504 plans

    Learn the key differences between two common plans for school support, and which one might be right for your child. The terms IEP and 504 plan may come up a lot when you’re looking into special education for your child. These school supports do some of the same things, but one can provide more services and the other is easier to get. And it’s important to know the differences in order to get your child the support they need. On this episode of Understood Explains, host Juliana Urtubey will break down the differences between IEPs and 504 plans, and which one might be right for your child. Timestamps [00:53] What is a 504 plan?[02:16] What’s the difference between an IEP and a 504 plan?[08:15] Can my child have an IEP and a 504 plan at the same time?[09:36] Should my child switch from an IEP to a 504 plan?[10:45] What do multilingual learners need to know about IEPs and 504 plans? [11:58] Key takeawaysRelated resources504 plans and your child: A guide for familiesThe difference between IEPs and 504 plans (comparison chart)10 smart responses for when the school cuts or denies servicesUnderstood Explains, Season 1: Evaluations for Special EducationEpisode transcriptJuliana: As you look into getting your child more support at school, you're likely to run into the terms IEP and 504 plan. They do some of those same things, but one has a lot more stuff and the other is a lot easier to get. On this episode of "Understood Explains," we explore how these plans are similar and how they're different, and which one might be right for your child. From the Understood Podcast Network, this is "Understood Explains IEPs." Today we're going to learn about the differences between IEPs and 504 plans. My name is Juliana Urtubey, and I'm your host. I'm the 2021 National Teacher of the Year and I'm an expert in special education for multilingual learners. And speaking of languages, I want to make sure everyone knows all the episodes this season are available in English y en español. Let's get started. [00:53] What is a 504 plan?OK. So, what's a 504 plan? Before we get into the difference between an IEP and a 504 plan, I want to quickly explain what a 504 plan is. This is a tailored plan that removes barriers to learning for a student with disabilities. The goal is to give the student equal access to learning. To do this, a 504 plan often includes assistive technology, meaning things like screen readers, noise-canceling headphones, or speech-to-text software. Many 504s also include accommodations, which are changes in the way things get done. A common example is getting extended time on tests or getting to leave the classroom to take short breaks. And the other thing I want to mention is that some 504 plans include services like speech therapy or study skill classes. This doesn't happen all that often, but services can be part of a 504. So, the basic components of a 504: Assistive technology AccommodationsServicesRight about now, you may be thinking that 504s sound a lot like IEPs, Individualized Education Programs. And you're right. These two plans have a lot in common and can provide a lot of the same supports. But there are some key differences. And that's what the whole next section is about. [02:16] What’s the difference between an IEP and a 504 plan?OK, so what's the difference between an IEP and a 504 plan? I'm going to focus on three key differences: First, IEPs provide special education services. Students with IEPs may spend a lot of time in general education classrooms, but the heart of an IEP is the specially designed instruction to help a student catch up with their peers. For example, a student with dyslexia might get specialized reading instruction a few times a week. The IEP also sets annual goals and monitors the student's progress towards reaching those goals. So the key thing here is that IEPs provide special education. 504s on the other hand, do not provide special education. There are no annual reports or progress monitoring with 504s. What 504s do is remove barriers to the general education curriculum. So 504s can be good options for, say, a student with ADHD or written expression disorder, who doesn't need specialized instruction but does need accommodations, like sitting in a less distracting part of the classroom, or showing what you know in a different way, like giving an oral report instead of taking a written test. To give you a more detailed example, I want to talk about a student of mine named Brian. He had a 504 plan to help accommodate his vision impairment. To make the plan, I talked to Brian about what he needed, and I worked with the school's assistive technology department to find some helpful tools. We learned that Brian had an easier time reading and writing when he used a slant board to help raise up the paper. He also benefited from having what's called "augmented worksheets." Rather than having a bunch of math problems on one sheet of paper, Brian would get several sheets, so the problems were spread out and enlarged and he could see them better. With these supports, Brian could do all the work on his own. And to create his 504, a school staff member wrote up the plan and included my suggestions for accommodations and assistive technology. And the only thing we needed to get started was his parents' consent. And this brings me to the second big difference between IEPs and 504s. They're covered by different laws, and IEPs come with a lot more rights and protections than 504s do. So, for example, IEPs are covered by the federal special education law, which is called the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA. This law is very focused on education and one really important detail about IDEA is that it says parents are an equal member of the team that develops the IEP. But that's not true for 504s. 504 plans are covered by an important civil rights law called The Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This law bans discrimination against people with disabilities in several key areas. It has a big section about employment. It has a big section about technology, and it also has a big section about education. This is where the name "Section 504" comes from. So, IEPs and 504 laws are covered by different laws. And one difference between these laws is how much schools are required to involve parents. With a 504 plan, parents don't have to be equal members of the team. Schools don't have to involve parents in creating this kind of plan. They just need a parent's consent before starting to use it. Although I want to mention that many schools encourage families to help create the 504 plan, schools aren't required to involve them. There are also different rules about what schools need to do to make changes to these plans. With 504s, schools have to let parents know if a significant change is being made to the student's 504 plan. But the school doesn't have to send a written notice about this. With an IEP, schools have to send parents a letter and have a meeting with the full IEP team before they can change the IEP. And if parents want to dispute the changes, the school has to keep the current plan in place while the dispute gets resolved. With either of these plans, families can ask to make changes, but families have more rights and protections with IEPs. We'll talk more about IEP rights and dispute resolution later this season. There's a third big difference I want to mention. IEPs are harder to get than 504s. The process for determining who is eligible for an IEP takes more time and it involves more steps. Students need to have a disability to qualify for either plan, but to get an IEP, kids need to go through the school's comprehensive evaluation process. You can learn all about this process in season 1 of "Understood Explains."OK, so kids need to be evaluated by the school to get an IEP. By contrast, kids don't need to get evaluated by the school to get a 504. This kind of plan is easier to get, but it's less likely to include specialized instruction. So for example, let's look at students with ADHD. The main thing they'd need to qualify for a 504 is a diagnosis from their health care provider. But to qualify for an IEP, those same students would still need to go through the full evaluation process through their school. It's the same thing with dyslexia or depression or a hearing impairment or any type of disability. It's pretty quick to start getting accommodations and assistive technology through a 504. It takes longer to see if a child qualifies for an IEP. We're going to talk more about this later this season, but for now, I want to briefly mention the two eligibility requirements to qualify for an IEP. The evaluation team has to determine that you have a disability and that the disability impacts your education enough to need specially designed instruction. OK, that's a lot of info, let's summarize quickly before we move on. 504 plans are meant to remove barriers in general education classrooms. IEPs provide specialized instruction. They take longer to get, but they come with more supports, including legal protections and annual goals. [08:15] Can my child have an IEP and a 504 plan at the same time?Can my child have an IEP and a 504 plan at the same time? Yes, it's technically possible to have both an IEP and a 504 plan, but it's unlikely your child would actually need both. That's because an IEP can include everything that's in a 504 plan and more. For example, if your child has speech impairment and ADHD, the IEP can include speech therapy as well as accommodations related to that ADHD, like reducing distractions in the classroom and helping your child get started on tasks. There are, however, some situations where it might make sense to have both kinds of plans. For example, if a child has an IEP and gets a temporary injury, like a broken hand and needs some writing accommodations until it heals. Rather than going through the hassle of adding and removing those accommodations from an IEP, the school might choose to add them via a 504 plan. Another example of when a school might use both an IEP and a 504 plan, is if the student has a medical condition that doesn't directly impact academics, like a peanut allergy. So, there are some special cases where both plans might be OK, but in general, if your child has an IEP, keep it to that single plan. It's easier for you and for teachers to manage just one plan instead of two. [09:36] Should my child switch from an IEP to a 504 plan?Should my child switch from an IEP to a 504? So, this happens a lot, and it's not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe your child has made a lot of progress and no longer needs specialized instruction. For example, let's say your child has dyslexia and their reading skills have improved, and now all they need are tools or accommodations. This can include extra time on tests and digital textbooks that can highlight the text as it's being read out loud. Both of the supports could be covered in a 504, but if you think your child still needs specialized instruction, you can advocate to keep the IEP. We'll get into more specifics about this later in the season, but for now, I'll just put a link in the show notes to Understood's article on what to do if the school wants to reduce or remove your child's IEP services. The other thing I want to mention is that it's possible to move from a 504 plan to an IEP, but your child will need to be evaluated by the school and it takes longer to qualify for an IEP. We have a whole episode coming up about deciding who qualifies for an IEP. [10:45] What do multilingual learners need to know about IEPs and 504 plans?There are two really important things that multilingual families need to know about IEPs and 504s: First, getting your child an IEP or 504 plan does not put you or your family members at any greater risk of immigration enforcement. It's completely understandable that families with mixed immigration status might have concerns about getting formal supports at school, especially if it involves filling out paperwork with personal information. But all students in the United States have a right to a free, appropriate public education, no matter their immigration status. Plus, schools are considered sensitive locations, which means immigration enforcement cannot take place there. I'm going to talk more about this in a later episode that is all about multilingual learners. But for now, the one thing I want to mention is that formal supports in school, whether they're part of an IEP or a 504, should happen in addition to being taught English as an additional language. It's not an either or situation. You don't have to choose between disability support and language instruction. If your child needs both, your child can and should get both. [11:58] Key takeawaysAll right. That's all for this episode. But before we go, let's wrap up with some key takeaways. 504 plans are covered by a civil rights law that bans discrimination against people with disabilities. 504s remove barriers to general education. IEPs are covered by special education law and provide specially designed instruction and services for kids with a qualifying disability. Both plans can provide accommodations and assistive technology. And last but not least, specialized instruction is a core feature of IEPs, but it's not very common in 504 plans. That's it for this episode of "Understood Explains," tune in for the next episode on IEP myths. You've been listening to "Understood Explains IEPs." This season was developed in partnership with UnidosUS, which is the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization. Gracias, Unidos! If you want to learn more about the topics we covered today, check out the show notes for this episode. We include more resources as well as links to anything we've mentioned in the episode. Understood is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people who learn and think differently discover their potential and thrive. Learn more at understood.org/mission.  Credits Understood Explains IEPs was produced by Julie Rawe and Cody Nelson, with editing support by Daniella Tello-Garzon. Video was produced by Calvin Knie and Christoph Manuel, with support from Denver Milord.Mixing and music by Justin D. Wright.Ilana Millner was our production director. Margie DeSantis provided editorial support, and Whitney Reynolds was our web producer. For the Understood Podcast Network, Laura Key is our editorial director, Scott Cocchiere is our creative director, and Seth Melnick is our executive producer.Special thanks to the team of expert advisors who helped shape this season: Shivohn Garcia, Claudia Rinaldi, and Julian Saavedra.

  • Why second evaluation results may differ from first ones

    There are many reasons you may choose to get your child evaluated. And whether you get a school evaluation or a private evaluation, there are many reasons you may want a second one.If both evaluations are performed properly, it’s likely that the results will be similar. But sometimes the results from different evaluations can vary. Here are some factors that could affect the results. 1. How your child was feelingHow your child feels can affect the results of the evaluation testing.Say your child is happy, alert, and well-rested when taking a test. Then it’s more likely to give an accurate assessment of abilities. But if your child hasn’t slept well, is distracted, or feels upset or even hungry, the measures may not be as accurate.Before the evaluation, it’s a good idea to explain what the evaluation is about to your child. It’s not a punishment or a graded test. It’s just a way to pinpoint areas of strength and areas where your child might need extra help. Evaluations are a tool for figuring out what kind of support will work best.Your child will notice how you feel about the evaluation. If you feel comfortable, it can help your child feel comfortable as well.For younger kids who may not have been tested before, keep the explanation short and simple. For older kids, be straightforward and calm to help them feel more relaxed. Give your child an opportunity to ask questions.It’s also important to make sure your child gets a good night’s sleep and is well-fueled before the evaluation.2. The specific tests usedEvaluators may select different tests to assess a child’s areas of strength and weakness. There are dozens of tests that can be used to learn about your child’s reading, math, spelling, and written expression skills. Each test measures skills in a slightly different way.Some evaluators may like one kind of test. Others may prefer different ways to measure the same skills. And some tests will be more helpful than others in understanding why your child is struggling in a particular area.If you request a second evaluation, it’s important to give the evaluator a list of the tests that were used the first time around. Say the second evaluation uses the same version of the same test your child already took. That means your child has already seen the questions. In some cases, that can make the second round of answers invalid.Sharing the list of tests will also help make sure you don’t miss an important testing area. Be sure to also include the results from the first evaluation when you share the list.3. The time of yearHow far along your child is in the school year can also affect testing. Early in the school year, your child may be rusty on skills the class hasn’t had a chance to practice.As a result, evaluation results may underestimate skills in certain areas. But your child may brush up on or master those skills throughout the school year.4. How the recommendations were reachedIf your child gets a school evaluation, the evaluation team (which includes you) will discuss recommendations once testing is complete.The recommendations will likely talk about a general approach the team feels would help your child. They may not mention a specific program.For example, the team may suggest that your child meet one-on-one with a reading specialist three times a week for 30 minutes to work on phonemic awareness skills. But the team may stop short of naming an actual program.If your child gets a private evaluation, the evaluator (or evaluators) may recommend a course of action. That often includes specific programs.In other words, the recommendation from one evaluation may not be as specific as another. And in some cases, recommendations that sound different are actually very similar.For example, recommendations from one evaluation may call for your child to get instruction through a multisensory structured language program. Another might recommend that your child get one-on-one sessions using the Wilson Reading System. The Wilson Reading System is one of several available multisensory structured language programs.Factors that shouldn’t affect evaluation resultsThere are some factors you may think could affect your child’s evaluation results but that generally don’t make a difference. These include:Different environments. Some tests take place at school. Some may be at doctors’ offices. But most kids will adjust to a new setting within a matter of minutes. An experienced evaluator will know how to put kids at ease and will include any concerns in the narrative of her report.Different examiners. Depending on the kind of testing being done, your child may be working with a familiar person from school. Or your child may be meeting with strangers. Again, experienced examiners will spend time helping your child feel at ease.Different levels of observation. When testing is done by the school, evaluators can observe your child in different settings and get input from teachers and others on records and past performance. Private evaluators may not be able to do a site visit at school. But they will often try to gather similar information from your child’s teachers and the school.Evaluations are key to finding the best way to help your child. That’s the goal for both public and private evaluations. Find out what to expect from the evaluation process. Learn more about what evaluation testing results mean. You may also want to look into the pros and cons of school and private evaluations.

  • ADHD Aha!

    ADHD and bullying

    People with ADHD are more likely to be bullied than others. Laura and Dr. Andy Kahn discuss why, and they hear a few stories from former guests. Kids adults ADHD likely bullied peers. honor National Bullying Prevention Month October, we’re special episode shed light problem. Psychologist Understood expert Dr. Andy Kahn — ADHD himself — answers Laura’s questions ADHD bullying. behaviors make kids ADHD targets bullying? people ADHD likely bully others? it?You’ll also hear bullying stories number “ADHD Aha!” guests — you’ve heard previous episodes, haven’t.Related resourcesBullying learning differencesThe difference teasing bullyingWhat child bullyGet information stopbullying.gov.Episode transcriptPeach: bullied elementary school. always felt like something different me, felt like always much. like talking wrong time energetic. like lot. Laura: Understood Podcast Network, "ADHD Aha," podcast people share moment finally clicked someone know ADHD. name Laura Key. I'm editorial director Understood. someone who's ADHD "aha" moment, I'll host. Hi everyone. special episode today honor National Bullying Prevention Month, every October. think important topic one doesn't get enough attention comes connection ADHD. wanted dedicate entire episode ADHD bullying. lot guests, like Peach, heard top show, talked bullying podcast. You'll hear clips throughout episode "ADHD Aha!" guests. joining today talk ADHD bullying expert perspective Dr. Andy Kahn. Andy Understood expert learning psychology host Season 1 "Understood Explains" podcast, special education evaluation process. He's licensed psychologist who's practice 20 years. much time, worked school systems evaluations, consultation, supporting families kids learn think differently. Andy also ADHD. Bonus points show. Welcome, Andy. Andy: Thanks much me. Laura: Let's hop right in. Andy, kids ADHD likely bullied? Andy: Yeah. Kids ADHD tend targeted higher number neurotypical kids. certainly there's lot reasons could be. Kids ADHD commonly difficulty understanding interacting socially appropriate way. might always understand social rules enter social situation abruptly. things sort get people's attention way maybe isn't terribly positive social world. certain situations, pushed around, called names awfully easy kids looking sort grab power put somebody else down. always sort joke lots kids ADHD, including child, there's button middle chest. It's imaginary button, people get know us know push button sort wind us get us going. Whether it's talking something we're hyperfocused it's something know makes us really obsess. ways, there's unfortunately lot hooks kids ADHD get drawn bullying interaction. it's really challenging, there's enough things going young people ADHD try navigate world without singled treated, know, really unkind way. Laura: That's really interesting. That's interesting way talk it. first thing thought person ADHD said memories kid feeling like people didn't understand saying — people misrepresented mischaracterized something said. always tried really deliberate everything said, brain racing million miles hour. would almost script things would say head. folks misunderstood something said, would get really — like feathers would get super ruffled would replay conversation them. Like memorized replay them. would poke fun would kind start lose little bit. mean, sound familiar you? Andy: Without doubt. mean, without doubt. think thing is, certain things environments humans, people, triggering emotions sort charge up. someone ADHD, we're trying cope environment, we're trying navigate something may difficult us, become even difficult triggers really easy hit. somebody, know, makes fun you, somebody comes something know upsetting want see blow want see act out. certain kids pretty perceptive that. And, know, it's really difficult see coming. remember phrase — mom saying, "Why let sister push buttons?" always stayed mind someone pushes buttons. kids like me, kids like lot kids I've worked years, button big red, it's center chest it's visible anybody who's really looking paying attention wind up. think that's great target bullying behavior — really easily triggered way people see might even aware of. That's really sort trap folks ADHD. Laura: Let's talk button red bright easy spot. there's interesting information website StopBullying.gov talks kinds kids likely bullied. don't mention ADHD outright. first bullet that's listed kids perceived different peers, overweight underweight wearing glasses different clothing new school, kids perceived weak unable defend themselves. kids likely bullied. think much line lot kids ADHD. I'd love talk traits kids ADHD make susceptible bullying? Andy: know, think lot around tendencies. think kids think becoming part social group joining social world, skills development kids ADHD different. happen different pace kids don't ADHD. think commonly kids get around age of — think middle school perfect target age talk about. Kids really start appreciate cases reject differences people. see something that's like them, tend hold respond great force. think kids ADHD tend behave way that's like norm. talk word "norm." know, don't don't like word "normal" matter course. It's statistical word, right? think bell curve, normal something see falls right middle. talk norm, way kids tend behave certain phase lives, kids ADHD may fall outside that. it's starting noticed, makes really challenging ability things might come naturally neurotypical child — like enter conversation that's already going on? come try introduce try engage sort social interaction? first go-to behavior really silly really loud interrupt. it's malevolent. It's intended problem people. misses social connection. misses rule. think one challenges kids ADHD kids irritate one another. somebody little bit energetic top, irritate peers. let's go side equation. somebody little bit low-key little passive maybe inattentive really over-the-top behavior patterns, they're really struggling get nuances. may come really mousy, really lacking confidence. that's another really good marker for, oh, here's somebody power over. think bullying behaviors. think it's — trap often focus much kids stereotypical hyperactive ADHD, understand lot obvious things break group norms. often ignore kids inattentive type tend sit fringe, engage often make friends easily. behavior doesn't overtly affect people realm, may less likely singled picked teachers oh, need step help kid. peers, hand, especially peers eye power differentials, bullying behavior, see almost weaker animal fringe larger animal group, they're going go pick individual. it's little interesting kids little passive ADHD — I'm thinking inattentive ADHD — going still picked

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