If your child is having trouble with reading, his teacher may suggest that he receive an evaluation to pinpoint the source of the difficulty. An evaluation will assess your child’s relative strengths and weaknesses as a learner, offer specific information about his academic skills, determine whether or not some kind of special instruction would be beneficial, and outline specific strategies for the classroom and for home that will help your child.
Your school will refer you to a specialist or a team of specialists at your child’s school. This team generally includes a psychologist, a reading specialist or learning disabilities teacher, and a speech-language pathologist, a professional experienced in assessing children’s speech and language skills. The team may also include an occupational therapist, a professional who evaluates children’s motor skills, ability to perceive visual information, and ability to use visual and motor skills together smoothly. Public schools are required by law to provide evaluation services to all students in a timely fashion, so it is a good idea to ask the school for printed materials that describe the evaluation process and your rights and responsibilities before your child begins the process.
You may also choose to receive an evaluation from an expert outside of your child’s school. You might choose a psychologist, learning specialist, or neuropsychologist for an evaluation outside school. If you choose to pursue an evaluation outside of school, you must pay for it yourself, however.
Regardless of whether you choose to have your child evaluated in or outside of school, the evaluator will gather some information from you prior to the evaluation. For example, the evaluator may ask you about your child’s developmental history and what kinds of difficulty you think he is experiencing. The evaluator will also gather information from his teacher about his classroom performance, behavior, and difficulties he is experiencing. The evaluation itself generally takes place in several hours spread out over two or more days. Following the evaluation, you will meet with the evaluator or the evaluation team to discuss the results of your child’s evaluation and its implications for his classroom program. Your child’s “team,” including parents, evaluators, and teachers, will meet to develop a comprehensive plan to address his needs. Your child may qualify for special education services and be placed on an “Individualized Education Plan” (or “IEP”) that outlines the specific services he will receive.
Make sure you receive copies of any reports or plans written about your child. Keep these documents in a folder for ready reference and bring them to any future school meetings.