Pros & Cons The School Based vs. Independent Psychological Evaluation
Updated on January 2016
Perhaps you are a parent who has noticed that your child is struggling academically in one or more areas. It might be in math, reading, social interactions, social language or behaviors. You are at the point where you’re ready for an evaluation. In essence, you want to know if your child is eligible for special education and related services. Where do you begin?
Step one: speak to your child’s teacher and gain feedback regarding your child’s performance within the area that you believe is a weakness for your child.
Step two: decide if you would like for your school’s Child Study Team to perform the psychological evaluation vs. seeking an independent evaluation.
Before you make that decision, you need to answer the question: what’s the difference between the evaluation and report you would gain from your School Psychologist vs. one gained from an outside professional? Well, there are several and here is a summary to help you when you make this decision.
The Psychological Evaluation through your Child Study Team
Once completed, your child is eligible for a re-evaluation every three years; however, you, as the parent, have the right to request this evaluation sooner than 3 years, but no more than one time per year. It is strongly recommended that you have your child evaluated at least every 3 years as your child’s strengths and weaknesses will likely change during that time. If they have not, you now know that!
The Psychological evaluation completed by your school should consist of a standardized test, such as the Wechsler Intelligence Scales (Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence™ – Fourth Edition, WPPSI – IV; Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, 4th edition, WISC-V; or Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, 4th edition, WAIS-IV), an observation, and a student interview.
In the end, you will gain a report that provides an IQ of your child’s cognitive/intellectual performance, a summary of a classroom observation, and information about your child’s interests, preferences, and reported academic strengths and weaknesses. Please note that the School Psychologist is not permitted to provide any diagnoses, if relevant, within this report.
This information will be used to compare to the results of the Educational Evaluation that is completed by the Child Study Team Learning Specialist in order to determine if there is a learning disability that is negatively impacting your child’s ability to perform academically.
The School Based via the Private/Independent Psychological Evaluation
If you are seeking an independent psychological evaluation, that means that you are hiring a Clinical Psychologist privately to provide you with an evaluation and report. The Clinical Psychologist has the ability to administer additional tests in order to answer questions you may have as a parent, or to gain more specific information about your child’s intellectual and academic skills.
Being a School and Clinical Psychologist, when I perform a private psychological evaluation, I also like to administer an achievement test and examine visual motor skills in order to gain a big picture view of the student. This helps to determine if there is a learning disability, that is suspected or has gone undetected, as well as other areas that may be impeding or negatively impacting a child’s ability to perform academically.
This report is comprehensive and offers information about learning style that the School Psychologist’s report does not contain. That is, is your child a visual spatial learner?; an auditory learner?; a hands on learner? With this information in mind, the recommendations in the report can then be geared towards the best way to teach new information to the student that is in line with the way he naturally takes it in.
Pros & Cons
So what are some of the major pros and cons of a Child Study Team generated psychological evaluation vs. a private/independent one?
- The psychological evaluation completed by your School Psychologist will not incur any cost to you.
- The report is not as thorough and informative
- Testing is not as extensive
- Information gained does not offer a big picture view of your child as a student.
So, there you have it. Now you have the “inside scoop” on the school based psychological evaluation vs. the independent/private one. Good luck!
Dr. Liz Matheis is a clinical psychologist and school psychologist in Parsippany, NJ who provides assessment, psychotherapy, consulting, and advocacy for children and families managing autism spectrum disorders, ADHD and learning disabilities (www.psychconsult.weebly.com). She is also a contributor to several popular press magazines.