If I had a nickel for every parent who’s said something like the following over the years, I’d be rich: “My child has an IEP or a 504 Plan in school, but I don’t really understand what his problem is.” This is especially frustrating for parents whose children have been receiving services for years and don’t seem to be improving.
No one tells parents that school districts aren’t qualified to diagnose disorders or disabilities. so parents think the school evaluation is the “last word”. The reality is that school districts are responsible for identifying problems of various sorts and responding to students with accommodations or special instruction and services. They do not diagnose disabilities. Have you ever heard of a child diagnosed with dyslexia in a school evaluation? Yet, reading disabilities (many of which would be called dyslexia) comprise 80% of all learning disabilities.
As a parent, you might ask, “Well, isn’t this all I care about – that my child gets what he/she needs in school?” The answer should be “No, this isn’t enough.” Schools only provide limited services. There are many interventions, resources, and services available outside school if a child has a diagnosed disability. Unlike the situation 30 years ago when a diagnosis or label was a disadvantage, a diagnosis today in the era of the Americans with Disabilities Act opens doors and opportunities.
How do you get your child a diagnosis and understand what the child’s real problems are? You have to pay for a private evaluation by a child/developmental clinical psychologist. There are a few school psychologists in private practice who will provide this type of evaluation, but many of these individuals have been trained in school systems and don’t have experience diagnosing disabilities. You have to consider this type of evaluation as an investment in your child’s future. If you don’t accurately understand a child’s problem and can’t respond with as many interventions as possible, you may be jeopardizing that child’s future educational career and life.