Getting a Diagnosis
If you think that your child needs additional services to support their learning experience at school, the following steps might be helpful in getting an official diagnosis for the issue:
- Do your homework. Inform yourself as much as possible about the suspected learning challenge. The Resource section of this website may be helpful. Having more information will allow you to have more meaningful conversations with everyone involved such as pediatricians, teachers, educational specialists and therapists.
- Talk to your child’s teachers. Talk to all the teachers, coaches and other instructors in your child’s life.
- Talk to your child’s pediatrician. After these conversations, you can figure out if your child needs formal diagnostic testing.
- There are two ways to get a formal diagnosis. You can request the public school district to evaluate your child OR you can go to a private center for an evaluation. But it’s important to check if your public school will accept the results from a private center. Most schools will still go through the process of their own evaluation, but sometimes a private evaluation is more thorough and detailed. The evaluations will have recommendations for Individual Education Plan (IEP) and/or 504 Accommodations. These recommendations are meant to help create the right learning environment for your child.
Steps taken for a diagnosis in school
Once a formal request for diagnosis has been made (by letter to the school principal or psychologist), the district legally must respond within 60 days. This process starts with the following steps :
- RTI (Response to Intervention): Some schools start with a Response to Intervention period, before proceeding to full-fledged evaluation. A Student Services Team (SST) monitors the impact of remedies without providing special education services. If these don’t work, the child is referred for evaluation and goes through the following steps.
- Observations: This may be conducted by a Resource Specialist (RS). The RS will observe the child in a variety of classroom settings (and possibly recess) on multiple days.
- Interviews: The district will conduct interviews with the parents and teachers. Teacher feedback becomes challenging from middle school onwards, since kids typically have more than one teacher. In some cases, the school may find it helpful to talk to the child’s pediatrician, psychiatrist and therapists – with your written consent.
- Questionnaires, checklists and screening test for evaluations: These will be filled out by the child, the teacher(s) or doctor/psychiatrist and parents. For example, a Depression checklist, Y-BOCS checklist for OCD, list of words know in the case of a speech delayed child.
- Review: The district team will review previous material like growth charts, milestones met (walking, talking, etc.), medical reports, report cards, private evaluations, etc.
- Testing: Various types of tests may be conducted, based on the concerns expressed by the parents and teachers to evaluate the child’s abilities.
A diagnosis is given based on all the information gathered using the above methods. Based on this, diagnosis recommendations in the form of an IEP (for a Special Education Program) or a 504 Plan (General Education Program) may be suggested.
If an IEP and 504 are suggested, a meeting will be scheduled with all parties involved to finalize the goals and other details and get it implemented, as required by law.