What happens once I schedule an evaluation?
Once an evaluation is scheduled, a letter is sent to parents confirming the day, date and time of the appointment. The letter reviews relevant information, such as the need to bring a snack for your child and copies of previous testing, IEPs, reports from other professionals, school performance records or report cards, etc. The letter includes a reminder of the fee, and directions to the clinic.
If parents find that there is a significant conflict with the date they have scheduled, they should contact NAI as soon as possible to re-schedule. There may be field trips, exams, or presentations that come up after the evaluation is scheduled, and in most cases the appointment can be re-scheduled for the same month.
In rare cases, the clinician will receive notification of a mediation, settlement conference or special education hearing that conflicts with a scheduled evaluation. These dates are set by the Bureau of Special Education, and there is limited flexibility. If the clinician needs to testify, the evaluation will need to be re-scheduled.
What should I bring to the evaluation session?
Parents of young children should plan to remain in the waiting room during testing. They may bring reading, a laptop, or other items. Many parents tell us they enjoy the opportunity to relax for a quiet few hours. Parents will supervise their child’s snack time and breaks from testing. There are shops nearby in the event a parent wants coffee or needs to get snacks for their child. Once a child is old enough to be comfortable with the evaluator for the morning, parents are welcome to leave. The evaluator will tell the parent the approximate time when testing will be completed, and make sure the parent can be reached by cell phone during the morning.
Parents should bring the previous testing and other paperwork that the clinician will review, their child’s snacks and beverages, and their own personal items. Cell phone calls can be made in the building lobby, but should be avoided in the waiting room due to noise interference.
When the evaluation is completed, the clinician will set up a time to meet with parents for the feedback session and collect payment. There is also a single page information sheet that parents will fill out.
How should I prepare my child for the evaluation?
The best preparation is to present the testing in a matter-of-fact way. Many children will already have been tested in school or privately and will know what to expect. For other children, you can say that they will be working with someone who will ask them to do a variety of different tasks. Some of these will look like schoolwork, and some will not. They should just do the best job they can, since no one does everything perfectly. Younger children may need reassurance that this is not a doctor who “gives shots”. It may help to tell a child that you know they have been struggling with some aspect of schoolwork, and this testing will help to understand why they are having trouble and what to do about it. This is often very reassuring to children who are aware of their learning difficulties and are anxious about school performance. It sets up a situation in which they come in feeling hopeful that the testing will result in their getting more help, so they can do as well as their peers. For teens, who are often very sensitive about being tested, it may help to emphasize that this will be a private situation, no one in school will know they have been seen for testing, and the results may help them do better in school.
It’s a good idea to make sure your child gets enough sleep for a few nights before the evaluation. A breakfast that includes protein and complex carbohydrates is helpful. Parents are always told to bring snacks for their child, and these should also be healthy if possible.
That said, many children come in and tell the examiner they didn’t get much sleep the night before. Some don’t “do” breakfast, or they’ve had a couple of doughnuts. Parents may bring snacks, but some children don’t eat them. Or, they leave the healthy ones in the waiting room, visit the vending machines in the basement, and come back with two Mountain Dew sodas and a bag of Skittles!
In our experience, a child can have a perfectly successful and valid testing session without doing any of the things we suggest for good preparation. Just do the best you can, and don’t argue with your child about it. If the food becomes an issue, then it’s probably an issue outside the testing situation as well. We’ll talk about it in the feedback session.
The other major pre-testing concerns include anxiety and illness. Anxious children can be reassured at home, and are supported with sensitivity and care by the evaluator. In rare cases, it becomes an issue that affects the completion of testing. Extra sessions or other accommodations can be made. Children who get car-sick have sometimes showed up unable to work, so if this is a problem for your child, you might have to use acupressure wristbands, dry snacks such as cereal or crackers, a front seat placement, or whatever works for him. Obviously, if your child is sick the night before or wakes up feeling bad, we will re-schedule the evaluation. In most cases, this will be done a few days to a week later.
Most children, even those with severe learning disabilities, leave the evaluation feeling good about themselves and their performance. The support and encouragement they have been given, and the fact that they work on a wide variety of tasks including ones that they find “easy”, helps them take away a positive feeling of accomplishment.
What if my child isn’t able to complete testing in one session?
While nearly all children can complete testing in one session, with several breaks, we have certainly worked with children who needed additional sessions. Some very young children will need a second session. Children with severe attention deficits or hyperactivity, or those who are overwhelmingly anxious, often need two or more sessions to complete all necessary tests. Our “world record” was the school-phobic teen who needed eight sessions! Whatever it takes, we’ll get it done.