A frequently asked question that I get is to explain the difference between a private neuropsychological evaluation and a school evaluation. There are several differences, including expertise of evaluators and diagnostic considerations. Both types of evaluations can be instrumental in ensuring that your child gets the accommodations and support necessary to meet his or her individual needs.
School evaluations are conducted by the special education department of your school district and are generally completed once a parent requests a full evaluation. A school evaluation has many parts, based on the presenting issue.
The parts vary by school district, but generally a school psychologist will conduct a psychological portion, a special educator will conduct the educational portion, a speech and language pathologist will conduct a speech and language evaluation (if applicable), an occupational therapist will conduct an occupational therapy evaluation (if applicable), and a physical therapist will conduct a physical therapy evaluation (if applicable).
Other types of evaluations may also be completed by different specialists, such as a home evaluation or functional behavioral analysis. Each evaluator has specialized training in his or her specific field. The purpose of the school evaluation is to identify any issues that impact the student’s ability to access school curricula.
“Again, this varies district to district, but most districts in Massachusetts will not provide an emotional or neuropsychological diagnosis, such as anxiety, depression, ADHD, or autism. A school evaluation may be sufficient if the presenting issue is primarily academic or specific to one of these specialized areas (speech, occupational therapy, physical therapy).”
The pitfall of school evaluations
One pitfall of school evaluations is that typically if a child scores in the Average range on a given measure, he/she is seen as able to access the curricula, and often does not qualify for services.
A private neuropsychological evaluation will consist of one evaluator who looks at most areas a school evaluation will look at. A neuropsychologist will also be able to look more in depth at certain areas and be able to tailor the evaluation to your child’s needs. A neuropsychologist will provide a diagnosis (if relevant), which may help make a case for school accommodations.
Additionally, neuropsychologists will make specific recommendations to support a child’s functioning outside of school. If you are concerned that your child may have a diagnosis, such as ADHD, autism, or an emotional disorder, a private evaluation will give you the most information.
“ If you are concerned that your child may have a diagnosis, such as ADHD, autism, or an emotional disorder, a private evaluation will give you the most information. ”