You may be considering a private evaluation for your school-aged child for several reasons. Whether or not you have behaviors of concern, academic concerns, or want a comprehensive look at your child’s academic functioning and potential, a private evaluation may be the route you want to take. This type of evaluation will provide you with a wealth of knowledge that will allow you to make informed decisions regarding your child’s education. Read on to find out if this process is right for your family and how to navigate it.
Here are some important considerations when contemplating a private evaluation. You will want to ensure that the evaluator has expertise in your area of concern. In addition to the qualifications of your evaluator, you will want to know if the person who will be working with your child has experience with your child’s learning profile/style, areas of concern, and will be supportive of their needs (e.g., neurodiversity affirming, etc.) during the evaluation as well as when they are preparing the report.
After deciding to move forward with the private evaluation, there are a few important factors to consider. Take some time to reflect on conversations with your school team and your experiences at home—and don’t forget to include your child in these conversations. You are an expert in your child; however, including them to the greatest extent in all aspects of the process is imperative.
- What are your child’s greatest strengths?
- What are the areas of concern?
- What feedback have you received about your child’s learning throughout their school career?
- What patterns have you been able to identify?
- Are your concerns similar across settings (school, home, etc.)?
The private evaluation process can be as focused or broad as you and the evaluator determine. Although, at the bare minimum, the scope of what a school evaluation would provide should be included, this would encompass the requirements necessary within the NJ State Special Education Code to identify a Specific Learning Disability. It is crucial if there is even a chance that you will request that the school accept it, which is not required. A private evaluation can provide a diagnosis allowing certain classifications (e.g., Autism, Other Health Impairment, etc.) within Special Education and Related Services, given the concerns brought forward before and during the evaluation process. While a school is bound to identify school-based learning difficulties that impact a child’s education, a school can never provide a diagnosis.
After the evaluation is complete, it will be up to you to decide with whom you share it. This evaluation will make recommendations, include a learning profile, provide strategies, and show accommodations and modifications that will give your child the greatest opportunities to succeed within their educational setting. These recommendations are made objectively, outside the school or any constraints they face. It will provide invaluable data that can assist you when requesting support, whether in the general education realm (RtI, 504 plan) or the special education realm (IEP). If you wish, the private evaluator can be asked to communicate with the school district and the professionals working with your child, with your consent, to be a part of the conversation on how to best meet their needs.
Kate Panfile is a Certified Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant with over 15-years of experience in the Education field. Mrs. Panfile received her B.S. in Mathematics from The Pennsylvania State University and her M.Ed. in Special Education from William Paterson University, where she presented her thesis on the “Impact of Co-Teaching Models on Student and Teacher Perceptions and Attitudes.” She earned a Post-Master’s Certificate as a Learning Disabilities Teacher Consultant.