• First of all, all those big words in the header does not mean that there is something newly wrong with your child, such as he just contacted a catching disease. A learning disability does not appear suddenly and out of nowhere; your child is the same child you enjoyed yesterday. Though you might now have a scary sounding combination of words, “learning disability,” to worry about, your child stays the same; he is safe and not in any kind of immediate danger. The only reason I’ve started out this subsection with an attempt to put you at ease is because I often see frantic parents in my office who feel very upset and stressed out by a suggestion of the teacher that their child should get an evaluation for a learning disability (LD). An LD means that the child may have one or more areas in his academic functioning that are not up to par with the rest of his academic or cognitive functioning. You may have a smart child who is struggling with reading for no apparent reason, or a child who excels in other academic areas but avoids math at all possible costs.

  • Quite frequently, the school may offer psychological and academic evaluation that can be done on school premises. Sometimes, it is the most logical and cost-effective way to start out the process of learning about your child’s academic difficulties. However, occasionally the parents may feel wary of putting the child through the testing that is arranged by the school/board of education. Private testing, or an “independent psychological evaluation” conducted by a highly qualified professional, frequently provides parents with more of a sense of control and understanding of the child and the academic situation surrounding the child. Not only do we provide such evaluations in our Center, but we will also work closely with the teachers, attend the Child Study Team (a team of educators that is responsible for creating an individualized plan for a child who exhibits academic or social difficulties) meetings in order to advocate for the most appropriate services for your child.

    Regardless of whether you will pick one of our psychologists to evaluate your child or not, we would like to provide you with a short but comprehensive list of things to consider when you pick and choose a psychologist who will perform an independent psycho-educational evaluation for your child. In parenthesis you will have information about one of our evaluating psychologists in order to help organize your search and comparison to other providers of similar services.

  • • A

    A psychologist’s background and the amount of experience in performing such evaluations. Not all psychologists are created equal. Some PhD programs require a large number of testing batteries performed during their training, and other programs are not testing-heavy. Some psychologists pursue additional training/work experience with testing, and some avoid it. Some psychologists perform two to three testing cases during any given year, and some do two to three full testing cases a month. There are psychologists who specialize in traumatic brain injury or stroke patients, and there are psychologists who deal exclusively with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. All those questions should refine your search for the right person to engage with your child.

    {For comparison purposes, here is information on Dr. Volynsky, the director of our Center, who most likely will work with your child on psycho-educational evaluation. Dr. Volynsky started her career in testing back in Ukraine, specializing in developmentally challenged children and children on the autistic spectrum. In the United States, she looked for additional testing experience while completing her PhD program, which included a neuropsychological testing rotation at Bellevue Hospital. Currently, she has a contract with the New York Board of Education, under which she tests about 30-35 school-age children each year. The main focus of her evaluation is on learning disabilities, attention difficulties, executive functioning, and developmental delays in various areas.}

  • • B

    The quality of the report. Just like you will end up loving some books and hating others, the same will be true for the testing report, which is a very important end product of any psychological evaluation. The language of writing has to be easily understood by you and the teachers. The promptness of the report writing will help you get the services for your child faster. The report also has to contain specific and useful recommendations for you and for the teachers on how to deal with your child’s problems; after all, you’ve paid good money for this testing! The report may or may not contain the diagnosis. No matter what, both scenarios have to be well-grounded.

    {Dr. Volynsky will produce a report within ten to fourteen days after the last testing session with your child. Beforehand, on your request, she may supply you with a sample report she had written in the past so that you can gauge the quality of it. She produces separate recommendations for the parents and for the teachers throughout the report, as well as in a separate section that can be taken to school, even if the parents don’t want to give the teachers the whole report.}

  • • C

    A psychologist-school connection, the IEP (as promised in the name of this subsection), and life after the evaluation. Some psychologists are eager to work with the school system, but some of them shy away from forging any kind of relationship with the school; who knows- maybe they have bad memories from their own middle school years and don’t want to go back. It is really important that a psychologist helps your family to navigate the school system after the evaluation is done. One of the very important milestones in this navigation is the creation of an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP) by the Child Study Team in school. The IEP should be done on the basis of thorough psycho-educational evaluation. This IEP should specify the type of the classroom environment that will be most beneficial for your child. It should have specific plan concerning academic or social skills, depending on the area your child struggles with. It also has to list measurable indicators of your child’s progress so that together, both you and the teacher can assess whether this particular Individualized Educational Plan is working. If it sounds complicated, that’s simply because it is. However, a good psychologist will be willing to help your family through this process.

    {If you do an evaluation through our Center, the feedback session is included in the price for the evaluation. During the feedback session, Dr. Volynsky will explain to you how to facilitate your child’s learning, what his or her learning style is, and what kind of home interventions might be helpful to your child. She will also help you map out what to do next about the school and/or other educational programs. One post-evaluation meeting with the school officials is also included in the price for the evaluation, not to mention numerous phone calls to the school psychologist, your child’s teacher, the school principal if necessary, the Child Study team, etc., etc., etc… In other words, you will have an ally who will provide help, support, and referrals if needed}.