Obtaining a Psychological/Educational Evaluation

  • Joseph Todd Jones, PsyD

    When a parent first notices that their child is not learning in a typical fashion, is showing some delays in development, or is failing to meet some milestones, the first concrete step they can take is get an evaluation for their child.  An evaluation helps the family understand why the child is having difficulties with learning and how he can be best supported.  It becomes the basis for future services.

    The process involved in a comprehensive evaluation includes four distinctive steps.

    1. Authorization for Evaluation

    The process begins by authorizing permission for the evaluation by providing your signature as parent or guardian with an assessment plan offered by the school district or charter school, also known as the local education agency (LEA).  This district-sponsored evaluation is performed at no cost to the parent or guardian. The Regional Centers also provide a no-cost evaluation.

    An evaluation can also be obtained and can be authorized, independent of the school district, by seeking out the services of a licensed educational psychologist (LEP), licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, or neuropsychologist.  Such evaluations can be completed but may incur cost to the responsible party who is requesting said evaluation.


    2. Observation and Testing

    Once permission to test has occurred, the evaluation commences.  The point person or contact person who communicates with parents or guardians on the progress and timeframe for which the evaluation is to be completed is typically the child’s school psychologist, licensed educational psychologist (LEP), licensed psychologist, psychiatrist, or neuropsychologist.  This professional will understand the referral question presented by parents or guardians which explores the suspected disability/disabilities that a child may have, which may or may not require special education and related services intervention.  The evaluation will test in all areas of suspected disability that serve as eligibility for special education as defined by federal and state law.

    Components of a comprehensive evaluation include several areas of consideration for investigation of ability in a variety of skill set areas.  The areas that comprise a comprehensive evaluation include determining present levels of performance in cognitive ability (intelligence testing), academic achievement, sensory-motor skills, memory and learning or processing assessments, adaptive behavior skills, social-emotional skills, health evaluation, review of the educational record, and extensive interviews with parents and teachers, and extensive observations.

    The standardized tests that are generally used for a comprehensive evaluation include measures that assess cognitive ability, academic progress, sensory-motor skills, memory and learning or processing assessments, adaptive behavior assessments, and social emotional assessments.  Examples of tests that can be used for each area include the Kaufman Assessment Battery for Children Second Edition (KABC-II) (cognitive); Grey Oral Tests of Reading (GORT-5) (academic); (Beery-Buktenica) Visual Motor Integration test (VMI-6) (sensory-motor skills); memory and learning/processing assessments Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning Second Edition (WRAML-2); adaptive behavior assessments Adaptive Behavior Assessment Scales (ABAS); social-emotional assessments Gilliam Autism Rating Scales Second Edition (GARS-2) and Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS-2).

    When a child is unable to sit and attend to a standardized test, the tests are oftentimes not given, in lieu of the standardized tests, alternative tests are given.  These alternative tests include interviews, checklists, observations, and narrative descriptions of the child’s present levels of performance.  Home videos can be used when a child is demonstrating a skill at home but fails to do it at school during testing.

    3. Reports and Diagnosis

    A comprehensive psycho-educational report is written that reviews the results of the assessments.  It is written and includes evidence and determination of special education and related services eligibility.  Besides eligibility for special education services, the report highlights recommendations, placement considerations, interventions, services, and goals and/or objectives related to a child’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP).


    4. Review and Analysis

    The final step in a comprehensive evaluation is the review of the evaluation and report with the school staff in charge of developing the IEP.  The meeting is designed to determine special education and related services eligibility.  All members finally come to consensus to determine eligibility, services provision, interventions, placement, and goals and/or objectives creation.

    Please consider attending the meeting prepared to present your child’s special needs.  If necessary, consider attending the meeting with a professional, trained in helping students with special needs because parents need someone who is focused on their child’s best interests and educational decision-making.


    There are many supports – therapies, tools, technology, etc. that can help children make tremendous strides and overcome their challenges.  It is important for parents to remain positive and educate themselves on the options available, so they can help their children reach their full potential.


                Joseph Todd Jones is a Licensed Educational Psychologist with over 15 years of experience helping families obtain appropriate services to support their children’s educational needs. His past experience as a California Credentialed School Psychologist and a California Credentialed Multiple Subjects Teacher have helped him gain an in-depth understanding of the public school system.  As a Special Education Advocate, he has worked with families of children and adolescents with a variety of disabilities. His greatest goal is to ensure that every child receives the maximum benefit under the California Education Code. 

    To contact Dr. Joseph Jones, please call him at (760) 809-3116 or email him at toddjones@toddjones.org.

    For more information, please visit his website www.toddjones.org

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