Newsletter #24 for Internationally Adopting Parents
July 9, 2006
PAL Center Inc.

In this issue

Q & A
Assessments and Tests

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Latest Articles
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International Adoption Articles Directory

Robert K. Crabtree, Esq.
Mistakes People Make in the Special Education Process.
Part 3 – Mistakes Made by Independent Evaluators

As informed and articulate as particular parents may be, they usually cannot make a case for particular services or programs for their child without the help of a competent and credible independent evaluator. In due process hearings there is usually no more important witness for the family. (Even with such an evaluator it can be a steep uphill fight for services because of the deference that is given under IDEA to school districts in special education proceedings, but without such an evaluator there often is no chance at all.) In this light, the most serious mistakes evaluators can make are the ones that undermine their credibility or which render their opinions powerless for lack of the evaluator’s follow-through.
Here are some mistakes independent evaluators should try to avoid.

From our database

Evaluators and Evaluations: What you Need and What you Don't

The advantages and disadvantages of an assessment done by an independent evaluator

The advantages of an assessment done by an independent evaluator:
An independent specialist usually has qualifications that exceed those possessed by a regular school psychologist. In addition, an independent specialist may have some unique qualifications that are not expected from a school psychologist (e.g. proficiency in the targeted language, experience working with the targeted population, etc.).
An independent specialist’s assessment usually is more comprehensive and detailed than the same completed by a school psychologist. In many cases (but not always) the report is submitted faster than the one from typically overwhelmed school psychologists. An independent specialist is more open to your input and is focused on your child’s needs rather than on institutional (school) limitations.

The disadvantages of an assessment done by an independent evaluator:

The outside evaluators are not bound by legal requirements on time frame for an assessment, and some busy experts may delay with their reports and thus slow down the necessary speed, with which critical school services have to be provided.
The most profound disadvantage is that some experts, being skillful clinicians, may still be unfamiliar with special education procedures and the linkage between assessment and intervention in schools. They may end up with purely medical diagnoses and unrealistic and irrelevant recommendations that can be easily rejected by a school as “inappropriate”. They may use instruments and procedures that are suitable for hospital settings, but are irrelevant for school settings (e.g. some projective procedures). Therefore, when hiring an independent evaluator, parents must be sure that this person is not only qualified to perform the required evaluation, but also has the training and experience needed to collaborate with school staff in developing programs and interventions for students.

A specific issue is the appropriate credentials of an independent evaluator. IDEA safeguards the standard of care in the evaluation process by stipulating that an independent evaluator must be qualified, and that an independent evaluation must meet the district's criteria for such evaluations. Specifically, the qualifications of the independent examiner must be at least the same as for examiner employed by a school district. This provision is sometimes used by a school district to decline a parental request for an outside evaluator. For example, if an evaluator is licensed in another state, a school district may refuse to hire him to do evaluation.

Given the responsibility of school districts to ensure that the skills and qualifications of the independent examiner are the same as the qualifications of the district's own evaluators, it is surprising that many school districts do not have a policy describing their criteria for evaluations. The lack of such policy makes it difficult to determine who should be recommended to parents as a potential independent evaluator and; furthermore, makes it difficult to determine the appropriateness of evaluators chosen unilaterally by parents. Complicating the choice of an appropriate independent evaluator, is the large number of professionals to choose from, all with different degrees, certifications, licenses and other credentials.

Boris Gindis, Ph.D.
Initial developmental evaluation of an internationally adopted child: is it important?

Unfortunately, psycho-educational and speech and language assessments on arrival of a school age internationally adopted child are the exception rather than the rule. Too often, school districts assume a "wait-and-see" attitude, rejecting request for such an evaluation and suggesting "to wait until the child learns more English." In many cases, however, parents cannot afford losing time without proper assessment that would allow them to request an intense remediation of their adopted child in school.

What does my child need: neuropsychological or psycho-educational assessment?

When choosing an evaluation for your internationally adopted child, you basically are making a choice between the three brunches of contemporary psychological services: clinical-, school-, and neuro-psychology. It is assumed that all three types of psychological services are provided by doctorate level (having either Ph.D. or Psy. D. titles after their names) licensed child psychologists.


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