Dr. Cindy Taylor

Clinical Psychologist

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Evaluation FAQ

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Q:        My child’s teacher recommended that he be tested for ADHD; where do I start?

A:        It is always good to get a thorough psychological evaluation for your child prior to placing him or her on any medications.  The pediatrician can prescribe medication if necessary but may not be able to assess whether or not the child has any of the problems commonly associated with ADHD, such as learning disabilities or emotional difficulties.  Having a proper evaluation also lets you know exactly what problems your child has and where they are academically.


Q:        Does a child have to be hyperactive to have ADHD?

A:        No; there are several different kinds of ADHD now.  All of it is called ADHD, but one can be predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive, or combined type.  The predominantly inattentive type is just what it sounds like – mostly problems with attention and concentration rather than hyperactivity.  The hyperactive-impulsive type may be the type that fidgets a lot or blurts out answers or can’t want for his/her turn.  And the combined type has symptoms of inattention as well as hyperactivity and impulsivity.


Q:        What if my child is tested and doesn’t have ADHD?

A:        There are many different things that can cause children to have difficulties in the classroom.  Because many parents and teachers are most familiar with the symptoms of ADHD, they tend to think of ADHD first when a problem arises.  That is why a psychological evaluation is so important.  It can provide much needed information about developmental and environmental issues; how a child is processing information; intellectual functioning and academic achievement (and thus whether learning disabilities are present); and can determine how the child is functioning emotionally.  With this information, more effective help can be obtained for the child who is experiencing attentional or behavioral problems.


Q:        Who are all the different professionals and what do they do?

A:        Well, the psychiatrist and the neurologist prescribe medication, but typically it is best to obtain the psychological evaluation first so that you will know if a condition exists for which medication is necessary.  You will also get information about whether or not the child is learning disabled or has any emotional difficulties.  Persons administering psychological evaluations are those who are trained in assessments; this can be psychologists, those supervised by psychologists, and other licensed professional who have the training to administer them.

Now, who are the therapists?  Play therapy can be provided by licensed professional counselors, psychologists, or social workers, and can help your child work through emotionally difficult issues such as divorce, loss of a loved one, low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, social skills, etc.  These professionals can also deal with parenting and adult issues.  Physical therapists focus on gross motor difficulties and are concerned with health promotion, prevention of physical disabilities, and rehabilitation of disabled individuals.  These individuals treat through the use of physical therapeutic measures rather than medicines or surgery.  Occupational therapy is a division of physical therapy.  Occupational therapists focus on fine motor issues and help children who struggle with handwriting, eye-hand coordination, and sensory integration.  Speech therapists help children with articulation problems, language disorders, and auditory processing difficulties.  Audiologists can also screen for auditory processing problems in addition to testing for any hearing difficulties.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 August 2014 00:06

Public School Procedures

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One of the most important things you can do as a parent to help your child succeed academically is to be aware of what your child’s rights are and make sure he/she is receiving the services to which he/she is entitled.  You must know that public schools have a process by which special services can be accessed and that these procedures must be followed.


Requesting Services

You as a parent can request at any time that your child be considered for special services.  It is a good idea to do this in writing and to keep for yourself a dated copy of this request.  It is also a good idea to ask what you can expect in terms of a sequence of events and a general time line.  Alternatively, a request for assistance can also be made by your child’s teacher.  If the request is made in this way, you as a parent should be notified of any meetings and/or plans before they occur.


At this point, many school districts will schedule a meeting that, at the very least, you and the teacher will attend.  Other team members may be an administrator (i.e. principal or assistant principal), school counselor, school psychologist, reading coach, and/or any other staff member who may have particular expertise or knowledge about your child.  This team will discuss the problems being observed and brainstorm ideas for assisting your child.  Additional information may be collected during this phase, including classroom observations, achievement and/or intellectual screenings, and responses to specific educational interventions.


The goal of this phase is to adequately meet your child’s needs in the regular classroom without any special education services being required.  Interventions will be designed to target behaviors specifically related to the ADHD.  It is important to know that public schools require that these interventions be implemented prior to providing any additional, more restrictive, services, even if your child has already been diagnosed with ADHD by a physician or psychologist.  Public schools must make every effort to remediate a child’s problems within the regular education classroom before considering services that would remove your child from the regular classroom.  This phase can last from a couple of months to years, depending on the success of the interventions recommended and implemented.  This team will likely continue to meet several times throughout each school year to review the current plan and make adjustments if necessary.


Special Education Services Provided via IDEA

If your child is not responding adequately to the recommended interventions in phase one, the team will likely agree to move toward a referral for formal special education testing.  Before any child can receive special education services, an evaluation must be completed, and you must sign your consent for this evaluation before any formal testing can occur.


This evaluation will likely include hearing and vision screenings, classroom observations, academic and intellectual testing, behavior rating scales, and parent interviews.  Because ADHD is considered a medical condition, the diagnosis will also have to be formally made by a physician.  Federal guidelines state that the evaluation as well as the meeting to design the Individual Education Plan (IEP) must be completed within 90 days.  (Note: this 90-day clock does not stop during the summer.)  In Texas, this meeting that is held to develop the IEP is called an Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) meeting.


After the evaluation is complete, the information gathered will be reviewed and discussed at the ARD meeting in order to determine your child’s eligibility for special education services under Part B of the Individual with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  For children with ADHD, they become eligible for special services when their ADHD is determined to be a “chronic or acute health problem which adversely affects educational performance.”  Under IDEA, your child can classify as “Other Health Impaired” (OHI), and the ARD team members must then develop the IEP that is designed to meet your child’s unique educational needs.


Special education services can include specialized, individual, or small group instruction in academic areas that are especially difficult for your child.  In determining which services are necessary for your child, your child’s unique abilities and disabilities should be taken into account.  Also during the ARD meeting, the team must identify specific educational goals for your child, the procedures for attaining these goals, and the methods that will be used to evaluate whether or not your child is meeting those goals.  The final IEP becomes a legal document and, once its contents have been agreed upon, it cannot be changed without your permission.  Generally, there is agreement between parents and the school about what services are necessary; however, you as parents do have the right to appeal any decisions with which you disagree.  Your child’s IEP should be reviewed at least annually so that necessary modifications can be made and progress can be monitored.  However, either your or the school can request at any time that changes be made to the plan.


Services Provided via Section 504

Alternatively, special services for your child may be obtained under Section 504, which is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities.  To qualify under Section 504, a person must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, such as learning.  (This is different from IDEA in that IDEA stipulates that a child must have a disability and require special education services.)  Section 504 guarantees access to services, such as adapted instructional methods, to meet the needs of children with ADHD.  For example, Section 504 would be appropriate for a child with ADHD who is doing well academically and so is not eligible for the “Other Health Impaired” classification, and yet would still benefit from certain classroom modifications.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 August 2014 00:06

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