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School Psychologist Says There is No Educational Diagnosis of Autism

by Wrightslaw

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Parent 1 asks: Does the school psychologist have the right to make the statement that his impression is not that of a child with an autism spectrum disorder? He said there is no school documentation of any criteria that would indicate an educational diagnosis of Autism.

My 11 yr. old daughter has a diagnosis of ADHD, ASPERGER’S DISORDER, RAD. by a Board Certified in both General Psychiatry and Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. She was diagnosed last year.

I really don’t know what to do. Please help! Thank you.

Parent 2 responds: Sad to say, this happens around the country. Medical diagnosis does not equal educational diagnosis.

Try sending a letter to your school district saying that your child has been medically diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum.

Explain that you are concerned about the impact of this diagnosis upon her ability to access the educational opportunities offered by the school district. Ask that the district’s autism expert evaluate your daughter.

Girls on the Autism Spectrum demonstrate their difficulties differently from boys. They often “fly under the radar” in school and fall apart at home.

Parent 3 shares:  We went through the same thing with our district for our daughter, who was also 11 and diagnosed with Asperger’s, ADHD Inattentive Type.

We asked our district for an IEE because we disagreed with the school psychologist. The district argued with us for two months, but they finally “allowed” us to get an IEE.

We got a second ASD diagnosis, ADHD and a new diagnosis of an anxiety disorder.

We had been fighting with the district for a year. My daughter was not getting the support she needed and had regressed. It wasn’t easy and it took us over a year to get some of the support.

Start by asking for the IEE and put it in writing.

Tell the school you respectfully disagree with the school psychologist based on the diagnoses made. Tell the school you would would like to obtain an IEE.

Good luck and don’t give up! Keep us posted!


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10 Comments on "School Psychologist Says There is No Educational Diagnosis of Autism"


Can school psychologist make a diagnosis of autism?


Jackie – a school psychologist can diagnose a child with an emotional disturbance. A school psychologist is one of the eligibility team members but more often than not they are the only team member to fully understand eligibility criteria for special education. I strongly feel like the whole team should by aware of criteria but it has been my experience that this is not the case.


Does a school psychologist have the right to diagnose a child with emotional disturbance?


We are going through this very thing with my 10yo son. We are on a medication holiday for the Ritalin that he has been on because the school did not see “significant” issues related to autism. He has Asperger’s, ADHD and a chronic genetic blood disorder. The educational diagnosis is only to show an “Adverse affect on educational performance”. Talk to your doctor. I highly recommend the books and trainings that are available on Wrightslaw. They have been very helpful to us!!


School psychologists (or Licensed Specialists in School Psychology, as they are called in some states) are trained and qualified to make mental health diagnoses, such as ADHD, depression, anxiety, or autism spectrum disorder. However, just because a student has a mental health diagnosis does not mean there is an educational need for special education services. If the student has a mental health diagnosis, the IEP team / ARD committee must first determine if the student meets one of the categories of disabilities under IDEA (Autism is one of those). The committee must then determine if there is an educational need for special education services. Remind the committee that educational need does not only refer to academics (i.e., grades, test scores). Educational need also refers to social skills, emotional & behavioral functioning.


Just wanted to point out Lori that only a licensed school psychologist or Dr. can make a medical diagnosis of Autism. School psychologists don’t have to be licensed, at least in NY.